Earth Team volunteer Janet Billington donates 340 hours to help conduct conservation work and process program documents and paperwork. Her time was valuable to NRCS staff, local SWCD staff, local farmers, and it helped Janet earn credit towards her degree. (Photo contribued)
CHAMPAIGN – The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is recognizing Earth Team volunteer efforts throughout the nation during National Volunteer Week. Their theme, “Volunteers Improve Today for Tomorrow,” runs April 7-13 to show gratitude to Earth Team volunteers for their superb service to conservation.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Earth Team is the federal agency’s volunteer workforce. This past fiscal year, more than 40,725 people donated 388,234 hours of service nationwide. Volunteers worked alongside NRCS to provide resources to farmers and landowners to aid them with conservation – a service value of more than $8 million.
“The volunteers work closely with our staff and play an important role in our state’s conservation work,” said Ivan Dozier, State Conservationist, Champaign. Earth Team is a program that partners volunteers with NRCS employees. It was created in 1985 and offers many opportunities for individuals age 14 and older who are interested in volunteering to improve the nation’s natural resources.
Earth Team volunteers help the NRCS conservationists provide private landowners and others with a range of services, from conservation technical assistance, to teaching and generating awareness about conservation through community projects. Earth Team volunteers are invaluable as they expand NRCS’ efforts to help protect and conserve the nation’s natural resources. Volunteers dedicate their time and talents to various conservation activities, from helping farmers prevent soil erosion, protecting water resources and watersheds against flood damage, to improving the condition of grazing land, and enhancing wildlife habitat.
Last year Illinois Earth Team volunteers donated 2,183 hours of service. That number includes 27 individual volunteers and 11 volunteer groups around the state who donated their time towards natural resources conservation. “Our volunteers are valuable in every aspect of conservation. We are especially proud of our NRCS team down in southern Illinois from the Edwards, Lawrence, Richland, Wabash, and Wayne Counties District Group. They recruited the best and most productive volunteer of the year. Janet Billington was a student from Wabash Valley Community College who donated 340 hours of time as part of a 400-level agricultural class,” says Dozier.
NRCS’ mission to “Help the People Help the Land” is strengthened by the passion Earth Team volunteers bring to the important conservation work they do every day. If you have a high school student who needs to log in some volunteer hours this summer, your local NRCS Service Center might be your best and closest option—especially if they have an interest in agriculture or environmental sciences.
To learn more about the Earth Team Volunteer Program visit: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/earthteam or call (888) 526-3227. For more information on NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.