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Active Volunteer Stewardship Agreements

During the evolving COVID-19 situation, volunteers should practice social distancing and follow the latest guidance from the CDC or NYSDOH (leaves DEC website) on group size. There are many projects volunteers can do that don't require groups or close contact among work parties including brushing a trail and water bar cleaning. These projects may continue.

Projects that require volunteers to work in close contact with each other (i.e. bridge and lean-to maintenance or rehabilitations) should be postponed at this time. If a trail is busy with visitors, volunteers should stop working and come back another day.

Volunteers and partners help to preserve, maintain, and enhance the nearly five million acres of state land and conservation easements and numerous facilities under DEC's jurisdiction. From Long Island to Buffalo, from the mountain tops to our many coastlines, it is an enormous undertaking to preserve and protect such vast and diverse environmental resources.

DEC's ability to adequately maintain these resources is greatly enhanced with the help of many individuals and groups that volunteer their time and talent to help preserve and enhance these resources for all to enjoy.

Volunteers and partners spread across New York State and include (but are not limited to):

  • Professional trail maintenance crews
  • Educational groups
  • User groups (horseback riding, hikers, mountain bikers etc.) who may also perform work on those lands
  • Friends groups

Volunteers enable DEC to expand and improve our services to the public. If you or a group would like to help preserve, maintain and enhance New York's natural beauty, enter into a Volunteer Stewardship Agreement!

If you are interested in finding out more information or the applications, see the main Volunteer Stewardship Agreements (VSA) policy webpage. Submit your completed applications to the DEC Regional Natural Resources Supervisor for the Region for which you would like to volunteer.

Please consider nominating those volunteers that have gone above and beyond, to the Stewardship Appreciation Awards.

Partner Profiles

Below are brief profiles of just some of the organizations that work in collaboration with DEC to preserve, maintain, and enhance our lands and facilities.


CLIMB (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists), established in 1990, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the growth and safe enjoyment of mountain bicycling. Since its founding, CLIMB has built and maintains over 175 miles of sustainable mountain bicycle recreational trails across Long Island. These mountain bike trails are open to all users and are marked as mountain bike trails so those on the trail will be aware that they may encounter mountain bikers; all of the trails CLIMB maintains are shared use. The organization has over 600 members and has their annual fat tire fest and race in October.

NY/NJ Trail Conference Trail and Summit Stewards

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference is a volunteer-powered organization that builds, maintains and protects public trails on more than 2,150 miles of trails stretching from New York City to the Delaware Water Gap, to the Catskills and more. Since 2013, the Trail Conference has been committed to educating and assisting the public in safe, enjoyable, and responsible use of hiking trails through the Trail and Summit Steward Program. In 2019, Summit Stewards are stationed on Giant Ledge/Panther Mountain, Slide, Blackhead and North Point to help address the concerns of these peaks, as well as providing education to those hiking them.

Friends of Rogers

Friends of Rogers (FOR) is a nonprofit organization made up of dedicated staff and supporters that run the Rogers Environmental Education Center in Sherburne, Chenango County. FOR's mission is to provide outstanding educational opportunities that excite, inspire and motivate people of all ages. They run environmental educational programs and outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the seasons for kids and adults. In addition to these community events, school programs, and Adventure Camps, the Visitor Center displays a collection of New York State wildlife. FOR manages six miles of walking trails on 600 acres of state-owned property.

FOR has also partnered with DEC to provide programming through the Adventure NY initiative including Outdoors Day, First Day Hikes, and I Love My Park Day.

Grassland Bird Trust

Grassland Bird Trust (GBT) (formerly Friends of the IBA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit land trust working to conserve critical habitat for New York's endangered, threatened and at-risk grassland birds. GBT is planning an eco-friendly Grassland Bird Center on Washington County Grasslands Wildlife Management Area lands that will allow for more educational and conservation programs, while expanding recreational opportunities for the public. DEC and GBT recently announced the acquisition of a 64-acre parcel of land at the heart of the grasslands that supports eight of the 11 New York's grassland bird "species of greatest conservation need" as listed in the 2015 NYS Wildlife Action Plan.

Basha Kill Area Association

Basha Kill Area Association (BKAA) was founded in 1972 and works to protect the Basha Kill wetlands, promote education and respect for the environment, and preserve the beauty of the area. The BKAA offers free nature walks at the wetlands led by local experts, and sponsors scholarships for young campers to attend the various DEC Environmental Education Camps. BKAA also takes part in a critical water testing program to monitor five to six sites at the Basha Kill on a regular basis and sends those results back to DEC. Every April the BKAA hosts the annual Basha Kill clean-up to celebrate Earth Day and continue to protect the wetlands.

