Project Leader: Michael Brasel
The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is a 25,475-acre sanctuary for the endangered Golden Cheek Warbler and the endangered Black-capped Vireo. Located a few miles west of Lago Vista, some 3,000 Refuge acres are open to the public along nearly eight miles of hiking trails. The Refuge is under the management of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.
Since the sequestration, earlier this decade, staff and budget cuts have not recovered, and volunteers have become ever more important in the daily, on-going activities at the Refuge. Volunteer opportunities abound, and some may surprise you. If you have the time, there is hardly a talent you might have from which the Refuge could not benefit.
If you are available during the week, working as a Greeter at the Headquarter’s Visitor Center frees Service personnel to do their assigned duties. During April of this year, more than 550 people came to the Visitors’ Center wanting to know a little something about the Refuge, the endangered birds, hiking trails, hours of operations, and such. Most visitors are surprised to find we charge no fees and the trails are open every day from dawn to dusk.
If working with kids is your thing, then the Environmental Education program would be perfect. Curriculum design and delivery is all volunteer effort under the supervision of the Environmental Education Specialist. Supplies are provided by the Friends of Balcones. In 2016, more than 3,300 students were affected by the BCNWR EE programming, either through field trips or in-class visitations.
If you are only available on weekends, volunteers help with Refuge-sponsored events such as the annual Songbird Festival, or we are present to assist at community-sponsored events such as the Swift Fest in Jonestown.
If you like to break a sweat every now and then, consider Trail Maintenance. Volunteers, often with the training and assistance of the Central Texas Trail Tamers, work to maintain trail grade, water runoff, building steps, limb trimming, and so forth. We’ll work generally for four hours on a Saturday morning every 2 or 3 months.
If you are available more frequently though, one of the most urgent opportunities is for Refuge Maintenance, including the trails. Everything from mowing the grass, to mending fences, to hunting feral hogs, and so much, much more is done by our volunteers. Please go to friendsofbalcones.org and register today!