Volunteers step up as budgets for public lands shifts

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ANCHORAHE (KTUU) - As budgets shift relating to the maintenance of public lands, volunteers continue to play a big role in the upkeep of recreational areas.

The United States Forest Service reported it had lost 40 percent of its non-fire staff between 1995 and 2015.

In Alaska, the United States Forest Service reported that between Fiscal Year 2015 and 2019, there was a 9.1 percent increase for fire-appropriated funds compared to a decrease in funding of 5.8 percent for all appropriated funds and 6.3 percent for all non-fire appropriated funds.

“Volunteers maintain a critical role because as time goes on, we continue to have a lot of trails we maintain, brush grows back,” said Jeff Schramm, the Forest Supervisor for the Chugach National Forest. “We appreciate all the time they spend.”

Last year 300,000 people volunteered at National Parks across the country, according to the National Park Service.

In Alaska, more than 13,000 volunteer hours were worked on National Forest Land in the region.

“Every Thursday, rain or shine or snow, we’re out here,” said Tom Iverson, a volunteer at the Eagle River Nature Center on state lands.

Iverson and other volunteers work to maintain trails and facilities around the center.

"We can't rely on state funding for everything or federal funding for everything, and this way, people can volunteer and make sure trails are in good condition," said Elaine Pfeiffer, a 10-year volunteer at the center.

The USFS said that they have seen an increase in volunteers throughout the years in Alaska.

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