Stewardship Program

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.

For more information, contact the Volunteer Coordinator at 815.338.6223 or

Habitat Restoration

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.


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 receive personalized training in the theory and field practices of conservation and habitat restoration, which usually takes a minimum of one year, depending upon the experience level of the candidate. 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 and Schedule: Site Stewardship is a long-term volunteer commitment due to the extensive training program and the level of responsibility. Site Stewards can expect to contribute 5 to 15 hours per month, keep records, keep District owned equipment in good repair, and attend one annual meeting.

Weekday Restoration Days

Weekday Restoration Days 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.

 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 and Schedule
: Weekday Workday projects are held once a month. Individual volunteers can also assist District Staff on projects as needed.