Workshop Table of Contents

Saltcedar Management Workshop, June 12, 1996

Guidelines for Recruiting Volunteers

Bill Neill
Desert Protective Council

I have over 12 years of experience at organizing volunteer work parties at about 45 different locations. Participating groups include environmental organizations (Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Native Plant Society), 4-wheel-drive clubs, Boy Scouts troops, company employee groups, and Dept. of Fish ~ Game volunteers.

My primary topic will be: what type of areas are appropriate for volunteers, as opposed to paid staff or convict labor. The main considerations are scenic value, project size and environmental sensitivity.

First, volunteer work trips are partly recreational, so scenic quality is important. In desert riparian areas, I would equate scenic value with topography. I think nearly any desert canyon area would attract volunteers; whereas the flatter areas, even with significant habitat value, will attract less interest, at least on a repeat basis.

Second, it is preferable to give volunteers a project that is small or low density, where they can see tangible progress after a day's work. If the work gets monotonous, that's acceptable if workers are paid money; but all that volunteers obtain is psychological reward, a sense of accomplishment, so the project manager should restrict the scope of work to provide that.

Third, environmentally sensitive areas may be good for volunteers, compared to convict labor. By environmentally sensitive, I mean near water or with abundant native vegetation. Volunteers are capable and responsible people who can follow directions and identify plants on their own. Conversely, when clearing a dry monoculture of saltcedar, that's a good place to use prison crews which need closer supervision.

In recruiting volunteers, I take the attitude that volunteer deserve first-class treatment. So I try to offer amenities to make the experience more comfortable or more interesting -- free or reserved campsites, or hot showers, or 4WD access into areas normally closed to the public, or a guided hike or tour after the work session. In planning a trip I negotiate these amenities with the land manager and then publicize them in my promotional write-up.

For anyone interested in recruiting volunteers, I have a mailing list of about 20 to 30 experienced volunteers that I am willing to share.

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