The HWLC Volunteer Land Steward Certification Program is designed for HWLC volunteers who are interested in current conservation and natural resource management issues, outdoor recreation, natural area management, citizen science, ecosystem management, invasive species management, and habitat preservation. Through participation in this program volunteers will become certified in the techniques needed to be an effective Volunteer Land Steward.
Volunteer Land Steward Position Description
The Volunteer Land Steward will support land management activities on HWLC conserved lands located throughout northeast Michigan. The Volunteer Land Steward will support the monitoring of fee-owned lands and conservation easements. Monitoring field work will involve traversing properties by foot to take photos and make observations about vegetation, wildlife, hydrology, boundaries, and other site conditions. The intern will be responsible for completing monitoring reports that include written observations, maps, and photos. In addition to monitoring activities, the Volunteer Land Steward will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of land management activities such as mapping, infrastructure maintenance, weed control, and ecological surveys. The position will provide training and exposure to environmental field work, land management practices, ecological restoration practices, and land conservation methods and issues.
- Prepare for a safe and effective visit
- Read and interpret a Baseline Report and Conservation Easement
- Conduct a thorough stewardship visit
- Complete post-stewardship reporting (addressing any changes or concerns found on site)
We provide a training manual to new volunteers that they may keep for the duration of their volunteer service. New volunteers have found the training manual helpful to solidify and reinforce the information we present in the training sessions, and seasoned volunteers rely on it for reference and when they need a refresher.
Volunteers Land Stewards are so critical to our work that HWLC has created the Volunteer Land Steward Certification Program. All Land Stewards are asked to complete a certification process.
To become certified, you must:
- Complete a volunteer application
- Read and sign the Land Stewardship Volunteer Handbook and Confidentiality Agreement
- Attend an initial training session, and supplemental training at minimum of every two years
- All first year Land Stewardship Volunteers must visit a protected property with an experienced Land Stewardship Volunteer. Your “mentor” will show you the ropes of monitoring in the field.
Land Steward Responsibilities
- Understand the mission and purposes of HWLC, Conservation Easement Stewardship Program
procedures, and a working knowledge of conservation easements
- Complete on-the-ground inspections of easement properties and document any changes on the land with photos, maps, and written descriptions
- Maintain confidentiality of our landowners and their properties
- Discuss observations and concerns with staff
- Cultivate positive relationships with landowners
- Help keep monitoring records and easement files up to date
- Perform a minimum of 2-3 monitoring visits to a designated site annually*
- Monitor and maintain written and photographed reports of site conditions
- Monitor and report on management concerns including invasive species, garbage dumping, road problems, illegal recreational use
- Build a community team dedicated to the property by recruiting neighbors, friends and co-workers to help in stewardship and conservation advocacy; coordinate a volunteer work party at the site once per year or more**
- Post boundaries as needed
*Land Stewards work closely with HWLC’s Land Protection Specialist to select a site that matches the volunteer’s interests and abilities. Sites may be fee-owned (HWLC property) or conservation easement sites. **Volunteer events must receive authorization from HWLC prior to planning and implementation.
- Participate in the Volunteer Land Steward Certification Program
- Personal vehicle for transportation to and from site. In some cases, 4WD maybe needed
- Physically active and able to walk ½ mile or more. In some cases, 1-2 mile hiking on steep terrain may be required
- Knowledge of northeast Michigan ecosystems and interest in environmental stewardship
HWLC makes a significant investment in each and every one of our volunteers in terms of time and training, so we would like volunteers to commit to a minimum of monitoring 2-3 properties each year. Volunteer Land Stewards maybe the only face to face contact many of our easement donors have with HWLC throughout the year. This type of stewardship helps cultivate positive long-term relationships with landowners.
Training sessions provide an in-person opportunity for volunteers to interact, share stories, and meet mentors, new volunteers, and staff. We’ve discovered that these training sessions are valuable for keeping the volunteers engaged in HWLC and, of course, up to date on monitoring requirements and any changes in the program or procedures. Our training sessions usually kick off with a discussion that first gives information about HWLC, conservation easements, and the stewardship program. Other topics we’ve included in training include strategic conservation planning and how we identify properties to protect, and various land management issues such as identifying the top 10 invasive species. The second half of our training always includes the specific procedures for monitoring easements. These procedures are also detailed in the training manual. We will often include a field trip component as part of the training sessions.
Training sessions also provide an ideal time to pass out property assignments. We produce a monitoring workbook, which includes the easement, baseline, monitoring report forms, contact information, etc. for each property, and these are passed out at the training sessions. Volunteers are required to attend annual training sessions in order to keep their certification current.
Once a new volunteer is certified and understands the process and is comfortable with it, they are free to monitor properties on their own.