Volunteers Make a Difference
for Georgia Wildlife!
They teach stewardship, ethics and safety to youth and adults, they help maintain trail and roadway integrity, they assist class attendees in building bird or bat houses, they provide archery and air rifle instruction, they participate in wildlife surveys, they put worms or other bait on hooks and take fish off, they conduct prescribed burns, they might even “paint faces” at outdoors events. They are the lifeblood of this agency – the volunteer!
Through their varied knowledge and experienced skill sets, volunteers provide a necessary, effective and important role for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD).
“I cannot put into any amount of words my respect and admiration for the good folks that volunteer for our agency,” says Rusty Garrison, WRD Director. “They give up one of the most valuable of all commodities in our life – their time. They give so much because they want to ensure that Georgia’s precious, diverse resources are there for both today’s visitors and future generations.”
WRD’s volunteers have the opportunity to learn new skills, teach others, be active and stay involved. The passion for what they do clearly showcases the love they have for the outdoors and a desire to pass that enthusiasm on to others.
Why Do They Volunteer?
For the volunteer, it is not about a monetary compensation. Each volunteer is unique and is motivated by different factors. Some of these factors are an interest in promoting safety, caring for our trails, personal fulfillment, prestige, or simply, good citizenship. Volunteers want to feel a sense of satisfaction and a feeling that what they are doing is important, that their contributions saves lives, shapes the future of recreational hunting, helps conserve and protect resources, makes a significant difference on the quality of life, and that they are providing effective and use-able instruction to others.
Ricky Stringer is a hunter education instructor, and he is passionate about teaching hunter education and field safety to kids. For the past several years, he and other Wayne County hunter education instructors have partnered with a local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation to offer a hunter education class. This year, they decided to enhance that training with hands-on activities. Through the donation of his time as a volunteer, Ricky came up with the initial idea, approached and got the support of multiple local partners, planned the activities that would happen, sought out prizes, and ultimately hosted the event.
How does he know it was worth it? Let’s hear it straight from Ricky, “The reward of all this planning and hard work was seeing the smiles on kids’ faces, their hugs, and them telling us ‘thank you for such a fun day.’ Students that started out that morning never having shot a gun or picked up a bow have now busted a skeet in mid-air and hit a bullseye with an arrow. While this may be their first introduction to the shooting sports and the outdoors, it increases the chance that they will continue these activities for a lifetime and become a long-time supporter of shooting and hunting activities and maybe even, become a volunteer themselves, one day.”
Volunteer Hours Make a Financial Difference
While the true value of a volunteer is difficult to measure in its entirety, the Georgia WRD is able to use the number of hours worked to obtain matching federal funds to support agency work. The amount of federal funds increases as volunteer hours increase. Georgia is fortunate to have seen a growth of volunteers over the past several years. In 2014, volunteers served more than 22,000 hours. In 2015, volunteers served more than 39,000 hours. In 2016, volunteers served more than 52,000 hours, providing a federal fund match of $4,000,000 in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Restoration Program funds (Pittman-Robertson Act). So, giving back rewards Georgia in more ways than one!
Becoming a Volunteer
The opportunities to volunteer with WRD are varied. If one volunteer activity does not appeal, there surely is a “right fit” in another activity.
So, how do you get started? Register to become a volunteer HERE. If you do not already have a customer account on this site, you will need to create one by following the prompts. Once you have a customer account, click on the “Volunteer for an Event” box on the homepage and follow instructions for signing up for an event or opportunities near you!