By Jennifer Bruns-Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Whether it's birds at feeders, fish in the streams or deer in the thick forests of Idaho, we value and appreciate wildlife in our state.
But to preserve and protect this resource, we must each give something of ourselves. More importantly, we must work together to improve Idaho's wildlife and ensure that future generations will have the same opportunities to enjoy wildlife that we do.
Preserving, protecting and helping to perpetuate Idaho's wildlife is not an easy task, but is made increasingly possible with the hours that volunteers contribute to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game every year.
From Moscow to Grangeville, more than 120 Idahoans donated nearly 9,600 hours last year. These hours were spent rehabilitating wildlife, assisting with population surveys, improving habitat, helping teach fishing and hunting clinics, even building fence and improving sportsmen's access sites. Not only were many projects accomplished, but effective partnerships were developed between Fish and Game and the citizens of Idaho.
Across the state in 2006, more than 3,000 volunteers donated more than 55,000 hours worth more than $1 million; 143 reservists put in almost 16,000 hours worth more than $300,000; and donated equipment, materials and supplies totaled about $154,000.
"Volunteers and wildlife reservists comprise a bona fide workforce that helps Idaho Fish and Game accomplish its goals and has saved the department $1.5 million in 2006 as well," said Mary Dudley, volunteer coordinator in the Southwest Region.
But why volunteer? Not only is it fun and educational for many, but getting involved is a great way to take an active role in the management of Idaho's wildlife. Working one-on-one with each other, people can get a better understanding of the complexities of managing Idaho's wildlife. Conversely, Fish and Game can use the unique skills that many volunteers provide.
Volunteering also offers many opportunities for self satisfaction as well as building friendships with other volunteers and Fish and Game employees. With increased support and dedication by volunteers, the work accomplished will continue to grow.
Volunteer efforts do not go unnoticed. Department employees are grateful every year for the accomplishments in each part of the state. Fish and Game's workforce more than quadruples when volunteers are in action. Many significant projects could not be completed without the volunteer program.
What can volunteers do? Volunteering for Fish and Game is often hands-on.
Projects this past year included a turkey trapping and relocation project, recreational-use surveys on Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area, a youth pheasant hunting clinic, an ice angling clinic, and big game check stations.
Upcoming spring projects include wildlife habitat planting, fisheries creel surveys, and several educational programs. To complete these projects, Fish and Game needs continued volunteer support.
Who can volunteer? The program is designed for anyone interested in wildlife. People of all ages who are reliable, enthusiastic, positive and adaptable are encouraged to get involved. Volunteers who possess special skills or knowledge are also appreciated. Regardless of age and skill level, Fish and Game will match volunteers with projects that are the best fit.
Where can I volunteer? There are opportunities everywhere in the state, and there will always be something new to learn. For information, visit the volunteer page on Fish and Game's Website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/about/volunteer/ or contact local volunteer coordinators.
Fish and Game volunteer coordinators are:
¥ Panhandle Region - Pete Gardner 208-769-1414
¥ Clearwater Region - Jen Bruns 208-791-1291
¥ Southwest Region - Mary Dudley 208-327-7099
¥ Magic Valley Region - Ed Papenberg 208-324-4359
¥ Southeast Region - Terri Bergmeier 208-232-4703
¥ Upper Snake Region - Jo Cobb 208-525-7290
¥ Salmon Region - Bonnie Jakubos 208-756-2271
¥ MK Nature Center, Boise - Brenda Beckley 208-287-2901
Jennifer Bruns is the Clearwater Region's volunteer coordinator, and before that she worked as a summer temporary employee and volunteer for Idaho Fish and Game.