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