wave.jpgWhen the container ship Cosco Busan leaked more than 50,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay in 2007, only a sparse number of locally trained volunteers were able to wash off thousands of birds covered in grime.

But thanks to the state Department of Fish and Game, that’s all about to change.

Specialists announced Thursday that they are recruiting 30 locals to undergo an 80-hour training, which will provide volunteers with hands-on skills for tasks ranging from day-to-day administration to major oil spills.

The series began in Southern California in 2002, and thanks to widespread interest, it has expanded from Orange County and Los Angeles into Sacramento and Redding.

“It’s proven to be a very selective program,” said Lt. Joshua Nicholas of Fish and Game.

Volunteers are trained to be “educational ambassadors” and help with reaching out to the community to promote the preservation of nature and wildlife, Nicholas said.

In April, residents in Sacramento spent 160 hours rescuing sturgeon, salmon, steelhead and striped bass that became stranded after floodwaters pulled back in Yolo and Sutter counties.

Bay Area applicants should expect an initial screening, an interview and a background check.

Those selected will begin their training on June 22 in Cotati. Upon completion, volunteers will work with a mentor for a six-month probation before they begin working autonomously.

The application is available at www.dfg.ca.gov/volunteer/NRVP/ and it should be submitted no later than May 27.

Saul Sugarman, Bay City News

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