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Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Hosts Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park

June 20, 2017 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

More than 200 youth and adults turned out for a weekend packed with outdoor activities at the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) first Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, Tenn., on June 10 and 11.

According to the Outdoor Foundation’s study on youth participation in the outdoors, the U.S. is facing an unprecedented public health and conservation problem as the American childhood has rapidly moved indoors amidst changing technological and social landscapes. Reconnecting youth with the outdoors is critical to the health of future generations as well as the health of our natural landscapes.

The USA’s Family Campout engaged both youth and adults in hands-on activities including a youth fishing derby, wildlife calling contest, snake and birds of prey exhibition and conservation education. Many youth got the chance to shoot a bow for the first time thanks to a mobile archery unit provided by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). Participants also enjoyed delicious meals, and youth received fishing gear and t-shirts.

The free, public event was made possible with support from the Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council, Pure Fishing, Montgomery Bell State Park and the TWRA. Nashville BCTC President Anthony Nicholson and Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council President Billy Dycus were instrumental in the success of the event from promotion to volunteer recruitment to coordination.

“As we grow our community outreach programs, we want to create fun, safe learning environments that enable families to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors,” said Scott Vance, CEO & Executive Director of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Our first Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park accomplished just that. We’re thrilled to have brought together more than 200 youth and adults for activities that will leave a lasting impression and inspire a love of the great outdoors.”

Less than an hour drive west of Nashville, Montgomery Bell State Park has been the site of several USA Work Boots on the Ground projects, which bring together union volunteers to tackle conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, wildlife habitats and outdoor experiences for communities across America. In 2013, USA volunteers rebuilt a bridge at the park that was washed away in the 2010 flood, and in 2015, they restored a cabin utilized by local Boy Scouts that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937.

Click HERE for more photos.

USA and Kentucky American Water Dedicate New Pier with Ribbon Cutting & Family Fishing Day

May 16, 2017 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Franklin, TN — More than 180 youth wet their lines at a fishing event at Jacobson Park in Lexington, Kentucky, on May 13 hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Kentucky American Water to celebrate the park’s volunteer-constructed fishing pier, which was dedicated on May 12.

The new handicap accessible/ADA compliant pier and sidewalk, valued at more than $33,500, was a joint effort between the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program and the American Water Charitable Foundation’s (AWCF) Building Better Communities Initiative. The pier is one of six projects funded through a $150,000 grant from AWCF to support USA volunteer projects that improve access to water-based recreation activities.

Union volunteers from the National Conference of Fireman and Oilers (NCFO) Local 32BJ SEIU, Central Kentucky Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) and Laborers Local 189 donated approximately 414 hours to excavate and form the site, pour concrete, assemble the pier sections and install handrails, wrapping up the project in December 2016.

On Friday, USA, Kentucky American Water and Lexington Parks and Recreation staff along with union volunteers gathered under a pavilion, due to heavy rain, to dedicate the fishing pier with a speaking presentation, ribbon cutting and plaque unveiling.

“The ribbon cutting marked the completion of the fourth project the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance completed with funding from American Water Charitable Foundation,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “USA conservation projects and accompanying community outreach events like the free family fishing day allow union members to give back to their local communities – something they are passionate about.”

On Saturday morning, youth and adults from across the community lined the banks of Jacobson Park reservoir to cast for channel catfish and trout with new fishing rods and reels, tackle and tackle boxes provided free to all the kids who attended through the USA’s partnership with Pure Fishing. USA, Kentucky American Water and Lexington Park and Recreation staff along with volunteers from Kentucky Laborers’ District Council and LIUNA Local 189 provided instruction and assistance to participants, including many first-time anglers.

As the USA celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, it is nearing its 100th WBG project. The WBG program brings together skilled union volunteers to tackle community-based conservation projects that improve public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitats, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The fishing event at Jacobson Park marked the USA’s 15th youth fishing event and the first in Kentucky.

“Kentucky American Water is committed not only to providing safe, clean drinking water to its customers but also to being a good corporate citizen,” said Nick Rowe, president of Kentucky American Water and senior vice president of American Water’s Southeast Division. “We appreciate the unique partnership we’ve had with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the American Water Charitable Foundation and our employees in making the new fishing pier at Jacobson Park a reality and hosting the Kentucky Fishing Derby. Our collaboration will have a positive impact on the community for many years to come.”

“The new pier provides safe and easy access for citizens with handicaps and families to enjoy the fishing available at Jacobson Park,” said Brian Rogers, deputy director of Parks and Rec, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. “We are so thankful to the USA, Kentucky American Water and the union volunteers who donated their time and skills to complete the project and organize the event that introduced families throughout Lexington to the joy of fishing.”

Speakers at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony:
Mike d’Oliveira, USA Deputy Director
Nick Rowe, President of Kentucky American Water
Michelle Kosieniak, Lexington Parks and Recreation Superintendent of Planning & Design
Jeremy Jenkins, Business Manager of Laborers Local 189
David Winer, Chief Union Steward for National Conference of Firemen & Oilers Local 32BJ SEIU
Robert Akin, Central Kentucky Building & Construction Trades Council President
Mark Isaacs, Kentucky Laborers’ District Council President/Business Manager

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT.

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Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA): The USA is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Work Boots on the Ground (WBG): Work Boots on the Ground is the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s flagship conservation program that brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to provide manpower needed to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.

Kentucky American Water:Kentucky American Water, a subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to approximately half a million people. The company earned Best Place to Work in Kentucky honors in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. For more information, visit www.kentuckyamwater.com.

American Water Charitable Foundation:Established in 2010 with a founding contribution from American Water, the American Water Charitable Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides a formal way to demonstrate the company’s ongoing commitment to being a good neighbor, citizen, and contributor to the communities where American Water and its employees live, work and operate. The Foundation helps support American Water employee-identified nonprofit endeavors. More information can be found at www.amwater.com.

