Volunteer work in the out-of-doors

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages who would like to contribute to their natural environment will be interested in a quarterly directory published by the Signpost Trails Association, a nonprofit organization based in Washington.

''Helping Out in the Outdoors'' lists a wide variety of volunteer opportunities in state and national parks and forests throughout the United States. The jobs range from highly skilled positions such as cartographers and computer technicians to trail maintenance, greeting visitors to campgrounds, tree planting, or collecting acorns for reforestation. Many parks and camping areas need more help from May to September, but various positions are available year-round.

As outlined in the directory, these opportunities are open to:

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* People who like the outdoors and want to help protect and improve it.

* College students seeking internship credits or in-the-field experience.

* Clubs and youth groups looking for useful work projects within their abilities.

* Students and retired persons whose financial needs are low and who need a place to stay and perhaps a small daily income.

* Retired people with skills to share, but who don't want a permanent or fulltime job.

* Recreational-vehicle owners who want to travel, but also want to either keep costs down or do something useful.

The nationwide Student Conservation Association (SCA), a nonprofit educational group listed in the directory, offers volunteer positions for high school and college students in summer programs. Positions are available in over 250 areas, including Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland, Royal Gorge Resource Area in Colorado, and Maine's Appalachian Trail.

The student volunteers in SCA programs assist conservation professionals in activities including biological research, natural-resource interpretation, backcountry patrol, and trail construction. According to the SCA, 30 percent to 40 percent of the participants in the association's Park, Forest & Resource Assistants Program find employment with a resource management agency or environmental organization within 12 months of completing the program.

The Student Conservation Program is currently accepting applications for its 1983 program. Students between ages 16 and 18 should send a post card requesting a ''Program Listing'' and an application from the Student Conservation Association, Box 550H, Charleston, N.H. 03603. People 18 years and older should follow the same instructions, but direct their requests to Box 550C. The application deadline is March 1.

Other listings include opportunities for work in Alaska, Wisconsin, Nevada, Oregon, West Virginia, and many other states. Volunteers can learn about wildlife management with the US Forest Service in Utah or with Washington's State Department of Game. Or they can serve as a speaker, photographer, or librarian for the US Forest Service in New Mexico.

The Sequoia National Forest in California has job openings for a painter, carpenter, commercial artist, recreation specialist, and many others. National Forests in Alabama need volunteers ''with almost any discipline or talent,'' for jobs including landscaping, road survey, and office work.

The Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky is seeking an archaeological specialist, and the Michigan's Hiawatha National Forest is looking for a historian-journalist.

In some cases, housing and incidental expenses are provided.

For a copy of the complete directory listings in ''Helping Out in the Outdoors,'' send $3 to: Signpost Trails Association, 16812 36th Avenue West, Lynnwood, Wash. 98036.

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