Conservation Volunteers

In a world increasingly defined by connectivity and shared values, ACE believes that the opportunity to restore America’s natural wonders should not be limited by nationality or confined by any one cultural identity — that conservation is a human endeavor. ACE’s Conservation Volunteer participants come from throughout the United States and from nations around the world to volunteer for 8 weeks or more in exchange for hands-on conservation training from our skilled crew leaders. Supportive benefits like meals on project days, safety gear, and transport to field projects allow members to get out into the field directly after orientation. ACE provides dormitory style housing for volunteers upon arrival and the chance to contribute to vital ecological restoration and recreation management projects.

Conservation Volunteers serve in small teams on direct service projects for the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, State Parks, environmental non-profit organizations, and other public and private land management agencies throughout the United States. By attracting a diverse community of conservation-minded volunteers, ACE contributes to the breakdown of cultural barriers while advancing ecological awareness on a global scale.

ACE has given me the opportunity to see a lot of beautiful places in America, which I probably would not have seen otherwise. Being involved in this big organization makes me feel like I belong here.

- Menno Christerus, Netherlands

2021 California Project Dates

Open to International Citizens

*For U.S. citizens, you are encouraged to apply to the ACE Crew program or the ACE EPIC Program which includes AmeriCorps National Service membership.

*2021 Dates postponed due to Current Pandemic Travel Restrictions

Spring 2021 Option 1 - POSTPONED
  • Arrival Date – Saturday, March 20
  • Exit Date – Saturday, May 15
  • Term Length – 8 Weeks
Spring/Summer 2021 Option 2 – POSTPONED
  • Arrival Date – Saturday, May 15
  • Exit Date – Saturday, August 7
  • Term Length – 12 Weeks
Summer/Fall 2021 Option 3 – Sacramento California
  • Airport Arrival Date – Saturday, August 7
  • Airport Exit Date – Saturday, October 2
  • Term Length – 8 Weeks
Fall/Winter 2021 Option 4 – Sacramento
  • Airport Arrival Date – Saturday, October 2
  • Airport Exit Date – Saturday, December 11th (Thanksgiving is 11/25)
  • Term Length – 10 Weeks *
  • Bonus – Book 10 weeks and pay 8 week rate with extra week off for observed National Holiday late-November (Thanksgiving)

Apply to be a Volunteer

Please read all information below before proceeding with your registration.

I understand the following important points:
  • I will not be paid to participate in American Conservation Experience projects.
  • The airfare and travel to the commencement point at American Conservation Experience offices in Pacific West, Southwest, Eastern, Mountain West, or Gulf Coast  are not included. ACE provides a volunteer public pickup point often at a local major airport to facilitate a safe and on-time arrival.
  • ACE provides food during project days, hostel-style accommodation on days off, and project related transport.
  • I will not be able to choose the exact projects I participate in.
  • I have personal medical insurance (you are also advised to have travel insurance for personal items while in America).
  • Federally controlled substances, recreational drugs,  and alcohol are not permitted on American Conservation Experience projects or  in ACE housing.
  • American Conservation Experience does not supply or administer medications.

Please do not apply without first reading through the above Conservation Volunteer page sections. 

Fees

ACE works through partnerships with recruitment agents around the world. Each agent charges a fee to cover the cost of advertising for our program and administering your application. Please see below to find the agent for your country. Unless you’re an American citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident applying directly, there will be a fee for you to pay to your booking agency.

Volunteers are also required to arrange their own transportation to our regional meeting point, have traveler’s insurance for the duration of their stay, and to bring warm sleeping bags, appropriate clothing to live/work outdoors, as many of the project locations are at high elevation and can be surprisingly cold at night (even in the summer).

Most importantly, volunteers must bring a strong sense of adventure, a positive attitude and an open mind.

Visa Information

In order to come and participate in ACE, anyone who is not an American citizen will need to apply for a B1-visa, unless your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program. (Canadians are excluded from this rule, as they are not part of the Visa Waiver Program, but they still don’t need a visa to enter the United States.)

If you are from a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program, you are required to pre-register with ESTA in advance of your planned travel date. We recommend you to do so as soon as you are accepted in our program, as it is possible for some people to get rejected by ESTA and in that case they need to get a visa and it takes some time.

Once you enter the U.S. they will stamp your passport with 90 days, and they will give you a card called an I-94. It is extremely important that you keep this card in a safe place, as you will need it to exit the country again. You must leave the United States 90 days after you arrived, or earlier.

It is important that you understand that neither the Visa Waiver Program nor the B1-visa allows you to make any money in the U.S. Earning money without the proper visa is a felony.

