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Volunteering in the US

Through EXIS you have the opportunity to take part in exciting projects in environmental work in the USA

Environmental Work in the US

EXIS arranges volunteer work in the US in collaboration with a local NGO. You can take part in a diverse range of environmental projects, with volunteers from many different countries. These projects are for you who want to experience the great American nature and meet a lot of new people.

Arrival dates

Limited spaces available – new dates will be announced shortly. Please contact us at [email protected] for more information.

Below you can read about the various projects that EXIS offers in the USA.


Program leaders will assign volunteers to rotating projects. Of course they will make every attempt to assign volunteers to project that match their interests. However, most projects have limited space, and members will not always be assured of participating in their preferred project.
Volunteers are trained in basic trail maintenance as well as advanced construction techniques such as dry stone wall construction, bridge construction, use of mechanical tools, rock drilling and splitting, etc.


During work all volunteers stay in camps. Most projects are located in remote locations and virtually all involve camping. Volunteers should bring sleeping bags and sleeping pads to use during projects, tents are provided by project leaders. Some projects have developed camp sites with warm showers while others are in remote locations without facilities.
Volunteers stay in a hostel or dormitory on days off. Housing is communal, with up to 4 bunk beds per room and shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. Usually volunteers team up for cooking on weekends and share household tasks such as cleaning etc.

Environmental Projects

Since all projects are outdoors and weather can be unpredictable, project descriptions are always subject to changes. Projects are dependent on weather, nesting and migrating seasons of native wildlife, etc. The following description of projects is just to get a general idea of the type of work you will be accomplishing.

Participants rotate frequently between projects to give an overview of the range of the vital restoration work taking place. Not all projects are in National Parks. There will also be projects in organic farms, town and regional parks, and other non profit conservancies.

Heartwood Institute Fuels Reduction

This is a running project with another one of ACE California’s longest standing partners. Every year we send a crew up to Garberville to help protect this beautiful campus in the heart of Humboldt County from essentially going up in flames. Between tall grasses and low ladder fuels, dry seasons like this one create huge fire potential throughout California.

With a combination of weedwhackers, hand tools, and chainsaws you will be clearing along the more fire prone areas of the campus. You will be camping, but you’ll have access to toilets, showers, and a pool! Come prepared. This is an eight day project leaving Wednesday at 7:00am. Please bring your long sleeved shirts.

Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve

Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, a living laboratory where Stanford university conducts ecological research, is also a beautiful, diverse environment where staff offer environmental education outreach programs and conduct restoration projects. Contributing to their mission is always a pleasure, and our crew will depart on Tuesday to assist them in restoring the area to its native ecology with invasive species removal. Please also expect trail maintenance and perhaps even boardwalk construction over a wetland area during the course of your workweek. You will stay at a quiet, nearby campground with facilities while the project is ongoing. Please be prepared to leave from the ACE house by 7:00am Tuesday, ready for work.

Lake Berryessa Tamarisk

For the third and final year, ACE crews will conduct tamarisk eradication along a riparian corridor that flows into Lake Berryessa in Central California. This project will involve cutting and spraying invasive tamarisk shrubs and trees and hauling the material out of the stream, so that native species will be able to take hold once again in this sensitive habitat. Days will be hot, so bring plenty of water, and be prepared to work hard, knowing that you’re building on the successes of crews in years prior. After work, you’ll be camping on the lake, and will have the afternoon to swim and cool off after a hard day’s work. Every other set of off days will be on-site, so take the opportunity to explore Napa and other unique sites in and around CenCal as you develop a stronger sense of stewardship and understanding of the area.

Ventana Coastal Trails

For this project, you will be camping out in the mountains in Big Sur, CA. Rachel will lead your crew as you conduct trail maintenance in the back country of Ventana. Be ready for a full day of hiking to begin and end the project! As for preparation, you should bring an extra pair of pants and a long sleeve shirt, as exposure to poison oak is possible; you will also want to be prepared for the chance of rain. As always, bring plenty of water capacity (4-6L) and everything you will need for a week of camping. Other than that, enjoy the beautiful area, work hard, and stay safe on what should be a fun and challenging project.

