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USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is celebrating National Volunteer Week April 6-13 by honoring Earth Team volunteers and expressing appreciation for their dedicated service and commitment to conservation. The Earth Team is NRCS’ volunteer workforce.  Nationally, in fiscal year 2013, more than 22,000 people donated 330,084 hours of service to NRCS worth approximately $7.3 million.

NRCS State Conservationist Craig Derickson said Earth Team volunteers are making a big impact in Nebraska. In fiscal year 2013, Nebraska NRCS had a total of 212 Earth Team volunteers that contributed over 2,571hours towards helping NRCS and our partners.

"That’s worth over $56,000 of benefit to our customers and savings to the taxpayers,” said Derickson. “These are impressive numbers and we are grateful for the help, but also recognize more conservation work needs to be done, so there are plenty of volunteer opportunities available with NRCS statewide.”

Created in 1985, the Earth Team program offers many opportunities to individuals over the age of 14 interested in helping improve the Nation’s natural resources. Earth Team volunteers help NRCS conservationists offer private landowners conservation technical assistance to teaching and generating awareness about conservation through the use of community projects. Over a half-million Earth Team volunteers have over $330 million worth of time helping NRCS with its conservation mission since 1985.

Derickson said, “Earth Team volunteers allow us to stretch available resources and help us put additional conservation practices on the ground.  Their volunteer efforts help us improve our land and wildlife habitats, clean our water and air, and help us improve the environment for everyone.”

Derickson said he hopes National Volunteer Week will motivate others to volunteer to help NRCS with their conservation mission. “Earth Team volunteers work closely with our staff and they play an important role in our state’s conservation work. They take on a variety of conservation assignments, and many Earth Team volunteers tell us they find their volunteer work enjoyable and personally very rewarding.”

To learn more about the Earth Team Volunteer Program, go to: www.ne.nrcs.usda.govand click on “Volunteer with Nebraska NRCS” or call (toll-free) 888-526-3227.