The beginning of Wildlands Restoration Volunteers can be traced back to March 20, 1999, when the founder, Ed Self, organized about 20 volunteers to plant willows to improve wetland habitat around Heron Pond at Pella Crossing Open Space near Hygiene. From this humble beginning, a core group of committed volunteers steadily grew from a few dozen to several hundred by 2002. Throughout this time, our group didn’t even have a name!
In the fall of 2002, the founding board formally established a non-profit corporation, “Wildlands Restoration Volunteers” (WRV). Soon after, we officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
With a fast growing volunteer community, and only one paid staff, Ed Self, WRV needed volunteer leaders! Volunteer project leaders, technical advisors, cooks, crew leaders, tool managers, and others are our most valuable resource. Many people want to volunteer, but without leaders, it would just be chaos! Our trained leaders plan and execute safe, fun, well-organized projects that produce high quality results.
In 2003, WRV began developing a leadership training program, training our first home grown crop of crew leaders. In 2004, we added trainings for project support cooks, and basic trainings for project leaders and technical advisors, which were expanded in 2005 and 2006. We added restoration and trail skill trainings in 2006, and a tool manager training in 2007. We have added additional trainings such as wilderness first aid, willow skills, project management and facilitation since then.
By the spring of 2007, our community of volunteer leaders has grown to nearly 150 and by the spring of 2009 nearly 300.
Our growth in the early years averaged 50 to 80% per year. Naturally, it has begun to level off to a more modest pace of 10 to 20% growth each year.
By the end of 2011, WRV volunteers had completed 358 projects, contributing over 234,046 volunteer hours, valued at over $4.4 million, toward the care and restoration of public lands. In this same year, to ensure continued sustainability. In 2010 we celebrated our 10th anniversary and opened our sister office in Fort Collins to further expand our efforts. Another first for WRV in 2010 was the welcoming our AmeriCorps VISTA placement to help increase WRV’s capacity to reach a more diverse body of volunteers and youth. In just the first year the Youth and Inclusiveness program has engaged over 500 youth in WRV Programs.
Wildlands Restoration Volunteers is always evolving as an organization, identifying new opportunities to engage the community in ecological restoration. Some new initiatives include site monitoring, and developing leadership mentor trainings. Throughout our growth process, though, we remain committed to the core ideas that were the foundation of our success: offering an excellent, educational experience for every volunteer; completing important, high-quality restoration work; and building a thriving community. Join us!