Swanton Pacific Ranch Trail

This land located about 15 miles north of Santa Cruz just inland from the Ocean was donated to Cal Poly University and is now used for many different types of research projects. We have done a variety of trail/restoration/planting work in the past and we will now be helping with the construction of a brand new trail that goes through some of the most beautiful/remote terrain on the property. It can be very warm or cold and raining so prepare for all types of weather. You need to have your lunch packed and be ready for work upon leaving Santa Cruz at 7:45am.

Sequoia Kern Canyon Restoration

This unique project takes place in the remote Kern Canyon, an 18-mile hike into the backcountry of Sequoia National Park. This is the fifth year of what has been a successful restoration effort, removing the invasive Holcus Lanatus (velvet grass) from meadows along several miles of the Kern River. Days off onsite provide an excellent opportunity to explore some of the most secluded and beautiful pockets of the Sierras. Your crew leader will have a meeting a day or two before the project begins in order to provide much greater detail about what to expect and what to pack.

Pinnacles National Park Rehabilitation

Pinnacles is America’s newest National Park (formerly a National Monument), designated in a ceremony attended by ACE staff just a few months ago. It also represents ACE’s longest CA partnership and is one of our organization’s biggest supporters. ACE crews always try their hardest to make a positive impression and to accomplish as much safe work as possible. This is a continuation of a long-running project removing an infestation of the invasive and insidious yellow-start thistle. Our crews have made excellent progress in finding/killing the weeds before they drop seed and replenish the seed bank (which was fairly well established when they turned their attention to the problem). The temperature is definitely climbing in that area, so come prepared with plenty of water (6-8L) and please drinks it all. Also, you will be wearing snake chaps for this project. You will have access to a pool after work, so come prepared! This project has been running on a modified summer schedule, so you will start and end the day a little earlier than some of you may be used to in order to beat the heat.

Environmental Work in the US

Weeks Fees
6 €1.910
8 €2.211
10 €2.613
12 €2.412*

*12 weeks stays (or even longer) are discounted, as ACE prefers long term volunteers.

Arrival dates with or without (*) pick-up from San Francisco airport

2016: 9.1, 6.2, 5.3, 2.4, 30.4, 28.5, 25.6, 9.7, 23.7*, 6.8, 3.9, 17.9*, 1.10 (max 10 weeks stay) and 15.10 (max 8 weeks stay).

Minimum stay is 6 weeks.

There is no airport pickup on dates marked with *. If you’re arriving on these dates, you will have to take the bus from San Francisco airport to Santa Cruz. Information about bus connections are sent after enrolment.

All fees include

Environmental Work in the US

Accommodation: camping while working, and hostel on days off

Food while working

An opportunity to see and live a wonderful landscape

Transportation between projects

The presence of experts on all teams

Administration fees

Tents and equipment for work


The following is not included in the fees:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Airfares to Flagstaff, Charlotte or San Francisco and back home
  • Health insurance
  • Pocket money
  • Food during days off


Upon arrival you will be accommodated in Santa Cruz only 60 miles South of San Francisco. Santa Cruz is really spectacular. It’s the most famous city in the USA for surfing and is the start of the famous Big Sur Coastline and the Monterey Marine reserve which heads south for hundreds of miles. Sea lions are common along the rocky coastline just outside town. The mountains just inland, 20 minutes from Santa Cruz, have some of the largest Redwood Trees in the world and fantastic mountain biking trails. In fact, a famous brand of mountain bike is named after Santa Cruz. And perhaps most importantly, it only costs $13 and takes 90 minutes to reach San Francisco by bus and train.


Santa Cruz recreation can be snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, sea kayaking, mountain biking, San Francisco, Big Sur Coast, rock climbing, beaches, whale, dolphin and sea lion watching.
Dependable busses depart for San Francisco every hour as well as regularly to Monterey and other coastal cities and parks. Yosemite, LakeTahoe, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are less than 4 hours by car. For more information about the Santa Cruz area: http://www.bikeroute.com/SantaCruz/

Before you go

Helping the Conservation programme by volunteering demands courage, fitness, a love of nature and an ability to work hard.

The programme is physical and very demanding, which is why it is not recommended for individuals with respiratory problems such as asthma.