Alaskan Union Volunteers Build Public Use Cabins

November 14, 2016 in Alaska, Articles, Conservation News, General, Work Boots On The Ground

ALASKAN UNION VOLUNTEERS BUILD PUBLIC USE CABINS

National Elk Refuge ‘Shed’ Shed Project

June 15, 2016 in Articles, Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground, Wyoming

elk_700There are few sights more awe-inspiring than thousands of elk gathered in a valley bounded by the rugged Teton Mountains carving the Wyoming sky.

Located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the National Elk Refuge has been a winter feeding ground for the Jackson elk herd since 1912.  Though established for the elk, the refuge also serves as a home for bison, pronghorn, wolves, moose, deer, bighorn sheep as well as a variety of migratory birds and small mammals.

Maintaining the refuge habitat and managing such a large elk herd is a costly affair, but luckily, the bulls pay room and board in the form of the valuable antlers they drop, often called sheds, before leaving the refuge for their summer range.

Through a partnership that’s been in place for almost 50 years, approximately 200 youth, leaders and parents from the Jackson District Boy Scouts help the refuge staff collect the antlers each spring.  Scout leaders then sort, bundle, weigh and tag the antlers in preparation for an annual public antler auction the local troops organize the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend.

This year, the antlers tipped the scales at more than 11,000 pounds and raised approximately $175,000.  Of the money raised, 75 percent goes to the National Elk Refuge for habitat enhancement and research and 25 percent is given to the Jackson District Boy Scouts.

Where are thousands of pounds of antlers worth hundreds of thousands of dollars stored from the time they are collected until late May?  That’s a challenge the National Elk Refuge has grappled with for years. The antlers are stored in several locations, displacing refuge equipment and storage space for employees. The staff work around the antlers until the time for the auction draws near, and the storage space has reached its capacity.

“We’ve always known there was a need to get all the antlers in one secure facility, but there were so many other priorities, and money is tight,” Dippel said.

That won’t be an issue next year, thanks to a group of IBEW Local 322 volunteers led by a Local 322 organizer, Bruce Johnson.

elk_275Johnson had long been interested in organizing a USA conservation project, and after he connected with USA staff at the 2015 IBEW Membership Development Conference, the USA reached out to the Department of the Interior (DOI) to identify Wyoming conservation projects in need of manpower.  Among those projects was the construction of a 20×26 foot storage shed with electric and heat to securely store the antlers.  It was the ideal project, according to Johnson, who said most of the volunteers are avid elk hunters like him.

From the start, the project was a shining example of collaboration and community spirit.  Lower Valley Energy donated the use of a line truck for the project, and a couple of its employees volunteered their time to relocate an existing gas line where the new shed was to be built.  Before framing began, local Boy Scout Nathan Watson assisted Kevin Anderson, a scout leader and owner of Four Corners Concrete, Inc. in prepping and pouring the pad that forms the shed floor for his Eagle Scout service project.

Because IBEW Local 322 represents carpenters, painters, mechanics and other wage workers at Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park in addition to inside electricians and linemen, the 35-40 volunteers who built the shed brought a diversity of skills and equipment to the project, and NECA contractors graciously donated the material to wire the structure.

Jack Shinkle, Historic Preservation Carpenter for the National Park Service, served as the advisor for the construction while Steve LaRosa, Heavy Equipment Operator for the National Park Service, handled logistics, job assignments and safety.

In addition to benefiting the National Elk Refuge and local Boy Scout troops, the new shed “is a way to showcase that union people are sportsmen and do care about the outdoors,” said Johnson, who explained that he often uses the outdoors as a way to reach across boundaries and find common ground with non-union electricians.

“This refuge would not get along without volunteers.  We just don’t have enough staff to handle everything that is going on,” Dippel said.  “We are honored to have the presence and expertise of the union volunteers.  It’s just invaluable.”

Dept. of the Interior Secretary Jewell and AFL-CIO President Trumka Cut Ribbon at Trinity River NWR Boardwalk

April 20, 2016 in Conservation News, Texas, Work Boots On The Ground

Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Chairman and AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service staff and members of the community joined together on March 17 to dedicate a new boardwalk connecting the city of Liberty, Texas, with the nearby Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) with a ribbon cutting ceremony and plaque unveiling.

trinityLocated approximately 40 miles northeast of Houston, the 30,000-acre Trinity River NWR lies within the largest floodplain basin in Texas. The boardwalk represents the culmination of the largest conservation effort thus far under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 2014 between the U.S. Department of the Interior, AFL-CIO and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) that pairs the USA’s volunteer-based Work Boots on the Ground conservation program with shovel-ready projects on public lands that, due to budgetary constraints and cutbacks, lack critical resources.

Constructed by volunteers from the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council, the Palmer Bayou Boardwalk is an intrinsic piece of Trinity River NWR’s From Crosswalks to Boardwalks initiative and allows hikers to traverse more than 500 feet of wetlands, access 13 miles of trails and have a more intimate view of the bayou.

“The Palmer Bayou Boardwalk is a great example of the importance of volunteers to rebuild, renew and restore our country’s national parks and national wildlife refuges,” Secretary Jewell said. “I applaud the AFL-CIO and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for their collective effort and foresight in bringing together numerous volunteers whose invaluable contributions make a significant impact on important conservation projects nationwide. This boardwalk offers visitors, especially families, access to nature and some of America’s most unique wildlife.”

