News Releases

FWC's Ridge Rangers volunteer 30,000 hours, worth $500,000

News Release

Monday, January 25, 2010

Media contact: Jim Reed, 863-699-3742

It happened amid bitter cold Jan. 9. Volunteers for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Ridge Rangers program logged their 30,000th hour of service helping preserve the endangered ecosystem of the Lake Wales Ridge - the spine of central Florida.

Because of the teamwork, Jim Reed, Ridge Rangers volunteer coordinator, could only approximate when the 30,000th-man-hour goal was reached.

"It was in the morning, around the time two volunteers dragged a truck bed out of bear habitat and another one took a GPS reading of a gopher tortoise burrow," Reed said. The 29 volunteers worked on several habitat-enhancement activities throughout the morning on the Flamingo Villas tract of Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge.

Time really is money. On that day, the organization passed the $500,000 mark, if one places a monetary value on all those hours of volunteer labor for the state of Florida. Volunteers' cumulative efforts achieved these two milestones over the life of the Ridge Rangers program, which began in 1997. They reached these goals while the state experienced record-breaking cold weather.

"There was a constant drizzle and the temperature was near freezing," Reed said. Yet 29 motivated volunteers - 18 of them first-timers - never slacked off, despite their wet clothes. They've also worked in steamy, hot conditions and regularly gotten dirty in the process.

"With slightly different timing, the milestone might have been reached at one of the FWC sites on the Lake Wales Ridge, or on a site owned by any of the other 14 agencies participating in the FWC Ridge Rangers volunteer program," Reed said.

Naturally, this calls for a celebration. Participants will be recognized for their mettle Feb. 20 at Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve in Lake Alfred.  The Ridge Rangers are an important part of the FWC Volunteer Stewardship Program, whose mission is increasing the number of trained volunteers working on conservation projects for high-priority habitats on FWC and partner lands.

Next? Reed admitted it might be wishful thinking, but his new target is 50,000 volunteer hours for a $1 million value. The real beauty of these targets, he noted, is not reaching the goals but all the important work volunteers do for the ecosystem.

For more information, go to MyFWC.com/RidgeRangers.



FWC Facts:
It is estimated that millions of trees grow from seeds and nuts that squirrels bury but never retrieve.

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