People unable to carry a backpack for more than 7 km or suffering from arthritis should not participate. Work will be outdoors in all types of weather. Remember to bring a warm sleeping bag and a sleeping pad.

Other requirements are a sense of adventure, a desire to make a difference, and a willingness to remain flexible and positive through ever changing project work, locations, and weather conditions.

General information

California has a sub-tropical climate with temperatures from 13 to15 degrees in wintertime and 20 to 24 degrees during summer.

Most visitors to the United States enter the country as tourists. With the introduction of visa free travel to citizens of 27 countries, it is now possible for many travelers, to enter the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (WVP) with the condition of providing a machine readable passport to all customs agents.

Your stay must not exceed 90 days in the USA and you are not allowed to accept paid employment or study in the USA.

Passport holders from Andorra, Belgium, Brunei, Liechtenstein and Slovenia must be in possession of individual machine readable passports in order to travel visa free. For citizens of the other 22 visa free countries, including the United Kingdom, this requirement has been postponed until October 26, 2004.

For those people who have not been able to change their passport for a machine readable one before the 26th of October 2004 a visa is necessary to enter the USA.

Following is a list of what you will need to enter the US:

  • Return ticket and proof that you can support yourself during your stay in the USA (Visa Card, Travellers Cheques) even though ACE will supply you with your lodgings and most of your food.
  • To obtain a tourist visa under article 214b of the immigration and nationality law, the demander must deny all presumptions of immigration by justifying that you have a “reason” to return home and that you do not intend in any way to become a citizen of the USA. This can be in the form of a letter from your employer, school or other.
  • Please bring along the proof that EXIS sends, concerning your stay and contact address of ACE.
  • Proof of a clean police record.

Important: Some travelers may not be eligible to enter the United States visa free under the VWP. These include people who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, those with criminal records, (the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not apply to U.S. visa law), certain serious communicable illnesses, those who have been refused admission into, or have been deported from, the United States, or have previously overstayed on the visa waiver program. Such travelers must apply for special restricted visas. If they attempt to travel without a visa, they may be refused entry into the United States.

Passport Validity: If traveling under the Visa Waiver Program, the passport must be valid for at least 90 days from the date on which the holder enters the United States. If not, the holder will be admitted until the expiration date on the passport. Note: Passport holders from Andorra, Brunei, and San Marino must be in possession of a passport valid for at least six months from the date of departure from the United States, even if traveling visa free under the Visa Waiver Program.

Make sure that you have your vaccinations up to date. For more information on which vaccinations could be necessary please contact your family doctor or insurance company.

Work permit
If you enrol for the volunteer program, no work permit is required as your volunteer work is considered as a cultural exchange.

It is expected that course participants are attending the course she/he enrolled for. Absence from education, arrangements and work stay do not justify for a refund.

National holidays
There’s no education on national holidays.

European health insurances do not cover you outside of Europe. Make sure that you adhere to a private insurance.

Cancellation insurance
It’s advised to underwrite a cancellation insurance.

EXIS acts as an agent for the schools and cannot take responsibility for possible changes, which the school might have undertaken after the information material was made.

We are not responsible for misprints or typographical errors.

Even though EXIS always try to deliver the best possible service, you cannot expect European standards. After enrolment you will receive a handbook with tips, advice and other information. To make things work optimally, personal effort from the participants is expected.

Payment conditions

Enrolment – deposit
Upon receipt of your enrolment form, EXIS will send you a confirmation and invoice. A deposit of 200 € is to be paid upon receipt of this confirmation. The remaining amount is to be paid six weeks prior to your arrival. If you enrol less that six weeks before arrival, the entire program price will be payable upon enrolment.

If you cancel your application before receiving information about your host family you will be able to have your deposit refunded less a deduction of 200 € for administration expenses.
If your application is cancelled after receiving the address of your host family, your deposit will not be refunded whilst the balance will be refunded in full. After arrival, no refunds can be made.

Travel expenses
All prices are excluding travel expenses. Mail [email protected] for package price.

All prices are quoted in Euros unless specifically stated otherwise

Price changes
EXIS reserve the right for changing the prices without further notice, in case of changed foreign currency or other circumstances, that are beyond our control.

Ready to go?

Reserve a spot to one of our projects in the US