Weather conditions and more than 100 days of flooding at the refuge delayed the completion of the boardwalk and further complicated the already challenging project.  Once flood waters receded, volunteers carried nearly $60,000 worth of concrete piers and construction materials on foot through the swamp to prevent vehicles from getting stuck in the mud.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance brings a lot more muscle to the conservation movement,” Trumka said.  “The volunteers who built the boardwalk at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge gave up numerous weekends, planned out the work zone, brought in and operated machinery and heavy materials all in the face of intense heat, mosquitoes and a lot of mud and muck.  To every conservation project USA volunteers take on, they bring an unmatched work-ethic, superior trade skills and a desire to give back to their community.”

“This project is a success story about how partnerships among agencies, communities and volunteers working together can accomplish great things,” said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle. “I’m especially enthusiastic for schools to use the boardwalk as an outdoor classroom, directly connecting the next generation with nature and conservation.”

Western WI AFL-CIO Take Kids Fishing Day Wins State Award

March 10, 2016 in Conservation News, Press Release

LA CROSSE, WI (March 9, 2016) – The Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO is pleased to announce that the council will be awarded the “Wisconsin AFL-CIO Community Service Event Award” on March 11 for its annual “Take Kids Fishing Day” events.

2014-6-02 Bill Brockmiller, president of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, will accept the award on behalf of the council at 8:45 a.m. during the annual Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Community Services Conference.  This year, the conference will be at the Radisson Hotel on Second Street in La Crosse.

Back in 2012, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program teamed up with the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO to host a Take Kids Fishing Day at Pettibone Lagoon in La Crosse.  The West Central AFL-CIO started a similar event in Eau Claire in 2013, and the South Central Building & Trades Council added its own event last year in Madison. The fifth annual Take Kids Fishing Day in La Crosse is scheduled for June 4.

“Take Kids Fishing Day is the perfect opportunity to educate our youth on the benefits of fishing and spark a lifelong interest in the sport,” said USA Conservation Manager Ty Brown. “It’s also a great way to show families the abundance of public access opportunities available in their communities.”

This unique event is free and open to the public – especially under-privileged kids and handicapped adults who might not otherwise have a chance to learn about fishing.

Fishing poles, bait, lunch and a picnic style lunch are provided free of charge to all attendees. To ensure that no child leaves empty-handed, all kids participating in the La Crosse event get a door prize such as fishing rods and reels, lures or tackle items.

“Those who won fishing poles, of course, wanted to use them, so we had volunteers busy rigging them up,” said Terry Hayden, president of the Western Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council and business manager of UA Local 434. “Being connected with nature as a youth helps build a healthy respect for the world we live in.”

For children less inclined to fish, face painting and temporary tattoos are provided free of charge by members of OPEIU Local 277.

Since the first La Crosse event in 2012, union volunteers have mentored more than 420 kids, more than 100 attendees are expected this year.

In La Crosse, members of the following locals have been seen pitching in and helping make the event a success; OPEIU Local 277, LIUNA Local 268, IAMAW Locals 21 & 1115, IAMAW District Lodge 66, AFTW Local 3605, UA Local 434, AFSCME Locals 1449, 1914, 1449, 2484 and 2748, ATU Local 519, AFSCME Retirees Chapter 7-Subchapter 101, BLET Local 13, IBEW Local 14, IAFF Local 127, BMWE Local 1965, OPCMIA Local 599 BCT&GM Local 22.

“Not only do kids love to fish, but it’s satisfying for grown-ups to watch a kid who’s all smiles while catching a fish,” said Brockmiller. “There’s no better time than now to get a kid hooked on fishing.”

Dave Branson, executive director, Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin agreed:  “For me, the best part of the event was seeing the smiles on all the kids’ faces. I loved being able to interact with everyone there. Not only was it successful, it was fun. Everybody had a great time.”

WI | Chimney Swift Bird Tower

January 28, 2016 in Conservation News, Wisconsin, Work Boots On The Ground

Wisconsin Union Volunteers Build Home for Displaced Birds

As dusk’s grey subtly mutes day’s blues and golds, and shadows from behind assume the foreground, a plume of earth and ash colored birds ascends from a chimney like a rush of smoke from an evening fireplace – hundreds of them. Flittering and fluttering, twisting and turning, they stalk and eat all the flying insects they can before descending back into their rooftop home for a good night’s rest of vertically-perched slumber.

Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin volunteers built and installed a chimney swift roosting tower at Cherokee Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

Left to right: Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin Steve Ketelboeter, Elevator Constructors Local 132; Dave Branson BCTC of South Central Wisconsin executive director; Andy Shultis, Iron Workers Local 383 (retired); Antony Anastasi, Iron Worker Local 383; Spencer Statz, Plumbers Local 75; and Lisa Goodman, Electrical Workers Local 159 stand in front of the completed chimney swift bird tower at Cherokee Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

The chimney swift is a species that had to adjust to dwindling habitats. Their natural roosting places were hollow trees, but as civilization expanded, these modest birds began to take refuge in chimneys. With advanced heating methods becoming more prominent, many structures aren’t built with chimneys, and numerous existing chimneys are being capped off, creating another housing crisis for the chimney swift.

As part of Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) flagship conservation program, union volunteers from the Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin constructed and installed an 18-foot-tall chimney swift tower at Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park in Madison, Wisconsin, on Oct. 17, 2015.

“Enhancing wildlife habitats is a key component of the Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Ty Brown. “The chimney swift tower falls perfectly in line with our mission, so it was easy to say yes to this project.”

To complete the tower, 15 union members donated their expertise and more than 100 skilled man-hours on the project. First, they built the tower offsite, which included measuring, cutting and fastening wood materials together, staining the tower and building a stainless steel predator shroud for the top, according to Project Manager Spencer Statz, a member of Plumbers Local 75. Once constructed, the volunteers transported the tower to Cherokee Park on a trailer. They dug a 3-foot by 3-foot hole, 4 feet deep, placed rebar in the hole and erected the tower with a SkyTrak forklift donated by Ideal Crane Rentals, before pouring concrete for a secure base.

