Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Volunteer With Florida's Wildlife Commission

Volunteers Welcome - Help Conserve Florida Wildlife

Are you interested in helping conserve Florida�s habitats and fish and wildlife species? Do you want to teach a child to hunt or fish? Do you have an interest in becoming a volunteer law enforcement officer?

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has numerous volunteer opportunities available in these programs and many more.

The FWC has approximately 3,100 volunteers in more than two dozen programs, including Hunter Safety, Ridge Rangers, Project WILD, Chinsegut Nature Center and a variety of scientific research and resource management projects.

FWC volunteers are worth their weight in gold to the agency and to the state. In a 2009 analysis conducted by University of Florida doctoral student Stuart Carlton, the value of the volunteers� service is about $1.9 million per year.

Many volunteers say their motivation is helping the environment. Others say they enjoy supporting the resources they use recreationally. Volunteers enjoy working on improving habitats, surveying wildlife populations and participating in public outreach activities.

Below are just a few of the programs available for interested volunteers. To see the complete list and learn more about FWC volunteer opportunities, go to MyFWC.com/GetInvolved. Some programs may require additional information and/or a background check.

The Chinsegut Nature Center in Brooksville, on the 828-acre Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area, hosts four major events and scores of other natural resource conservation and recreation programs throughout the year.  A 36-hour volunteer training and orientation occurs typically once per year, preparing volunteers for opportunities in wildlife surveys, habitat enhancement, invasive exotic plant removal, conducting environmental education programs and other work.

Lost and abandoned traps left in the water at the end of lobster and stone crab season are a major problem in Florida�s marine environment.  The Derelict, Abandoned and Trap Debris Removal Program is available statewide. Volunteer groups can obtain authorization from the FWC to organize and host a cleanup event on state waters.

There are many volunteer opportunities in fisheries programs. The Florida Bass Conservation Center and Richloam State Fish Hatchery in Sumter County is one of the largest freshwater fish hatcheries in the Southeast and is the primary game fish hatchery in Florida. Volunteers can help with daily feeding and tank cleaning, stocking activities throughout the state, collecting nutrition or genetic data, maintenance and kids-fishing events. In addition, the Marine Fisheries Stock Enhancement Program in Port Manatee offers volunteers the opportunity to enhance or rebuild coastal fisheries by assisting with breeding and rearing finfish and mollusks.

Florida�s hunting heritage depends heavily on thousands of volunteer hours each year. Hunter Safety volunteers teach a variety of courses statewide to the public. Courses include basic hunter safety, advanced archery, and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW).

Kids� Fishing Clinics are one-day educational events designed to create responsible marine resource stewards by teaching children fundamental saltwater fishing skills and educating them on the vulnerability of Florida�s marine ecosystems.

In the Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Volunteer Program on Florida�s Gulf Coast, volunteers collect offshore water samples to monitor for potential red tide blooms and aid researchers in determining red tide levels. In 2008, volunteers collected 479 water samples over 210 days. The Ridge Rangers program partners with numerous conservation agencies and organizations to conserve and protect scrub habitat on the Lake Wales Ridge, a threatened ecosystem that is home to many wildlife and plant species found nowhere else on earth.

Finally, the FWC Reserve Officer Program also relies on volunteers. Become a reserve officer and supplement the full-time officers� patrol activities. Reserve officers also assist with community relations and other events.

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