To register for ACE Conservation Volunteers (California) please contact the booking agent for your country as listed below. However, if your country is not listed below please click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can I volunteer for?

 ACE intends to provide a meaningful experience and extend ample professional training. For this reason most all volunteer contracts are a minimum of 8 weeks in order to include several field project trips, and sufficient time off in between your trips. Crew schedules are often 8 days on a project, with 6 days off afterward. We call this an 8-day ‘hitch’ in the industry. Several ‘hitches’ are needed to complete a trail or restoration project. ACE currently offers multi-week commitments in our Pacific West (California) division, based on our field project forecasts. New locations are always in development and no two seasons are the same! Please inquire with your booking agency about opportunities to serve over 8 weeks if you prefer, and if your travel visa permits extended travel. Most travelers utilize the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) offering visa free travel to the USA for 90-days or less. Please contact your local booking agent for updated information about our seasonal plans. For U.S. Citizens and U.S. permanent residents seeking longer-term options and financial benefits, we recommend our AmeriCorps National Service memberships, listed on our Apply Here page. 

What are the costs involved?

Americans and U.S. Permanent Residents pay no fee for the program and are encouraged to Apply Here. All international Conservation Volunteers pay a booking fee to their respective booking agency,a list of which is available in the Apply to be a Volunteer section under “International Applicants”. ACE provides housing for your ‘off-days’, transportation to projects, tools, workday shirts (uniform), tents, safety equipment, and meals during project workdays. The volunteer provides their own medical insurance and travel expenses to arrive and depart from ACE. We can also accept travel insurance policies that have medical coverage; many of the top companies can be found here www.bestshorttermplan.com, and international volunteers should contact www.overseashealth.com. Google ‘short-term medical insurance’ or ‘insurance for long-term volunteers’ as another suggestion.

How much money should I bring?

This is our most common question, and it depends because most people have different spending habits. We recommend saving and budgeting for the full experience and your personal goals.  If you plan to cook in the house, don’t spend a lot of time out on the town, and don’t plan on taking a lot of road trips, you can get by on US$50-$100 per week. If, for example, you will rent cars and take road trips to local points of interest and major cities, purchase souvenirs, and stay in hotels during most off periods, count on spending closer to $150-$200 per week. Consider your regular monthly expenses like your cell phone bill, student loan payments, and the initial cost of the proper gear and clothing needed to serve safely and comfortably in all weather conditions. Most members enjoy outdoor activities, and are living on a budget, seeking fun activities without spending much to do so.

Is there an age limit?

Yes. ACE Conservation Volunteers program only accepts applicants age 18 and older. One can apply to volunteer prior to their 18th birthday, but must be 18 at the time they start their service.

Are there any physical requirements?

It’s good to know and respect your personal physical limits, and what you may or may not be capable of or comfortable doing. Volunteering with ACE is a very physical experience, as being on our feet for over 10 hours per day is not uncommon. We will sometimes be at high elevations, in intense heat or overnight cold temperatures. We will experience hiking to work sites, bending, lifting, kneeling, carrying and working with tools throughout the day, as well as carrying our pack to campsites. Please inquire with our staff if you feel you may need any special accommodations, or would like to make us aware of any limitations, so we can keep you safe on any potential field project.

Do I need any previous conservation experience?

Volunteers need no experience with practical conservation tools or techniques; we plan to teach you! The only requirements are a sense of adventure, ability to clearly follow directions and put the safety of yourself and others first, and a desire to make a difference. ACE members are required to maintain respect for others and a willingness to remain flexible and positive through ever changing project work, locations, and weather conditions.

How many days per week are the projects?

Projects typically last for 4 to 8 days on-site. We call that a 4 day ‘hitch’ or an 8-day ‘hitch’ in the industry. A few backcountry trips have us in the field for 3-4 weeks before returning back to housing, most often in the summer when we can reach higher elevations safely. Work days consist of 8-10 hours per day, 40 hours per week. This schedule allows for anywhere from 2-6 days off between projects, depending on the number of work days you’ve completed. Volunteers can typically expect to be based in one of our housing locations for the duration of their experience, unless notified about any logistical changes. We may travel 30 minutes to a project or 5 hours, which can vary how long a crew will stay on site. Overall, we operate with efficiency in mind, as well as conserving the use of gasoline when possible. We value your commitment and that of our staff, and it should not be wasted.

What are the accommodations as an ACE Volunteer on projects?