Project volunteers represented Plumbers Local 75, Elevators Constructors Local 132, Painters & Allied Trades Local 802, Steamfitters Local 601, Electricians Local 159, Iron Workers Local 383 and Operative Plasters & Cement Masons Local 599. Funds raised at the USA’s 2014 Madison Conservation Dinner covered project costs, and the idea came about when Statz approached a local conservation group called the Friends of Cherokee Marsh, who suggested the nesting tower.

“It all started when I was 6 years old,” said Statz. “My brother and I enjoyed fishing on the Yahara River, which runs through Cherokee Marsh. Over the next 30 years, I enjoyed rabbit, pheasant, waterfowl, turkey and deer hunting in the same area. When our (Building & Construction Trades Council) was looking for a project to do, it was a no-brainer for me; I wanted to give back to the wildlife area that brought me so many great memories growing up.”

Friends of Cherokee Marsh President Jan Axelson shared Statz’s enthusiasm for the project: “We were delighted when union workers came to us to volunteer,” she said. “We had wanted to build a swift tower, but we didn’t have the skills, materials or funding to pull it off, so having skilled union workers build it was a dream come true. They did a beautiful job, and we are totally pleased.”

Whether enhancing wildlife habitats, improving public access to the outdoors, restoring America’s parks or mentoring youth in the outdoors, the common denominator is community service, which is the heart of WBG.

“Our members live and work in this community,” said Statz. “So, I can’t think of a better way to give back to the places that made us who we are today.”

WV | Coonskin Park Fishing Pier

December 2, 2015 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and West Virginia American Water Complete New Accessible Fishing Pier at Coonskin Park

A new fishing pier at Coonskin Park designed to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities was unveiled at a ribbon cutting today by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), West Virginia American Water and local union volunteers. The project, valued at $60,000, is a joint effort between the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground volunteer conservation program and the American Water Charitable Foundation’s Building Better Communities initiative.

CuttingImageThe completed project includes three handicap designated parking spots, concrete ramp from the parking lot to the pier, retaining wall alongside the new ramp and large wheelchair accessible floating dock with handrails. The American Water Charitable Foundation partially funded the project with a $25,000 grant, which was awarded to USA earlier this year. The Foundation supported three conservation projects that improve public access to water-based recreation activities in Tennessee, Illinois and West Virginia. West Virginia American Water contributed an additional $10,000 to the project, and a number of local businesses donated services and materials.

“This is the third project we have completed with funding from the American Water Charitable Foundation,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Fred Myers. “These projects allow us to give back to communities where American Water serves and where our members live and recreate.  West Virginia American Water went the extra mile by donating extra funds to ensure a successful endeavor. This partnership has been positive for everyone involved, and I hope to see it grow in the near future.”

USA organized a group of skilled union volunteers through the Charleston Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO to complete the project, located on the south side of Coonskin Lake near the Elk River Trail.

“More than half of West Virginia American Water’s 300 employees are represented by unions, and they are among the most talented and skilled professionals in the state,” said Jeffrey McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water. “We are proud to support this Work Boots on the Ground project, which will enhance the outdoor experience of our customers, our employees and their families.”

During the ribbon cutting, West Virginia AFL-CIO president Kenny Perdue stated how pleased his organization was to partner with West Virginia American Water in making Coonskin Park more accessible to everyone.

“So many of our members volunteer to work with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance because it combines their love of the outdoors and hunting with their desire to use their skills to give back to their communities,” Perdue said. “We are grateful to Paul Breedlove of the Charleston Building Trades for taking the lead on organizing the project, and to the many volunteers from the Carpenters, Finishers, Electrical Workers, Operating Engineers, Ironworkers, Laborers, Pipefitters, Roofers and Sheet Metal locals.

Jeff Hutchinson, director of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission, applauded the project and stated that the park was honored to receive this generous gift. “The addition of the new fishing pier will allow the lake to be more accessible for citizens with disabilities and will increase usage of the lake by all Kanawha County citizens,” Hutchinson said.

IL | Canoe & Kayak Trail

October 29, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

USA, Illinois American Water Cut Ribbon for Illinois River Canoe & Kayak Trail

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Illinois American Water and Greater Peoria Economic Development Council held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 29, at 11 a.m., to mark the completion of a new Illinois River Canoe & Kayak Trail completed by union volunteers.  The project is the result of a joint effort between the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground volunteer conservation program and the American Water Charitable Foundation’s Building Better Communities initiative, which awarded the USA a $25,000 grant to support three 2015 conservation projects that improve public access to water-based recreation activities in Tennessee, Illinois and West Virginia.

USAPekin-66“Our partnership with American Water is unique and beneficial to everyone involved,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Fred Myers. “By pairing the grant with Work Boots on the Ground, project funding makes a greater impact because superior work from skilled union members is performed on a volunteer basis. This allows grant funds to cover materials, equipment and other project expenses.”

The project came to USA and Illinois American Water via award-winning storyteller and author Brian “Fox” Ellis through his work on Greater Peoria Economic Development Council’s Water Resource Team’s Tourism and Recreation committee.  According to Ellis, “The Water Resource Team’s vision for the Illinois River is to raise awareness that this rich wildlife corridor is like a grand Central Park for the entire Midwest to enjoy. By linking the towns along the river via a canoe trail we are creating tourist activities and recreation opportunities. This collaboration is an important step toward realizing our vision of getting people out on the water so they can connect with the inherent value of this gorgeous river.”

The Illinois River Road Canoe Trail project provides 12 scenic stations for paddlers to use as launch points or rest stops, featuring flood-resistant benches and commemorative signs with attached eyelets for tethering small watercraft. The ability to stop and rest will help people tackle longer, safer voyages and make it easier for young paddlers to enjoy the river.

