Nature Needs You

Show our planet some love, enjoy time outside, and learn from local nature experts when you volunteer with 815 Outside partners. Explore the tabs below to find your place to get involved!

Forest Preserves of Winnebago County

The Forest Preserves of Winnebago County have numerous ongoing volunteer opportunities, including:

  • Adopt a Trail: Volunteer trail stewards adopt a natural area and focus on making the trails safe and pleasant. Projects include clearing branches and debris after storms, reporting any misuse of the trails, litter control, and alerting the Area Manager of a potential safety issue that may endanger our patrons (such as low-hanging branches, etc.)
  • Restoration, Education, Appreciation, Preservation: Habitat restoration workdays are held at various forest preserves on the third Saturday of the month in late spring/summer.  Experience is not required! Our natural resource experts offer hands-on ecological restoration training, such as invasive plant removal and native seed collection, plus enriching conservation activities when our work is done.
  • Litter League: Whether you participate individually, with a friend, or as part of a group – youth or adult – our LITTER LEAGUE is always in action! We’ll supply the work gloves, trash bags and safety vests while you pick up litter along the roadway to the entrances of Espenscheid and Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserves. E-mail or call (815) 877-6100 for information.


Natural Land Institute

Natural Land Institute is a member supported, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving land and natural diversity for future generations. Since 1958, NLI has protected, managed, and restored more than 17,300 acres throughout Illinois and southern Wisconsin. You can participate in restoring prairies, forests, wetlands, and river corridors by attending Land Stewardship Days.

Land Stewardship Day schedule:

  • Burr Oak Valley Preserve | First Saturday and weekly on Thursday
  • Nygren Wetland Preserve | Weekly on Wednesday
  • Silver Creek Woods Preserve | Third Saturday
  • William & Gayle Keefer Nature Reserve Fourth Friday
  • Howard D. Colman Dells Nature Preserve | Days Vary

Learn about opportunities here Website  


Severson Dells Nature Center

Severson Dells has many valuable volunteers who help with the educational school programs, family Science Saturday events, tend to our butterfly garden, host and hostess on weekends, maintain our library, keep our fish happy and so much more! Learn how you can participate here Website  

Education Programs Volunteer: Are responsible for teaching and assisting lessons for visiting school groups participating in our onsite education programs, which serve approximately 4,000 students each year.

Nature Center Host Volunteer: Nature Center Host Volunteers will staff the front desk on Saturdays and Sundays in 4- hour shifts. Volunteers also needed occasionally during the week while all the staff is out of the office for various functions.

Conservation Crew: Help remove invasive plants, collect native seed, and plant new seedlings with the Severson Dells Conservation Crew. Restoration volunteers meet the second Saturday and fourth Monday of each month from 9:00 to noon.


Nature At The Confluence

Nature At The Confluence is a new urban environmental center that opened in 2017 with the goal of restoring the land at the confluence and connecting people to the land, and volunteers are needed to help support and sustain this initiative. From planting gardens, pulling weeds, planning trails, or helping with activities for all ages – there’s so many opportunities. 

Learn about Stream Team, Green Team, and sign up for more information here Website  

Rockford Park District

The Rockford Park District contains 1,561 acres of natural areas that is maintained with prescribed burns, brush removal, and seed collection. Roughly 465 acres of these are considered remnant Natural Areas, including a 66-acre nature preserve. 

Sand Bluff Bird Observatory

Located within Colored Sands Forest Preserve in Northwest Winnebago County, Illinois, Sand Bluff Bird Observatory is one of the largest small-bird banding operations in the country that is open to the public Although Sand Bluff is primarily a research facility, visitors are always welcome to come watch our operation and share in the learning process.






AmeriCorps is a voluntary civil service program supported by the U.S. federal government. Service terms range from 3-11 months, and there are AmeriCorps members assisting with environmental stewardship at the following locations. 

  • Severson Dells Nature Center
  • Natural Land Institute
  • Nature At The Confluence
  • Boone County Conservation District

Learn more about service opportunities here.



Community Science 

Community scientist volunteer to monitor a variety of species in our forest preserves. Data supports our collective understanding of the natural world and informs natural resource management. Learn more about how you can participate here.





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