Apr 28, 2013

Bill Supports Continuation of Wildlife Refuge Volunteer Program

The Courier Post reports that Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J. and other congressional representatives have been promoting a bill that would allow the volunteer program in the National Wildlife Refuge System to continue.

Authorization for volunteer programs at national wildlife refuges expires at the end of fiscal 2014. Runyan’s bill, which he described as a “common-sense bipartisan piece of legislation,” would extend the programs through fiscal 2018.

Volunteerism in the nation’s wildlife refuge system has soared from 4,251 people in 1982 to more than 56,000 people working 2.15 million hours in 2012.

That’s roughly equivalent to more than 1,000 full-time employees — or $47 million in wages.

It’s hard to imagine even Tea Party Republicans having a problem with a bill that gives the federal government free labor to the tune of 1,000 full-time federal employees.

Friends groups and volunteers in the Refuge System help run nature programs, maintain land and water trails, run gift shops, manage hunting and fishing programs, work in Visitor Centers, operate wildlife web cams, lead bus tours, and provide clean-up and maintenance services — all for free, because they value the National Wildlife Refuge System.

It’s time for Congress to recognize this massive citizen commitment to the Refuge System and 1) reauthorize the volunteer program and 2) stop cutting the Refuge System budget, which is clearly a land system that is already cut to the bone, or it wouldn’t be relying on volunteers to do almost 20% of the labor on refuge lands.

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