Friends of Reinstein Nature Preserve

Friends of Reinstein Woods is a volunteer-led, nonprofit organization that supports the environmental education programs offered by DEC at Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center in Depew, Erie County. Incorporated in 2003, the group's financial and volunteer support magnifies DEC's ability to connect people to nature and to care for the 292-acre Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve. Additionally, the group offers birthday parties and summer day camps for kids, as well as special programs just for their members. You can learn more about Friends of Reinstein by visiting their table at Reinstein Woods' winter festival, Winter Wonderland in The Woods on February 9th, 2019 from 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. Festivalgoers can try a variety of outdoor winter activities, interact with live animals and even watch an ice rescue demonstration. For more information about Friends of Reinstein Woods, visit their website or call (716) 683-5959.

46er Trailhead Steward Program

The 46er Trailhead Steward Program (TSP) is a collaborative effort involving the Adirondack 46ers, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The program, launched in 2017, focuses on "education, conservation and information" for the general hiking public in an effort to improve the sustainability of the High Peaks Wilderness trails and improve the hiking experience for all.

In 2018, the volunteer trailhead stewards worked most weekends at the Cascade Mountain Trailhead, for the second year of the program, educating and informing thousands of hikers. For decades the Adirondack 46er Volunteer Trail Crew program has worked on projects throughout the High Peaks and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Areas. Each year, they have multiple outings from May through November, bringing volunteers to do trail maintenance, repair lean-tos and bridges, and assist with other work on backcountry trails.

Friends of Five Rivers

In 1972, the community group Friends of Five Rivers was formed to save the open space that is now home to Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. The Friends' mission is to support environmental education at Five Rivers, as well as to enhance the experience of visitors and to promote the interests of the Center.

Among their accomplishments, the Friends developed, manage and fund the Guided School Program, which has served over 255,000 students since 1978. Currently, the program serves over 4,000 students, parents and teachers each year. The Friends also developed, manage and fund the seasonal Family Fun Program throughout the year. This program has served over 275 families to date. They also started a seasonal guided environmental education program for adults called Talk n' Trek. This program has served over 225 adults.

Over the years, the Friends has raised funds to support the purchase of additional acreage, and then transferred the property to DEC to increase the open space at Five Rivers. In 2018, the Friends worked with the Hudson Mohawk Land Conservancy to add an additional 35 acres to Five Rivers.

Catskill Mountain Search and Rescue

The Catskill 3500 Club formed the Catskill Mountain SAR (CMSAR), made up of seasoned hikers with extensive wilderness experience including New York State licensed hiking guides. The team's roster is currently at 16 mission-ready members including two wilderness emergency medical technicians and one paramedic. All have first aid and CPR training. Members are DEC certified ground searchers and highly trained to be self-sufficient in wilderness search and land navigation. All are dedicated and trained, and they meet monthly to ensure proficiency in SAR skills required to be effective searchers. CMSAR is a proud member of the New York State Federation of Search and Rescue Teams on call 24/7/365 to be dispatched as a resource to DEC rangers on searches and rescues serving the Catskill Mountains and surrounding areas.


There are almost 200 lean-tos in the Adirondacks alone where anyone can camp and enjoy the outdoors. Lean2Rescue is a volunteer organization dedicated to preserving and rehabilitating these lean-tos. Volunteers recently completed three more lean-to projects on Eighth Lake including the "Dunning Lean-To" on the northern shore of the lake, the "Double-Wide Lean-to" on the western shore of Eighth Lake, and removed the lean-to located on a small island near the western shore of Eighth Lake. These are just a few of the projects Lean2Rescue has completed to help maintain and improve state lands.

Stony Kill Foundation

Stony Kill Foundation, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) originally formed in the 1970s as a friends group to support the work of DEC at Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center. Their mission is to educate the public and cultivate environmental stewardship through interpretation of the rich, historical, environmental and agricultural heritage of Stony Kill Farm. In 2011, the foundation and DEC entered into an agreement where the foundation manages the programs and services of the center, continuing to offer unique and interactive education programs for children and adults in environmental and agricultural education. Programs include Operation Explore offering students from all five boroughs of NYC an opportunity to visit a working farm and learn about agriculture in the Hudson Valley; field trips for local area schools; a weekly education program serving 15 students from San Miguel Academy in Newburgh, NY; a 4H club that serves 20 local children raising livestock; and a flourishing Summer Explorers camp experience that has expanded to six weeks with six daily camps, serving 120 children each summer.

Stony Kill manages a Bee Association for adults, both beginners and experts in the field, and will soon offer gardening workshops and demos at the upcoming Spring Celebration. Several seasonal events, which include the popular Butterfly Festival, are attended by over 4,500 people each year. In the last two years, the Foundation has raised funds through grants and private donors to purchase a new tractor, allowing the expansion of community garden plots, and to purchase classroom equipment for the soon-to-be-open Learning Center, allowing the Foundation to foster its growing education program with teacher training and increased adult education.