You love the outdoors and are willing to spend time caring for and helping preserve our natural assets. Oregon and Washington have a lot of environment to care about. In fact, we’re known for it. Look at your favorite natural area, park, forest, river, lake, watershed, or wildlife habitat and you’ll find all types of groups who help preserve and protect it.

Columbia River Gorge

Options to give back to nature are plentiful. You’ll find groups that adopt or friend their favorite community park, wildlife refuge, natural area, forest, river, wetlands or garden. Connect with advocates who speak up and teach about nature. Volunteer with city, county, and parks departments who are eager to sign you up for park duty. Sign on with organizations in your own neighborhood that partner with cities and parks departments to keep parks healthy and safe.

Dig In, Clean Up, Party On!
Sign up for a work party. You can be part of a weekend or weekday (you’re retired, remember) work party at a park, natural area, garden, or wildlife reserve. Unearth your boots, gloves and shovels to plant flowers, trees and shrubs, pull weeds, or build flower beds. Count birds and wildlife. Be an active learner and educate others on causes you are passionate about.

Organizations are flexible and will match your schedule to their activity. Choose a one-time project or clean-up, or be on a regular volunteer schedule. Get dirty working outside or skip the dirt and mud and work in an office or an outreach program. Take photos, write for blogs and websites. It all makes a difference.

You’ll take away the satisfaction of connecting with Mother Earth, doing your part to keep the Northwest healthy, growing and green. Along the way you’ll meet new people, and learn something new about our unique ecology. And don’t forget how outdoor activity benefits brain health! It is so very win-win.

Here are three broad areas where you can dig deeper to find inspiration and information on the best places for you to join the green teams in your area.

Friend or Adopt a Park or Natural Area
Dedicated “friends of” and park stewardship groups throughout the area work to preserve local and community parks and natural areas. Often, they team up with city or county parks organizations. Park warriors like you participate in park planning, clean up, and work parties, identifying problems, and get involved in park education and advocacy issues. Most friends groups are free or low-cost to join. Friends groups are perfect places to get your hands dirty, socialize and learn more about park ecology. And get outdoors! Look for activities you can do enjoy with kids and grandkids. Guaranteed you’ll be digging around with young old people, like us.

See Friend or Adopt a Park or Natural Area for lists and links to parks with friends and volunteer groups in your county.

Ecological Preservation Groups
These volunteer groups tackle environmental preservation in expansive and dramatic spaces of rivers, watersheds, wetlands, and wildlife habitats. For example, groups such as the Forest Park Conservancy focus on the ecological health of Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban parks with an extensive trail system. Volunteer jobs at the Ridgefield (WA) National Wildlife Refuge in Washington range from conducting tours to habitat restoration. Friends of the Columbia Gorge works to preserve and a really sprawling, long, complicated space and protect the scenic natural wonder though work parties, discovery hikes, and community education.

See Protecting Ecological Areas for a descriptive list and links to the many volunteer opportunities involved in preservation.

Advocacy and Education
If your passion is sharing knowledge, many environmental organizations welcome outreach and education volunteers. Many ecological preservation groups advocate for their area in public and political forums. Organizations such as the Oregon Sierra Club get involved in the nitty gritty of Environmental Impact Statements and in influencing public policy decisions – legislative, administrative, legal, and electoral. Oregon Wild actively communicates with the public regarding political issues involving the public wildlands, wildlife and waters.

See Environmental Advocacy and Education Organizations for a descriptive list and links to volunteer pages.