With funding and support from American Water Charitable Foundation and Illinois American Water, the USA organized a group of skilled union volunteers from the West Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) to complete Ellis’ vision.

“Partnering with Illinois American Water, the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to complete the water trail was a great experience,” said West Central Illinois BCTC Executive Director Marty Helfers. “The Carpenters Apprenticeship School built the benches, and union members from nearly every trade donated their time to install the benches and signs along our amazing river, which will showcase the union building trades’ commitment to the community and put our value on display every day!”

The project will be celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 at 11 a.m. at the Pekin Park District’s Riverfront Park.  Parking is located behind Seico Security at 132 Court Street in Pekin.  Illinois American Water will host a lunch after the ribbon cutting for volunteers and partners.

Illinois American Water President Bruce Hauk commended the collaboration, “We are blessed with the best of the best when it comes to skilled labor.  Our teams are committed not only to providing excellent water service, but protecting our precious resources for everyone to enjoy.  This unique project created by Brian Ellis, coupled with the partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and made possible by the invaluable sweat equity of skilled union workers ensures a wonderful resource for our community.”

Leigh Ann Brown, City of Pekin Economic Development/Tourism Coordinator agreed, “The Illinois River is a huge asset to our area, as are organizations like Illinois American Water and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance who give back and collaborate on behalf of our community.”

The USA’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage goes hand-in-hand with American Water Charitable Foundation’s ongoing commitment to being a good neighbor in the communities it serves. This sort of alignment makes the partnership successful and paves the way for more collaborative projects ahead.

“Our employees in union-represented jobs are among the most talented and skilled professionals in the nation, and we are very excited to provide support to Work Boots on the Ground projects that will enhance the outdoor experience of our customers, our employees and their families,” said American Water Charitable Foundation President Darlene Williams.

For picture of the project, click here. For pictures of the ceremony, click here.

Flood Waters Couldn’t Dampen Volunteers’ Spirits in Texas

October 15, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

As they say, when it rains, it pours. That was no cliché in Texas this year. No sooner had a group of Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) volunteers completed the first day of work on an elevated boardwalk at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in March than Mother Nature began to make up for a four year drought.  The Refuge quickly began to flood and remained in high water or flood stage for more than 100 days, burying many parking areas and hiking trails under 10 feet of water.

Click image above to watch this IBEW HourPower video (produced by Oswego Creative) about the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground project at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge.

Located approximately 40 miles northeast of Houston, the 25,000 acre Trinity River NWR lies within the largest floodplain basin in Texas and is host to bayous, sloughs, oxbow lakes and mysterious ponds and home to a diversity of wildlife including deer, alligators, bobcats and many waterfowl and songbirds.  Still fairly primitive, the Refuge is a place where visitors can find serenity in nature whether hiking, paddling, birdwatching, hunting or fishing.

The elevated boardwalk was the first project initiated through a joint partnership between the Department of Interior and the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program. Once complete, it will be an intrinsic piece of the From Crosswalks to Boardwalks project, which will connect the city of Liberty, Texas, with the Refuge, allowing hikers to traverse more than 500 feet of wetlands, access 13 miles of trails and have a more intimate view of the bayou.

“There is such an industrious environment beneath our feet in the water – fish lounging, crawfish picking along, bugs mining for food,” said Laurie Gonzales, a wildlife biologist at Trinity River NWR.  “It’s a whole other world.  There’s something magical to children when they get to experience nature like that.  This boardwalk will make those experiences possible.”
Trinity River NWR and partner groups secured building permits for the structure and received funding for materials through a Recreational Trails Grant from the state of Texas, but they did not get funding for the manpower to build it.  That’s where the Gulf Coast Building Trades volunteers came in.

“There is so much skill that goes into building a structure,” Gonzales said. “This crew has to plan out the work zone, bring in heavy materials, use machinery…and brave the heat and mosquitoes, all while balancing themselves in the mud and muck.  Skilled union volunteers will be put to the test…but I know they can handle it because they are one tough bunch.”

DSCN5719_350

Heat, mud, mosquitoes, spiders and sore muscles couldn’t stop the dedicated volunteers.

All the flood waters couldn’t dampen the spirits of the diehard volunteers. Once the water receded, they headed back to the Refuge in September to use their planning, layout, carpentry, structural, concrete, fabrication and public relations skills to begin building the 520 foot bridge with an 18’ x 18’ observation deck over a bayou on federal land.

Giving up overtime pay on the weekends in the midst of a Gulf Coast construction boom, the volunteers will devote countless hours to the massive project through the fall. Because the site was under water so long, the volunteers have to manually carry nearly $80,000 worth of concrete piers and construction materials through the swamp to the work area because vehicles get stuck in the mud.  As the boardwalk construction progresses, so does the trek in.  Once they reach the bayou, volunteers will use a flat bottom boat to complete the last several hundred feet.

“We only had to dispatch one cottonmouth snake thus far and will probably have an alligator story to tell when we get to the bayou,” said Mike Cramer, financial secretary-treasurer of UA Plumbers Local 68 and the project coordinator.

When asked why he gave up so much time and energy to such a mentally and physically draining project, Cramer responded, “We all volunteer ourselves to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance because we feel better…knowing we are giving something back to the organization we are dedicated to and the great outdoors.  Union members do so many community projects…with little or no recognition.  The USA provides a forum for these conservation projects to be recognized on a local and national level, while educating the general public about us and some of the wonderful unselfish things we accomplish on behalf of everyone.”

Click here to see more project photos.

