Honoring a hero, celebrating service

Martin Luther King

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

A pivotal figure in the civil rights movement, Dr. King was a leader that rallied for and supported community action, justice, love and peace. On this national day of service when we honor Dr. King’s legacy and come together to serve our neighbors and communities, we’d like to take a minute to thank our volunteers for all they do.

Each year, more than 7,000 volunteers donate about 250,000 hours of service, making a lot of the work we do possible. Whether banding birds at a national wildlife refuge, raising fish at a national fish hatchery, conducting wildlife surveys, leading a tour, or restoring fragile habitat, our volunteers truly embody grassroots conservation. They really do it all! We won’t even be able to scratch the surface in this blog post, but check out just a few things our volunteers have done to make a difference.

Long-time volunteers Leo Hollein and Lou Pisane have been leading the the Wood Duck Nest Box Program since 2004 at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. The program was initiated to help increase the local wood duck population and has been a success. Last year, more than half of the refuge’s 196 boxes were used by wood ducks, and just over 30 percent of the boxes succeeded in producing broods.

Refuge volun

Refuge volunteers, Lou and Leo. Credit: Dorothy Fecske/USFWS

Throughout the region, volunteers help us tackle invasive species, and we mean thousands of pounds of invasive species. At the Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation office, volunteers have helped remove over 5,000 pounds of water chestnut plants, which can change the underwater habitat for fish and compete with native plants. And volunteers at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine removed bags of invasive Chinese privet, morrow’s honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, and Japanese barberry.

Volunteer_timber point

Removing Chinese privet, burning bush, and barberry at Timber Point. Credit: Steve Norris/ USFWS

A citizen science crew from various communities in Connecticut are working to put vernal pools on the map- literally. These temporary, yet important bodies of water are home to many different animals, but they don’t always appear on wetlands maps, which influence where projects are placed. Connecticut Audubon leads the crew with financial support from the Natural Resource Damage Assesment and Restoration Program, to help empower residents to protect their wetlands in the future.

Did we mention that the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery is the first and only hatchery in the National Fish Hatchery System run solely by volunteers? In 1994, the hatchery was closed because of a lack of funding and in 1999, a local group of volunteers decided it was worth saving. They began clearing brush, removing trash and fixing decayed buildings. In August 2006, the volunteers, officially known as the Berkshire Hatchery Foundation, and the Service signed a memorandum of understanding that authorized the group to operate the hatchery with guidance from the Service. Nice work, isn’t it?

We know how lucky we are for an amazing group of people that lend their time, energy and expertise to help make our work possible. Thank you to all of our volunteers and friends groups for their countless hours and days of service!

In Dr. King’s famous words: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” How will you serve this MLK holiday or any time throughout the year?

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