You can expect to be frontcountry or backcountry tent camping during ALL of your project days. Only a few crews throughout the year are traveling to projects very close to ACE housing, and in those cases would not expect to be camping. ACE issues a personal tent for your use, and you are welcome to bring your own if you desire. Various facilities should be expected depending on the location of the campsite/worksite, and the proximity to park headquarters and other resources. Frontcountry sites often have bathrooms and running water, and perishable foods can be packed. For backcountry hitches of 8 days or longer, members should expect a much more rustic style of camping, bringing in all the supplies needed for the hitch. In the backcountry, our crews typically pack only non-perishable foods, filter their water, dig their own bathrooms, and implement strict Leave No Trace principles.

Is food provided?

Food is only provided on projects. When ACE volunteers are on projects they cook with their teams, taking turns preparing meals for the group, washing up and keeping camp clean (this alone represents an enjoyable social part of the day, and a rewarding cultural exchange).

Can I choose my projects?

ACE will assign our Conservation Volunteers to potentially any of multiple projects in motion, at the time of their arrival to the program. We must always send our crews to where the community and public land needs are the highest. Some ACE projects are long term campaigns, in which members advance their skills over several weeks and help complete the project in full, with their newly-earned training. Each season, ACE offers a wide range of projects and our volunteers will be offered various locations and learning opportunities as much as possible. We cannot offer a full choice of projects ultimately, but our staff welcomes your input, needs, and suggestions along the way. Since all ACE projects are outdoors and the weather can be unpredictable at any time of the year, project descriptions are always subject to change. As one of our valuable crew members, you are welcome to make requests for personal and professional reasons and we will try to accommodate these requests.

Friends and couples that apply to ACE together should keep in mind that they cannot count on ending up on the same projects, or even have their days off at the same time.

What are the accommodations between projects?

ACE Volunteers can expect to be provided one housing location for the duration of their commitment. All locations of the ACE Conservation Volunteer and Crew program (Pacific West, Eastern, Mountain West, Gulf Coast, and Southwest are situated in towns and cities near several points of interest. Please inquire with your booking agency, ACE outreach staff, or the specific position description advertised for locations available and more detail. While ACE houses are diverse shapes and sizes, these units typically have a washer/dryer and/or have a laundromat just a few blocks away. Housing is communal, with up to 6 bunk beds per room, shared kitchen/kitchen supplies, and bathroom facilities with hot and cold running water. ACE housing units have WIFI to keep in touch with friends and family.  Storage is available for volunteer’s luggage that will not be brought on projects, such as suitcases and sport bags. Each office also has a locked safe specifically for items such as passports, tickets, and other smaller valuables.

What do I need to bring?

These are items you MUST bring on every project:

  • Sleeping bag (rated 15F/ -10C or below)
  • Thermarest or comparable sleeping pad
  • Large backpack (3,000 cubic inches/50 litres or larger)
  • Leather hiking boots or work boots (they must end above your ankles)
  • Long work pants (jeans or Carhartts)
  • Water resistant rain jacket and rain pants
  • Daypack – Smaller backpack for work days. You’ll put your lunch, water and whatever else you’ll need during the day in it.
  • Pullover, sweatshirt, gloves, hat, and other warm clothing. Layers are important to be comfortable in a range of temperatures, overnight lows, wind, rain, intense daily heat/humidity. Shopping is possible on free days as well as online ordering of items; however, it’s best to be fully prepared on day one.
  • HEALTH INSURANCE (You will not be permitted to volunteer without health insurance)

Check out this YouTube playlist to learn more about how to pack and what to expect on hitch during your Volunteer program.

    What to do during your free time?

    ACE volunteers enjoy 2-6 days off between alternate project weeks. One of the benefits of ACE is the ability to use this time to travel with new friends, explore endless beautiful areas, and to socialize with other volunteers from the U.S. and around the world. Outdoor activities are popular, as well as low cost options for volunteers on a budget. Often members make plans together for upcoming days off, based on shared goals and interests. Keep in mind that you are representing ACE in our local communities, even while not wearing your uniform or hard hat.

    Please be aware the legal drinking age for alcohol in the USA is 21 years of age. Alcohol is not permitted, no matter one’s age, in the ACE housing, on ACE project campsites, or in the ACE vehicles. As a general principle, we support your time-off activities if they are safe and legal based on local, state, and federal laws. Illegal, unsafe, and disrespectful activity will result in immediate dismissal from ACE. The possession and consumption of federally controlled substances and most every form of recreational drug is prohibited from ACE housing and while serving as a volunteer of ACE. Please note that even in regions where recreational substances are permitted statewide, federal agency lands in the USA (e.g. national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, etc.) enforce federal law regarding controlled substance use and possession. Evidence of drug use or possession of federally controlled substances will constitute immediate termination of your volunteer commitment.

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