USA and American Water Complete Boat Shed at Harrison Bay State Park

September 9, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Tennessee American Water held a public ribbon cutting ceremony at Harrison Bay State Park Sept. 3, to mark the completion of a new 63-by-18-ft. boat shed built by union volunteers over the summer.

harrisonBay01Chattanooga area Building Trades volunteers from Iron Workers Local 704, Utility Workers Local 121, Carpenters Local 74, Insulators Local 46 and Electrical Workers Local 175, as well as volunteers from Communication Workers Local 3802, constructed the shed. Volunteers from the Friends of Harrison Bay put the finishing touches on the project with a little help from a family that visits the park so often, they decided to lend a hand.

“My kids have been using these boats all summer, so we felt it was right to volunteer to help finish the shed,” said local resident and mother of eight, Stephenie Pyles. “Me and the kids helped stain (the exterior of the shed) and spread gravel.”

The project is the result of a joint effort between the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground volunteer conservation program and the American Water Charitable Foundation’s Building Better Communities initiative, which awarded the USA a $25,000 grant to support three 2015 conservation projects that improve public access to water-based recreation activities in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Peoria, Illinois; and Charleston, West Virginia.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the completion of our first joint project with American Water,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Fred Myers. “This is our first charitable foundation grant, and it is instrumental in helping us take our conservation efforts to the next level. I’m certain this partnership will continue to grow and, together, we will tackle many more community projects.”

harrisonBay02The importance of the project and partnership between the USA and American Water was evident: “This endeavor brought together folks from all across the community, including young children and skilled union trades members,” said Tennessee American Water President Deron Allen. “Both American Water and the USA encourage and support outdoor activities as well as the proper use and protection of the environment for future generations.”

After the ribbon cutting, Myers and Tennessee American Water Director of Operations Kevin Rogers fixed a commemorative plaque to the shed’s wall before no less than five Pyles children, assisted by park rangers, took to the water in kayaks, canoes and on paddle boards.

For more photos, click here.

IBEW Volunteers Surmount Heat and Flies to Construct Boardwalk at Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp

July 21, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

Undeterred by flies, heat and muck, nine volunteers from the Young Brotherhood of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 80 volunteered their time and skills through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Work Boots on the Ground program to help construct a boardwalk through a cypress marsh at Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

A unique ecosystem of forested wetland, Great Dismal Swamp contains the greatest biodiversity in the state. The boardwalk will allow refuge visitors to get off the road and into the woods to better experience wildlife and habitat.  Once completed, it will be ADA and ABA compliant and include blinds for photography as well as hunting opportunities for those with disabilities.

swamp_300In fulfillment of its partnership with the Department of the Interior, the USA connected Refuge Manager Chris Lowie with the Young Brotherhood of IBEW Local 80, which was formed to educate the public about unions by engaging in community volunteer projects.  In one weekend and approximately 13 hours, the volunteers installed 150’ of footers, 120’ of cross beams, 50’ of strings and laid decking, in addition to cutting and hauling wood.

“They were very professional and hardworking.  I told them what to do. They divided themselves into teams, decided who would do what, and they went to town,” said Lowie.  “It would take us a month to get this much accomplished.”

The entire boardwalk, which is being built a section at a time solely by refuge staff and volunteers, would cost approximately $200,000 if a contractor was hired, according to Lowie.  “Without volunteers, this project would never have even gotten started, and it would not get done,” he added.

“Our Young Workers group actually had a lot of fun working that weekend in the swamp,” said Phil Fisher, IBEW Local 80 Membership Development Coordinator.  “We were told this boardwalk will be used to help disabled people gain access to a scenic outlook.  Knowing that we were able to have a hand in making that possible was a huge motivator for this group.  Also, we all got a kick out of a piece of 4×4 that a bear had taken a chunk out of overnight—definitely a reminder that we weren’t working on home turf.”

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Launched in 2010, Work Boots on the Ground brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to projects that conserve wildlife habitat, educate future generations of sportsmen and women, improve public access to the outdoors or restore America’s parks.

Union Volunteers Replace Storage Facilities Destroyed in Tornado at AR Game & Fish Commission’s Camp Robinson

July 9, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

Camp Robinson, located 30 minutes from Little Rock, Arkansas, and owned by Arkansas Game & Fish, now has storage for horse feed, field trial game bird feed and other supplies thanks to the 10 union volunteers who came together through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Work Boots on the Ground conservation program to build a secure 10’x20’ shed inside the horse barn.

“We offer many amenities for public use including a shooting range, campground, dog kennels, boating access and a horse barn,” said Matthew Mourot, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Region 8 Assistant Regional Supervisor.  “We did not have funding for this project in our current FY budget, and the user groups were in need of storage following the April 2014 tornado that destroyed many of our facilities.”

Members of Electrical Workers Local 295, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, Painters District Council 80, Ironworkers Local 321, Sprinklerfitters Local 669 and the Arkansas AFL-CIO donated their trade skills and more than 87 hours in May, June and July to construct and stain the shed and install the electrical system, wrapping up the project on July 7.

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“A lot of our members and volunteers shoot at the shooting range on Camp Robinson and use their archery range,” said David Stephens, project leader and IBEW Local 295 Assistant Business Manager.  “This project provided an avenue to give back to something they love and also show that Union members are part of the community.”

Launched in 2010, Work Boots on the Ground brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to projects that conserve wildlife habitat, educate future generations of sportsmen and women, improve public access to the outdoors or restore America’s parks.  Located in Faulkner County Arkansas, Camp Robinson encompasses 4,029 acres and is open to the public for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational activities.

Union Volunteers Dress Up & Add Security at Lake Thunderbird State Park, Oklahoma

June 25, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

Click Here to Watch Project Video

Thirty-eight volunteers from six different union locals came together through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground conservation program to dress up and add security to Oklahoma’s Lake Thunderbird State Park, located 30 minutes from Oklahoma City, in June.

