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Volunteer Stewardship Agreements (VSA) Policy

Commissioner's Policy #58

View Volunteer Stewardship Program application (PDF)
View Individual Volunteer application (PDF)
View Limited Use Volunteer application (PDF)
Entire Volunteer Stewardship Agreements Policy with above applications (PDF)

Volunteer with DEC! 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 VSA! Simply follow the application procedure outlines in Section V. below. Submit your completed applications to the DEC Regional Natural Resource Supervisor for the region in which you would like to volunteer.

I. Summary

The purpose of this policy is to foster public participation in the Department's Volunteer Stewardship Program ("the Program").

II. Policy

It is the Department's policy to foster public participation in the Program to help preserve, maintain and enhance the lands and facilities under the Department's jurisdiction at minimum cost to the state.

III. Purpose and Background

The Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for the management of more than four million acres of state land and conservation easements and numerous facilities under its jurisdiction. From forests and lakes to parks and campgrounds, it is an enormous undertaking to preserve and protect such vast and diverse environmental resources. The Department'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.

Pursuant to the powers set forth in ECL § 3-0301, the Department has made use of volunteers for a wide range of activities. Such activities may involve remediating vandalism, picking up litter and trash, establishing or maintaining trails, providing interpretive services for school groups and other citizens, managing fish and wildlife habitats, or otherwise providing positive benefits to state land and facilities.

This Policy establishes the procedures the Department will use to consider stewardship proposals made by individuals and groups through the Program Application process. At its sole discretion, the Department may provide the assistance of personnel, facilities and supplies in support of the activities described in the subsequent Agreement. Consistent with all other laws and regulations, stewardship activities may be recognized by the placement of appropriate signs on or near the designated stewardship area. Other forms of recognition, including but not limited to certificates, press releases, and newsletters may be provided as the Department deems appropriate.

IV. Responsibility

The responsibility for interpretation and update of this document, and overall management shall reside with the Department's Office of Natural Resources and the Office of Administration, or its successor.

V. Procedure

The Department will invite and encourage individuals and groups to become active supporters of state land management through participation in the Program. Participants will be informed about the purpose of the Program, the procedures for entering into Volunteer Stewardship Agreements, and the responsibilities that go along with becoming a volunteer under this Program.

These procedures are to ensure that any stewardship activities undertaken through this Program must assist the Department in meeting its state land management objectives at minimum cost to the state. Volunteer Stewardship Program applications should be submitted to the appropriate Respective Management Authority.

The following guidelines provide the basis for Respective Management Authority review of stewardship proposals to decide their suitability for achieving Department objectives, their prospect for satisfactory completion, and the availability of Department staff for oversight and support.

A. Application Process

1. Individuals or groups who wish to volunteer their services to the stewardship of state lands shall be given an application and information describing the Program.

2. A Volunteer Stewardship Program Application (Appendix I) shall be submitted to the Respective Management Authority by the individual or authorized representative of the group or organization.

3. In addition, each volunteer participating in the Program must fill out either the standard "Volunteer Application" (Appendix III) or the "Limited Use Volunteer Application" (Appendix IV), to participate in volunteer activities. An application form must be submitted for each individual, or in the case of groups and organizations, for each member, that will participate in any activity set forth in the Agreement.

  1. Appendix III - Volunteer Applications will remain valid for the life of the Agreement subject to periodic updates. In the event a volunteer's personal and/or contact information changes, a new application form must be completed.
  2. Appendix IV - Limited Use Volunteer Applications will be used for Stewards who are participating for a short time frame, up to five (5) consecutive days.

4. Each group or organization shall provide the Department with a list of individuals who are authorized to act as an "initiator" and/or "supervisor" for the purpose of initiating the volunteer applications found in Appendix III and Appendix IV for each member of the respective group or organization who will be performing volunteer activities pursuant to the Agreement. All original and completed volunteer application forms must be submitted to the Respective Management Authority for further processing.

5. Activities must comply with all applicable state and local laws, regulations, policies, and approved Unit Management Plans, Recreation Management Plans and Department work plans. In the absence of a plan, interim authorization of activities may be given by the Respective Management Authority. The Department may consider factors such as safety, environmental sensitivity, need, and cost in determining which state lands and activities may be eligible or appropriate for an Agreement.

B. Entering into the Agreement

1. Upon approval of the Volunteer Stewardship Program Application, the Respective Management Authority and the Steward shall review the proposed stewardship activities and other conditions of the Agreement.

2. An Agreement shall be completed and signed by both the Department and the Steward for each approved Volunteer Stewardship Program Application. Project specific conditions shall be a part of all Agreements, including provisions for training and for equipment related to the protection of the health and safety of volunteers.

3. Stewardship activities may be amended in the Agreement only by the express mutual consent of the Department and the Steward.

4. The Department may immediately suspend all stewardship activities and revoke the Agreement at any time during the term of the Agreement, at its sole discretion. If the Steward wishes to terminate the Agreement, he/she/it shall provide the Department with thirty (30) days written notice.

5. Stewardship activities shall be evaluated by the Respective Management Authority annually to determine whether they merit continuation or modification.

6. As volunteers in this Program, participants are provided with the same liability and workers= compensation protection as salaried state employees, as long as they are acting within the scope and terms of the Agreement and comply with the Department's guidelines for use of volunteers.

7. The Department may provide recognition of the stewardship activities by appropriate signage on or near the designated stewardship area, facility or by such other means as it may deem appropriate.

8. The Commissioner authorizes the Department's Regional Directors to enter into Volunteer Stewardship Agreements on his or her behalf.

9. Generally, Volunteer Stewardship Agreements will be issued by the Regional Office having Respective Management Authority over the natural resource(s), facility(ies) and activity(ies) that is/are the subject of the Agreement; however, Agreements involving activities in more than one Region may be issued provided that they are signed by the Director of each Region having Respective Management Authority over the natural resource(s), facility(ies) and activity(ties) involved.

10. Copies of all approved Agreements shall be forwarded to the appropriate Respective Management Authority (Division or Region), and to the appropriate Division in the Central Office, Albany.

11. Copies of completed volunteer applications must be maintained by the appropriate Region or Division having Respective Management Authority over the subject Agreement and in accordance with Records Retention Policies (three years from the date participation ends).

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