Volunteers To The Rescue

Forest Service needs help to protect forest

Jim Clayton pitched in on a Forest Service volunteer day recently.

Jim Clayton pitched in on a Forest Service volunteer day recently. |

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Bored? Love the outdoors?

Well, Chelsea Muise of the Payson Ranger District has an answer — volunteer for the Forest Service.

On April 5, Muise and two of her longtime volunteers hosted an open house on the new Forest Service volunteer program at the Payson Public Library.

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Volunteers help clean up the East Verde.

Muise said she will start slow and small.

“I sat down with my volunteers and identified a couple of areas where I need help,” said Muise.

She has four different groups for volunteers to join: the Green Team, The R.I.M. (Restoration, Improvement and Maintenance) Team, the Trail Team, and the V.I.S. (Visitor Information Services) Team.

“You can be on as many teams as you want,” said Muise.

She said the Green Team would do a site inventory for trash, graffiti, and damage done to the forest by visitors not educated on how to care for the forest.

Muise said she would organize cleanup crews. She also plans on hosting a day or two for group projects.

Longtime volunteer Jim Clayton will head up the Green Team.

He says most Forest Service volunteers have common beliefs.

“They believe the national forest is a treasure,” he said, “They want to help preserve and better the forest for their children.”

The Trails Team will upgrade and maintain the miles of trails in the Payson Ranger District.

The V.I.S. Team will help in the office, educate people at trailheads and campgrounds, and go into the schools to talk about the forest.

The R.I.M. Team will restore, repaint, and rebuild.

“A lot of stuff went in during the C.C.C. era (during the 1930s Great Depression government work program),” said Muise, “We have failing water systems and facilities.”

Pat Shelton will head up this group. She has been a volunteer for the last two and a half years, and has talent in woodworking.

One audience member who knows her well said Shelton has almost completely revamped every sign in the area.

Shelton, said volunteering for the Forest Service changed her life.

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The Payson Ranger District hopes to recruit a trained corps of volunteers to help protect the forest.

“I got into volunteering because I was bored,” she said. “My life has changed completely from a bored old lady, going downhill to a life with purpose ... It’s a great place to work.”

Both volunteers dedicate one to two days per week to volunteering, but Muise said she would not require that much.

“The minimum time I will require is eight hours per month,” said Muise.

The volunteer program is different from the workdays Muise organized a year ago. She said the safety and liability issues of bringing untrained volunteers into the Forest Service overwhelmed her and stressed out Forest Service leadership.

With this new program, volunteers will know the policies and procedures, go through extensive training, and fall under the umbrella of the Forest Service when they volunteer.

Muise even has uniforms for volunteers. Both Shelton and Clayton wore T- shirts and forest green colored pants to show off the uniform.

Muise said volunteers would also use Forest Service vehicles during the hours they volunteer.

On Saturday, April 12 from 8 a.m. until noon, Muise will host a volunteer orientation program at the Payson Ranger District. For more information, contact Chelsea Muise at the Payson District, (928) 474-7900.

Muise will also hold a volunteer orientation on June 14 and other dates as needed.

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