Volunteer Training & Leadership

people around a tree in winter, learning how to identify it. Photo by Dan Kasberger.
A Winter Tree ID training session. Photo by Dan Kasberger.

Training classes are available to all volunteers with at least 15 volunteer hours or a recommendation from an Ecological Stewardship leader or Forest Preserves staff.

On this page:

Training Opportunities

Volunteers looking to become Ecological Stewardship leaders, or simply learn a new skill, can attend a variety of training classes provided by the Forest Preserves and/or partners:

  • Brushcutter Training
  • Brush Pile Burn Boss
  • Chainsaw Safety
  • First Aid/CPR
  • Group Leadership
  • Managing Invasives
  • Practical Herbicide & Herbicider Test
  • Prescription Burn
  • Tree Health Monitor

Leadership Roles

Brush Pile Burn Boss


  • Monitors weather conditions before and throughout the Stewardship Day
  • Monitors fire through the Stewardship Day
  • Safely shuts down fire until no flames are present
  • Makes calls to entities listed on the Site “Call Sheet”

Training Requirements:

  • Completion of the Brush Pile Building and Burning Class (3 hours)
  • Completion of 2 Field Observations at 2 different sites



  • Able to run, safe and effective chainsaw operation at Forest Preserves Stewardship Sites
  • Basic maintenance
  • Follow site’s management schedule and fell designated trees or tree species
  • Wear Kevlar boots and other PPE during chainsawing

Training Requirements:

  • To become a Feller 1 – attend Chainsaw Training session and pass administered field observation and skills test
  • To become a Feller 2 – Be a current Feller I and attend an additional training and field portion
  • Chainsaw Maintenance Class highly recommended

Herbicide Applicator


  • Carries herbicide license whenever they are applying herbicide
  • Applies herbicide using proper herbicide techniques to species identified in the Management Schedule
  • Ability to mix herbicide according to the requirements presented on the herbicide label and the safety precautions on the MSDS sheet
  • Maintain herbicide log for their own applications. Provides log to the Forest Preserves on a quarterly basis
  • Works with other site leaders and volunteers to maintain a safe work environment including necessary measures to keep volunteers and Preserve patrons out of herbicided area
  • Posts signs as required by Land Management Guidelines and Managing Invasives class in accordance with label requirements
  • Handle all chemicals and chemical exposed tools properly and safely

Training Requirements:

  • Pass the IL Dept. of Ag. General Standards and one additional test
  • Renew license via Volunteer Resources

Herbicide Operator


  • Follows the same rules as Herbicide Applicator, but is unable to mix herbicide.

Training Requirements:

  • Pass the IL Dept. of Ag. General Standards
  • Renew license via Volunteer Resources
  • Must be listed under a Herbicide Applicator

Seed Collection Leader


  • Effectively instruct others in species identification and seed collection techniques
  • Coordinate with the Site Steward about recordkeeping, proper seed storage, etc.
  • Organize with Site Steward the administrative tasks such as Stewardship Day posting, waivers, attendance, reporting hours, etc.
  • Work within management schedule for the site
  • Requires higher level of coordination and recordkeeping for all threatened and endangered species
  • May also collect and dispose of seeds of invasive plants, e.g. teasel, using the appropriate methods

Training Requirements:

  • Complete Group Leadership Training – classroom training with written exam
  • Approval by Site Steward – site specific and species specific

Stewardship Day Leader


  • Stewardship Day Leaders are responsible for decisions at Stewardship Days in the absence of a Site Steward
  • Communicate with Site Steward(s) to plan Stewardship Days that operate within the approved Management Schedule
  • Plan Stewardship Day logistics – i.e. waivers and necessary tools
  • Lead introduction and communicate Stewardship Day safety rules, demonstrate proper techniques for basic Stewardship Day activities (for example, brush cutting, brush pile burning, collecting and sowing seed)
  • Assign roles/positions to volunteers in accordance to their experience
  • Act as an ambassador for your site and for FPCC by actively engaging & recruiting volunteers

Training Requirements:

  • Attend and complete the following trainings: Group Leadership, Managing Invasives, and Brush Pile Burning and Building
  • Work with two mentors

Site Steward


  • Have a basic understanding of the core concepts of ecological restoration
  • Make a continuing and committed effort to learn the flora and fauna of their site
  • Collaborate with FPCC staff & other volunteers to develop a Management Schedule for their site
  • Communicate with the Regional Ecologist on updates to the Management Schedule, new challenges, progress towards restoration goals and on land management questions
  • Work with FPCC on requests for contractor, intern and Resource Management support
  • Ensure that Stewardship Day leaders and volunteers understand and comply with applicable rules and regulations
  • Understand the importance of accurate and complete records including maintaining Stewardship Day, seed collecting, and planting data, and entering/maintaining FPCC required records
  • Understand the importance of others’ perceptions of restoration work and be sensitive to public attitudes and education; be able to answer questions (from the public and from other volunteers) in terms that are accurate and clear to the lay person
  • Recognize situations where his/her knowledge may be incomplete and proceed with caution, seeking the advice and counsel of others more experienced and/or knowledgeable in restoration
  • Know the abilities of volunteers; choose capable leaders and assign volunteer tasks effectively
  • Give feedback to volunteers throughout Stewardship Days and consistently educate others about species, processes, and goals of management relating to natural areas
  • Act as an ambassador for their site and for FPCC by actively engaging volunteers and the public
  • Promote growth and continuity of the volunteer group

Training Requirements:

  • Complete Stewardship Day Leader certification
  • Recommendation from Coach/Mentor (complete forms)
  • Recommendation from Stewardship Program Coordinator (complete forms)
  • Recommendation and site walk with Regional Ecologist (complete forms)

Training Documents & Resources

Volunteer Handbook

Guidelines & Practices

Path to Stewardship

Plant Identification

Tree Health Monitoring

Training Class – Brush Pile Building & Burning

Training Class – Group Leadership

Training Class – Managing Invasives

Training Class – IL Dept. of Ag Herbicide Testing

Training Class – Practical Herbicide

Training – Chainsaw

Training – Brushcutter