The volunteers, representing the Oklahoma AFL-CIO, Oklahoma Building & Construction Trades Council (BCTC), Insulators Local 94, Ironworkers Local 48, Operating Engineers Local 627, Pipeliners Local 798 and Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 344, installed a 300 ft. split rail fence, metal gate and security spikes at the park’s entrance, using funds raised at the USA’s Oklahoma AFL-CIO and Building & Construction Trades Conservation Dinner.

Thirty-eight union volunteers came together through USA's Work Boots on the Ground program to dress up and add security at Lake Thunderbird State Park.

Thirty-eight union volunteers came together through USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program to dress up and add security at Lake Thunderbird State Park.

“The fence, gate and traffic spikes will help keep this area safer and more secure for the public, and we will be able to control the area better,” said Sherman Johnson, Assistant Park Manager at Lake Thunderbird. “Having volunteers like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance helps us greatly in getting projects done quickly to keep our down time to a minimum during the peak season. We appreciate the hard work that was put in to make this project a success.”

With two marinas, Lake Thunderbird State Park offers a variety of water activities as well as an archery range, hiking and equestrian trails, mountain bike trails, hunting, camping and more.

“The vast majority of our union members love outdoor activities. Volunteering for conservation projects allows them to give back to the parks and recreation areas we all enjoy using,” said Jimmy Fish, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Building and Construction Trades Council. “We had members of six different construction unions. They all worked side by side completing this project, and it gave everyone a chance to meet new people from other unions.”

Volunteers add security strip at park entrance.

Volunteers add security strip at park entrance.

According to the National Association of State Park Directors, there are 6,624 state parks in the U.S. that receive nearly three-quarters of a billion annual visits and generate $20 billion in economic benefits. These parks are continually faced with budget cuts and have a backlog of repair and restoration projects. As part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program, union members volunteer their time and trade skills to projects that conserve wildlife habitat, educate future generations of sportsmen and women, improve public access to the outdoors and restore America’s cherished parks.

North & Central N.Y. BCTC volunteers restore replica of President Fillmore’s boyhood home, mark 50th anniversary

June 22, 2015 in Conservation News, General, Work Boots On The Ground

On a cold January day in 1800, a baby boy joined the world inside a modest log cabin in the Finger Lakes region of New York – an area that when, in full bloom, is rich with greenery, trickling brooks and booming waterfalls. This woodland son would become a cloth-maker’s apprentice, a lawyer, a politician and ultimately, the thirteenth president of the United States. President Millard Fillmore and his original domicile are no longer present, but his memory lives on in the form of an accurate replica cabin built 50 years ago in his namesake state park – Fillmore Glen.

Fillmore Glen

Left to right: Ron Haney, Business Manager for Roofers Local 195, Jeff Zaia, Fillmore Glen Park Manager, Fred Bonn, Regional Director of N.Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation and Donald Morgan, Business Manager IBEW Local 43, stand at the entrance of the newly-restored cabin.

Over the spring and summer this year, a group of volunteers from the North & Central New York Building & Construction Trades Council (BCTC) successfully restored a half-century old replica of Fillmore’s quaint boyhood home at the park. The project is part of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Work Boots on the Ground conservation program and came about from collaborative between the BCTC, the New York State Parks and the USA. The BCTC was looking for a project for which to volunteer, the parks department had a project that needed attention and the USA facilitated.

According to IBEW Local 43 Business Manager Donald Morgan, 22 volunteers worked over the span of the project, logging about 345 man hours.

“We had Roofers, Sheet Metal Workers, Masons, Insulators, guys from (United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters), Electrical Workers … It was team effort for sure,” said Morgan.

The project involved many big jobs. Morgan said the bulk of the work involved re-roofing the old cedar shake roof shingles. The volunteers also replaced the floorboards and floor joints, and they changed out four logs near the bottom of the cabin, which had to be done carefully to keep the integrity of the period-themed structure.

“We really hit a home run,” said Morgan. “It was just what we were hoping for.”

Work Boots on the Ground conservation projects serve multiple purposes. The first to preserve outdoor resources and heritage for generations to come, and the second is to build bridges between unions and the public by putting members in a position to serve the communities around them.

“It’s all about giving back to the community,” said Morgan. “We really appreciate our communities, so we love the chance to give back to them and, and helps us paint a picture of who union members really are.”

The parks department also expressed gratitude: “The Union Sportsmen stepped in, stepped up and really helped us improve the experience for patrons visiting the park,” said Finger Lakes Regional Director Fred Bonn. “The crew tackled the project with enthusiasm, skilled craftsmanship and a great deal of pride.”

For more information on Work Boots on the Ground, please visit http://unionsportsmen.org/conservation/work-boots-on-the-ground.

Central Iowa Building Trades volunteers complete handicapped pier, fishing house restorations at Lake Ahquabi State Park

June 10, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — As part of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, members of the Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) volunteered their time and trade skills to complete a large-scale restoration of a handicap-accessible fishing pier and fishing house at Lake Ahquabi State Park in Iowa June 6.

roofingLakeAhqTo complete the restoration, approximately 60 volunteers spent more than 800 man hours painting and staining the pier and fishing house, repairing the fishing house roof and replacing the old doors and windows. This project also included pouring a concrete pad and walkway at a picnic area and replacing the plumbing, lighting and wiring in the restroom facility. While the bulk of the materials were purchased by funds previously raised at the 2015 Iowa Conservation Dinner, the volunteers also used approximately $4,000 worth of donated materials, including concrete from American Concrete and paint and stain from Sherwin Williams.

“These projects are valuable to the park in many ways,” said Park Manager Josh Shipman. “They help the staff maintain heavily-used facilities, such as our fishing pier, while providing years of future use for anglers and other park users. By having skilled union members do the work, we are saving lots of money and time that can then be devoted to other areas of the park, while ensuring the work is done properly and professionally.”

