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Welcome to the Forest Service: A Guide for Volunteers

Volunteers in the National Forests Program (continued)

Volunteer Qualifications

The Forest Service officer who negotiates and approves volunteer agreements determines the qualifications for each volunteer assignment. Your job description/essential eligibility criteria will be in the volunteer agreement. These criteria establish the nondiscriminatory basic functions and abilities required for volunteer service in the individual position or project. To be selected for and retained in the position or project, you must be able to meet all of the elements within the job description/essential eligibility criteria for that position or project. If you have a history of allergic reactions to bee stings or other insect stings, or may be affected by certain types of work, you need to inform your supervisor.

If you are under the age of 18, you must have the written consent of one of your parents or guardians to enroll as a volunteer. Child labor laws pertain to those under age 18. Some work cannot be performed by youth who are under the age of 18.

Supervision and Work Performance

Your responsibility is to perform the work as described and agreed to in the volunteer agreement. The Forest Service's responsibility is to provide adequate supervision (figure 10). A Forest Service supervisor should always be appointed for volunteers even if the supervisor can't provide supervision every day. If the daily supervisor cannot be a Forest Service official, a qualified individual within the volunteer group or under the partnership agreement may provide daily supervision. Supervisors must be fully trained in all aspects of the project work and be familiar with Forest Service policies and procedures.

Photo of a large group of individuals receiving instructions from a Forest Service supervisor on the edge of a stream bank.
Figure 10—Volunteers prepare to do stream surveys,
part of a mine site restoration project for the NatureWatch program.
Courtesy of Scott Spaulding, Lolo National Forest


You will receive the basic knowledge and skills needed to do the job adequately and safely.


You may need to wear a uniform if you have significant, frequent, or recurring contact with the public or when the uniform is important to establish your authority or to identify you as an agency representative (figure 11). Uniform policies for volunteers are covered in the Forest Service Manual (FSM) and Forest Service Handbook (FSH). See FSM 1833.4; FSH 6509.11k, sections 48.03a and 48.03b-4.

Photo of a ranger in the field resting in a large meadow.
Figure 11—A volunteer ranger working near Skunk Cabbage Meadows
in the San Jacinto Mountains. Courtesy of Brad Ellis

Most volunteers will wear the volunteer uniform, which consists of a volunteer vest, volunteer windbreaker, and/or volunteer cap (FSH 6509.11k, sections 48.1-6 and 48.7, exhibit 03). Depending on the work, line officers may determine that a regular uniform is more appropriate for some volunteers (FSH 6509.11k, sec. 48.03b-4. If you will be wearing the regular uniform, it will be furnished.

You must wear the uniform properly (FSH 6509.11k, sec. 48.03d). This means the uniform must be neat, clean, and tidy. The field uniform must be complete in its components and cannot be mixed and matched with street clothes. For example, a uniform shirt cannot be worn with blue jeans and a district baseball cap.


It is important for you to record the number of hours you work and the amount of work accomplished. This responsibility may be assigned to you or may be assigned to your leader if you are working with a group of volunteers.

Expenses and Reimbursement

You do not receive a salary from the Forest Service, but may be eligible to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses (figure 12) related to transportation, food, lodging, and certain miscellaneous expenses that are "necessary, reasonable, and arise as a result of the voluntary work." It is not possible to reimburse you for all of the out-of-pocket expenses you might incur and the intent is not to provide compensation or a stipend for volunteering. Reimbursement for expenses is negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Photo of an individual grading a beach with a large tractor.
Figure 12—An Indian Boundary campground host uses his
personal tractor to rip and grade Indian Boundary Beach.
Courtesy of Mary Jane Burnette, Cherokee National Forest, Tellico Ranger District

Responsibility and Conduct

The Forest Service expects all its representatives to adhere to civic-minded principles in their personal conduct and to exhibit a high degree of personal integrity. Acceptable conduct involves sincere respect for the rights and feelings of others and the assurance their personal conduct will not harm or be considered discriminatory to other volunteers, employees, or the Forest Service—or cause an unfavorable reaction from the public.

While you are on duty you may not:

  • Possess or use firearms except when authorized
  • Consume intoxicating beverages
  • Possess or use any illegal drugs
  • Use Government-owned or Government-leased vehicles, property, tools, equipment, or telephones for personal purposes
  • Fight, use derogatory language, or participate in discrimination, sexual harassment, or violent or threatening behavior Have pets with you without special permission of the district ranger
  • Violate any State game and fish regulation
  • Violate any Federal, State, or local law
  • Sell or distribute nonagency products or literature
  • Disclose confidential information Violation of any of the above prohibitions may constitute grounds for dismissal or other appropriate action.

Volunteer Rights

You, as a volunteer, have rights. These rights include:

  • The right to be treated with respect
  • The right to a workplace free of harassment
  • The right to a workplace free of hostile conditions
  • The right to a suitable assignment
  • The right to training
  • The right to qualified supervision
  • The right to safe working condition