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The West Virginia Master Naturalist Programtm

The mission of the West Virginia Master Naturalist Programtm is to train interested people in the fundamentals of natural history, nature interpretation and teaching, and to instill in them an appreciation of the importance of responsible environmental stewardship. The program will also provide a corps of highly qualified volunteers to assist government agencies, schools, and non-government organizations with research, outdoor recreation development, and environmental education and protection.  


The development of the West Virginia Master Naturalist Programtm began in 2003 and grew out of a partnership among the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (including the Wildlife Resources Section’s Wildlife Diversity Program and the Parks and Recreation Section), West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Service, Canaan Valley Institute, and Davis and Elkins College.  The Canaan Valley Institute was unable to continue it's support and withdrew in 2006.  These programs somewhat mirror the Master Gardener Programs that have been so popular across the United States.  The goal of the Master Naturalist Program state advisory committee was to develop a program tailored to the unique circumstances of West Virginia. The first session of Master Naturalist training was held over the weekend of April 30 – May 2, 2004 at Hawks Nest State Park in Fayette County, with a class of 20 students. 

West Virginia Master Naturalist Certification

To become a Certified West Virginia Master Naturalist, the program requires completing 64 hours of classroom and field training (48 hours of core classes and 16 hours of electives), plus 30 hours of volunteer work. Classes were initially presented at State Parks on four weekends a year, spring, summer, fall, and winter, but current emphasis is on supporting local Master Naturalist chapters in their efforts to provide training.  Training from other sources (college classes, various workshops, etc.) may qualify for credit.  In order to get credit these outside classes need to be approved by the Master Naturalist Program Coordinator. Master Naturalist volunteers must sign a volunteer agreement and liability waiver.


To maintain status as a Master Naturalist, 8 additional hours of training and 16 additional hours of volunteer work are needed each year after initial certification.  

Responsibilities of a West Virginia Master Naturalist
Certified West Virginia Master Naturalists promote responsible stewardship of West Virginia’s natural resources.  They look for opportunities to educate the people of this state in an appreciation of how natural systems work and how we all depend on them.  They recognize that one person cannot be expert in every field.  Master Naturalists are resource people; if they do not have answers, they know where to find them.

West Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers subscribe to the following Standards of Conduct and Ethics when representing the program:
  • Maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, service, and performance.
  • Know and follow established program guidelines and policies.
  • Be courteous and respectful of others and their views.
  • Promote a spirit of cooperation in all activities.
  • Act as trustworthy and ethical stewards of the environment.
  • Encourage the use of sound biological information in education and in management decisions.
  • Do not use the program for personal financial gain.

How the Program Works

The West Virginia program is directed by the WV Master Naturalist State Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from each of the partner agencies as well as representatives from the cadre of Master Naturalist volunteers.  The State Advisory Committee provides training guidelines, develops curriculum resources, and is responsible for program marketing and promotion. In addition, the State Advisory Committee assists local chapters in identifying qualified  instructors and in locating needed resources.

The West Virginia Master Naturalist programtm was run entirely through the State Advisory Committee during its first year, but is now in the process of expanding to local Master Naturalist chapters, usually county-based. Currently, several county groups are established and active and several more are in the process of formation.

The program expands each year so if there isn't a chapter near you, contact the West Virginia Master Naturalist Programtm Coordinator .

It is anticipated that West Virginia's  communities and citizens organizations will benefit in many ways from the knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers trained by this program.  Around the country,  Master Naturalist volunteers are staffing youth and adult nature education programs, serving as guides and naturalists in local, state and national parks,  and providing leadership in local and state natural resource conservation efforts. 

Funding for the Master Naturalist Program is provided by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section.




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