STATEWIDE – Colorado’s oldest and largest outdoor stewardship organization, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), has compiled its 34 years of experience in using volunteers to maintain parks, trails, and public lands to create the Stepping Up Stewardship Toolkit, an online collection of resources to help any organization start, enhance, or expand volunteer outdoor stewardship efforts.
“With increasing visitation and limited resources, land management agencies rely on volunteers to build and repair trails, restore habitats, and rebuild after fires and floods,” explained Ann Baker Easley, VOC’s executive director, “VOC’s 5,000 annual volunteers can only touch a fraction of the maintenance needs in the state. By sharing our own proven practices in organizing, managing, and training volunteers, we hope to expand other organizations’ capacity to tackle the most pressing outdoor stewardship work.”
The Stepping Up Stewardship Toolkit offers free, in-depth step-by-step how-to guides on topics such as project selection, volunteer recruitment, and working with youth. Stewardship groups, whether new or established, can complement the knowledge found in each guide with ready-to-use templates and checklists, hands-on training in leadership and technical skills through VOC’s Outdoor Stewardship Institute (OSI), and customized additional assistance, if needed.
While the guidance provided by the Toolkit was developed over decades of working in Colorado, much of the information will be applicable to groups across the country and the Toolkit has already garnered support at the state and national level. “Volunteers play a vital role in helping care for national forests and grasslands, and the USDA Forest Service simply cannot fulfill our mission without their service,” stated Susan Alden, partnership liaison for the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region. “The Stepping Up Stewardship Toolkit is a terrific resource that will help us collaborate more effectively around volunteer service on public lands, as it guides program and volunteer workforce development from project inception to celebration.”
Luis Benitez, director of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, acknowledged the importance of hands-on stewardship to the state as a whole: “Outdoor recreation, a multibillion-dollar economy in Colorado, depends on access to safe and healthy natural areas. By expanding the ability to care for these places, the Stepping Up Stewardship Toolkit supports the state’s economic future and identity as an outdoor recreation destination.”
The Stepping Up Stewardship Toolkit can be found at www.steppingupstewardship.org. For more information about Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), visit www.voc.org.