Nature as an affair of honor – volunteers in protected areas
Volunteers and part-timers in national parks, nature parks and biosphere reserves are a valuable addition to full-time rangers in protected areas. It is vital to use their potential for the protected areas
- as highly motivated support,
- as enrichment for the protected areas through the creativity and special competences of the volunteers,
- as opportunity to implement special projects alongside compulsory tasks,
- as establishment of a stronger connection to the local population and a deeper bond in the region,
- to gain new advocates and supporters,
- as possibility to live up to the mandate for education for sustainable development,
- as promotion of positive public attention.
Volunteers are not gratis
The idea behind the integration of volunteers in the work in protected areas should not be to save costs for personnel or other. Quite the contrary: the integration of volunteers demands a good deal of personal und financial resources, for instance for
- the internal planning and preparation of the volunteer work,
- the qualification of full-time volunteer coordinators,
- the advertising of voluntary work,
- the mentoring and qualification of volunteers,
- the insurance protection of volunteers,
- the acquisition of teaching aids and equipment for volunteers and
- measures of appreciation.
The essential attributes to differentiate between volunteers and full-time staffs:
|Description||f. ex. nature watch, park ranger, park warden, employee of the national park services, park guide, ranger, employee of the protected area management||visitor guide or other, f .ex. certified nature and landscape guide||volunteers in parks, environmental protection assistant or other (volunteers called on the basis of environmental protection laws), visitor guides or other, f .ex. certified nature and landscape guide|
|Employment relations||temporary or open-ended employment usually in public services on the basis of an employment contract and a job specification, gainful employment||secondary employment, mostly self-employed, possibly by order of an educational institution||voluntary, nonpaid collaboration without employment (reimbursement of expenditures and expense allowance possible) on basis of a written agreement and job description|
|Basis for action||international and national guidelines, laws and decrees||order to promote added value in the region and environmental education order of the protected areas||environmental education order of the protected areas and order to promote civil engagement|
|Scope and intensity of activities||full- or part-time employment, continuous work||usually seasonal, scope varies||non-permanent, activities related to a project and/or with relatively little temporal scope|
|Tasks||accountable duties in the fields of information and public relations (environmental education), visitor guidance, scientific investigations, control and protection, maintenance and repair work, mentoring of volunteers||focused on tourism (guided tours, talks; contents in relation to certain regions)||supporting activities and/or additional projects in the fields information and public relations (environmental education), visitor guidance, scientific investigations, control and protection, maintenance and repair work, mentoring of volunteers; excludes: compulsory tasks of the federal states and autonomous area control (exception: additional official order as environmental protection assistant or the like)|
|Qualification||initial occupation diverse so-called "green" professions, usually nationwide recognized further education as certified nature and landscape conservationist, further education and qualification||qualification as for example certified nature and landscape conservationist, further educations||manifold professional qualifications, qualification and further educations for volunteer work depending on task area through the institution of volunteering or externally; certified nature and landscape conservationist: equal qualification, further educations|
|Rights||usually sovereign rights||no sovereign rights||no sovereign rights|
|Responsibilities||based on public services law, bound by instruction||not based on public services law||not based on public services law, binding agreement with institution of volunteering|
Apparel and identification
|required service clothing||badge, patch or pin; certified nature and landscape conservationist: identification tag with annual stamp||identification tag (in case of working with the public); environmental protection assistant or other: identification card; certified nature and landscape conservationist: identification tag with annual stamp|
In large protected areas the integration of volunteers may help to reach a higher impact level as with only full-time employees if existing resources are used.
Through the integration of volunteers protected areas take an important function to implement the public task to support honorary posts in our society.
Additional information and job offers can be found on the pages of EUROPARC Germany: