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Connecting for Conservation: the new Volunteer Stewardship Network

All across O`ahu and the state, many groups, non-profits, schools, government and non-government organizations are working to preserve, protect and restore Hawaii's natural environment. In tandem and on their own, enthusiastic volunteers are working hard to protect and restore Hawaii's natural heritage.

In The Nature Conservancy's Honouliuli Preserve, they are building trails and fences, planting native plants, helping to control invasive weeds, and assisting our field crew in every way imaginable. At the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's refuge at Kalaeloa, volunteers from Leeward Community College, the Navy, and other groups have been caring for endangered plants at a coastal site by clearing invasive weeds and outplanting nursery grown plants. At Kawainui Marsh, volunteers from the Kawainui Heritage Foundation have built trails, cleared vegetation from cultural sites, planted a native garden, and restored a section of marsh to improve habitat for native water birds. At Camp Timberline in the Wai`anae Mountains, students in environmental education programs volunteer part of their time to care for hundreds of seedlings in a native plant nursery, collects seeds from native plants, and carefully water native koa seedlings planted along a trail. All over the island, Youth for Environmental Service organizes young volunteers to participate in service projects like beach cleanups, storm drain stenciling, trail maintenance and tree planting.

Imagine a network that links all these volunteers and organizations. Imagine a network that provides them with the resources they need to make the most of their commitment to preserve and restore Hawaii's natural environment. Imagine a network that builds the capacity of these individuals to do more through learning and experience. An initiative of the Malama Hawai`i coalition is one step toward creating that network of links and partnerships.

The idea for a Volunteer Stewardship Network in Hawai`i began when conservation organizations met to explore how to help each other be more effective in their separate volunteer programs. Following the model of The Volunteer Stewardship Network that The Nature Conservancy organized in 1983 in Illinois, they sought to create a network in Hawai`i where “volunteers could provide people power, visibility and education to preserve and restore precious natural areas…focus attention, become a “constituency,” and attract additional resources from public and private sources.”

The Illinois model is based on the idea of site stewardship. Site stewardship involves having volunteer stewards assume responsibility for managing a site in cooperation with a landowner. It enlists and empowers volunteers to protect and restore natural areas with the approval and assistance of landowners, maximizes the impact of casual volunteers, provides a wider range of volunteer opportunities, and coordinates the deployment of volunteers to areas where they are needed most.

The Volunteer Stewardship Network will better match potential volunteers with meaningful opportunities that are most appropriate to their interests, skill levels, time commitment, and geographic location. The Volunteer Stewardship Network envisions a more coordinated effort that enhances the capacity for volunteers to be a committed, trained, and energized resource.

Through the network’s partnership agreement, organizations and groups commit to work together to enhance the ability of volunteers to care for the environment by providing support, guidance, and training. Imagine a pyramid. This pyramid is built with progressively responsible opportunities that would allow volunteers to participate at the level most suited to them. The greatest numbers of volunteers would be at the base, gaining their initial exposure to stewardship through entry level projects such as trail clearing, storm drain stenciling, and beach cleanups. With further training, workshops, and curriculum participation, they would join volunteers at the next level of the pyramid, participating in projects that build on their accumulated experience.

The top of the pyramid represents volunteers whose skills, experience, and commitment make them expert resources on environmental volunteerism who can share their experience and provide leadership and guidance to those who follow. These individuals would be highly trained and capable of quality leadership within the realm of stewardship. Through this process all civic minded citizens interested in being stewards of the environment can reach their full potential by participating in the Volunteer Stewardship Network.

So keep on the lookout for volunteer opportunities by checking the Malama Hawaii website at www.malamahawaii.org or by contacting Nat Pak at (808) 677-1674.

  Volunteer at TNCH

Every day, The Nature Conservancy is at work to protect Hawaii's native forests and wildlife. It's a huge task, and we couldn't do it without volunteer help. Whatever your skills and interests, we've got something for you!

Nature Conservancy staff is engaged in a wide variety of projects from fencing to fundraising and your particular talent may be just what is needed to get a job done faster, better, more efficiently. Just let us know when you are available to help. We recognize that time is a precious commodity and we appreciate your offer to give us some of yours. If you can find the time, we certainly have a need for your help and will try our best to work with your schedule.

To get started volunteering with The Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i, fill out and submit our volunteer form or call Nat Pak, Volunteer Coordinator at 808-677-1674.

Volunteer Work Trips Calendar
Check the Hikes/Work Trips Calendar for the monthly listing of work trips.

O`ahu: Honouliuli Preserve has work trips the 2nd & 4th Saturday of every month. Call Nat at 808-677-1674 or email him at npak@tnc.org.

Maui has work trips the 3rd Saturday of every month. Call Pat at 808-572-7849 or email him at pbily@tnc.org.

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