Volunteers interested in ecological restoration have many avenues available to them. They can enter the Stewardship Training Program, and upon completion, become site stewards, floating stewards, chainsaw specialists, prescribed burn specialists or herbicide applicators. Volunteers who do not undergo training are invited to join site stewards at Habitat Restoration Days at sites throughout McHenry County on weekends. Volunteers with weekday availability can assist the District’s ecologists on special projects.
Stewardship volunteers help to restore habitat for wildlife, protect native plants from invasive species, enlighten citizens about the environment, and share the company of knowledgeable stewardship volunteers and professional staff.
The District supports an active Stewardship Program where volunteers participate in the management and restoration of District-owned and managed natural areas. Stewards are trained in land stewardship techniques and concepts, and help to restore and maintain ecologically significant open land. A high level of standardized training is required for these volunteers due to the importance of the natural resources managed and the high public profile of stewardship activities.
Habitat Restoration Days
Open to the public – no registration needed! Much of the restoration work accomplished by volunteers occurs at public Habitat Restoration Days led by volunteer site stewards. Volunteers who are considering entering the Stewardship Program are encouraged to attend several sessions to meet District Site Stewards and get hands-on restoration experience.
View the list of regularly-scheduled Habitat Restoration Days.
For more information, contact the Volunteer Coordinator at 815.338.6223 x 1229 or volunteers@MCCDistrict.org
Volunteer Steward and Site Steward
QUALIFICATIONS: Minimum age 21 for site stewardship or to operate power tools. Minimum age 18 for general stewardship activities. Must be a registered volunteer of the District; physically capable of carrying out the duties of the position, including the ability to walk over uneven ground off trail, carry needed equipment, and work outdoors in a variety of weather conditions. New stewardship volunteers should possess a basic knowledge of ecology, enthusiasm for the environment, and willingness to learn. Stewards are safety-minded, responsible and reliable, with the ability to follow directions from their ecologist and also provide leadership for volunteers at Habitat Restoration Days. Stewards should also possess the ability to convey ecological topics to the public and represent the Conservation District in a positive manner.
TRAINING: Stewards become knowledgeable in the theory and practice of conservation and habitat restoration by completing a training program of 24 hours of supervised field work and seven workshops offered through the Ecological Restoration Certificate Program (ERCP). Training usually takes a minimum of one year, depending upon the experience level of the candidate and the ERCP schedule. Successful completion of the Stewardship training program and approval by the NRM Manager. Some requirements may be waived for volunteers with prior stewardship experience or education.
Chainsaw operation: Stewards who wish to operate a brush saw or chainsaw at District sites must undergo training and be safety-certified by District Staff.
Herbicide application: The District encourages stewards to obtain a State of Illinois herbicide license in order to apply herbicide following invasive vegetation removal.
TIME COMMITMENT/SCHEDULE: Site Stewardship is a long-term volunteer commitment due to the extensive training program and the level of responsibility. Site Stewards contribute 5 to 15 hours per month, keep records, keep District owned equipment in good repair, and attend two annual meetings.
Weekday Workdays with the Natural Resources Staff
Volunteers with weekday availability who are interested in restoration ecology are invited to assist the District’s ecologists and restoration technicians with seasonally appropriate tasks, such as brush cutting, weed removal, tree planting, seed collection and prescribed burning at various sites throughout McHenry County. For stewards-in-training and recent graduates with environmental degrees, this is an opportunity to gain experience, learn and practice fieldwork restoration techniques and skills.
QUALIFICATIONS: Minimum age 18 (age 21 to operate power tools); a registered volunteer of the District; physically capable of carrying out the duties of the position: the ability to walk over uneven ground off trail is necessary for field work; safety-minded, responsible, reliable, and able to follow directions.
TRAINING: Provided onsite. Responsible volunteers and stewards-in-training with prior power tool experience who wish to operate a brush saw or chainsaw at District sites must undergo training and be safety-certified by District Staff.
TIME COMMITMENT/SCHEDULE: Weekday Workday projects are held once a month. Individual volunteers can also assist District Staff on projects as needed.
Volunteer Prescribed Burn Specialist
Volunteers who have successfully completed the Chicago Wilderness Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn Crew Member Training or other approved equivalent training are eligible to assist the Natural Resources Staff at prescription burns. An interview with the Natural Resources is required to learn about qualifications, duties and risks of this position. After completion of the required burn training workshop and approval by the Natural Resources Manager, volunteers register with the District and will be notified when assistance is needed.
Prescribed burn volunteers work as members of a team, and must be able to commit to remaining at the site for the entire time they have agreed on. Prescribed burns are strenuous and expose people to risks associated with burning, smoke inhalation, tripping and falling. Volunteers must understand the risks involved and follow all District safety rules, regulations, procedures, policies, laws and guidelines pertaining to safe burning practices. During a burn, volunteers must follow the orders of the District’s burn boss and staff.
QUALIFICATIONS: Minimum age 21; a registered volunteer of the District who has completed an interview with the Natural Resources Manager and successfully completed the Chicago Wilderness Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn Crew Member Training. Must be a safety-minded, responsible and reliable team member with the ability to follow orders. Burn specialists must be physically able to safely carry out their duties (see above for details).
TRAINING: Chicago Wilderness Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn Crew Member Training or other District-approved equivalent training is required. Note: the District offers a Chicago Wilderness burn training workshop each spring through the People & Nature Program. This training is also offered through other agencies at other times of the year. For a list of upcoming trainings, visit the Chicago Wilderness website www.Chicagowilderness.org. Look under the tab “What We Do”, “Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn Crew Member Training”.
TIME COMMITMENT/SCHEDULE: Prescribed burns are scheduled on Spring and Fall weekdays that are highly dependent on weather and wind conditions. Qualified volunteers sign up to be notified of upcoming burns.