The union volunteers are equally happy about the project, according to International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 81 Business Manager Robert Gilmore.

“The lakes, parks and campgrounds are used by all Iowans, and by volunteering to repair or restore them, we are giving back, not only to our families, but we are ensuring these resources can be enjoyed for many more generations of Iowans,” said Gilmore. “When we complete projects in the community, it reinforces the understanding that conservation, public land use and clean water are important to every citizen. That allows us to build bridges and foster working relationships.”

The Central Iowa BCTC also plans to demolish an unused building and haul away the rubble later in the year, pending permits.

Through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program, union members volunteer their time and trade skills to projects that conserve wildlife habitats, educate future generations of sportsmen and women, improve public access to the outdoors and restore America’s cherished parks. For more information about Work Boots on the Ground, email USA Conservation Manager Ty Brown at tyb@unionsportsmen.org or call him at 615-831-6751.

Project photos are available here.

Kansas City Union Volunteers Help Local Boy Scouts of America ‘Be Prepared’ for Summer Camps

April 28, 2015 in Conservation News, General, Work Boots On The Ground

For more than a century, The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been helping mold the future leaders of America by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. Located in Kansas City, MO, the Heart of American Council (HOAC) serves more than 31,000 youth and is known for having the highest number of scouts achieving the coveted Eagle Scout badge.

Each summer, more than 23,000 young boys attend summer camps run by the HOAC and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like sailing, archery, water skiing, space exploration and the shooting sports. Maintaining the grounds and facilities to support so many youth every summer is no easy task. Fortunately, Kansas City has a healthy population of skilled union members, many of whom are former scouts, have children in scouts, volunteer with the scouts or all of the above.

measuring_250“There was a great need at our summer camps to take care of repairing or replacing some of the major infrastructure items in the area of plumbing, roofs and electrical,” said Mark Brayer, Director of Support Services and Professional Advisor to the Properties Committee of the HOAC. “With limited funds…we started to get offers from various union members to come down to camp and use their skills to help in these renovations.”

In response, the Properties Committee established a concentrated weekend effort called Skilled Trades Work Day, and promoted the event to union members. It was so successful, according to Brayer, it has become an annual event at both the Heart of America Council’s H. Roe Bartle and Naish scout reservations, with one work day each spring and fall.

On April 11, 2015, nearly 320 volunteers turned out for the Skilled Trades Work Day at H. Roe Bartle, which encompasses more than 4,200 acres in the Ozark Hills on Truman Lake. Together, the volunteers built new storage facilities, repainted a swimming pool, installed new water heaters, put up trail signs and markers, planted a 500+ tree nursery and completed a variety of other projects in preparation for the camp season. Among the volunteers were approximately 100 union members of the Greater Kansas City Building & Constructions Trades Council (BCTC) including electrical workers, plumbers and pipefitters, roofers, painters, carpenters and millwrights, sheet metal workers, laborers, ironworkers, and operating engineers, along with Bank of Labor staff.

building_250A member of Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 8, Russ Burton is a perfect example of the strong connection between the union trades and the Boy Scouts of American in Kansas City. As an Eagle scout and Chairman of Skilled Trades Team for the HOAC, he has been involved with scouting for nearly 50 years and was instrumental in helping create the Skilled Trades Work Days, which he continues to manage with the help of Project Coordinator Rick McWirth.

Between labor, materials and equipment, the more than 300 volunteers at the Bartle Skilled Trades Work Day provided an estimated $178,000, which the HOAC can invest in future scout programs. According to Burton, much of the work completed would not have been possible without the skills provided by the union volunteers.

wire_250“We feel we operate the best Boy Scout Camps in the country, not just in terms of our program but also in the facility in which to offer that program,” Brayer said. “Having our camping facilities up to speed on maintenance items and putting in new facilities to support the program enables us to attract a larger number of our Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts each year and provide them with a quality program in a safe, clean and well-kept facility.”

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Work Boots on the Ground program brings together skilled union members for conservation projects,” said Alise Martiny, Business Manager of the Greater Kansas City BCTC. “Here in the Kansas City area, we are proud that so many union members are putting their boots to the ground to support the BSA Heart of American Council, which leaves such a positive and lasting impression in the lives of so many local youth.”

USA Awarded American Water Charitable Foundation Grant to Improve Water-Based Recreational Access

April 23, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is pleased to announce a $25,000 grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created by American Water—the nation’s largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company. The grant will bring together union members and American Water employees to volunteer their time and skills to water-related conservation projects in Charleston, W. Va., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Peoria, Ill.

The grant, which was announced at the USA’s 2nd Annual West Virginia AFL-CIO Conservation Dinner on April 18, will pair the USA’s all-volunteer Work Boots on the Ground program with projects that benefit three AW service communities by improving public access to water-based recreational opportunities or enhancing the environmental sustainability of existing recreational areas.

(L-R) Jeffrey McIntyre, West Virginia American Water President; Aldie Warnock, American Water Sr. Vice President of External Affairs and AWCF board member; Fred Myers, USA Executive Director; and Ken Purdue, West Virginia AFL-CIO President.

(L-R) Jeffrey McIntyre, West Virginia American Water President; Aldie Warnock, American Water Sr. Vice President of External Affairs and AWCF board member; Fred Myers, USA Executive Director; and Ken Purdue, West Virginia AFL-CIO President.

Launched in 2010, Work Boots on the Ground brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to projects that conserve wildlife habitat, mentor youth in the outdoors, improve public access to the outdoors or restore America’s parks.

“American Water employees are proud members of the communities we serve. That’s why we are committed to not only delivering the highest quality water and wastewater service possible but also participating and investing in programs that benefit these communities through the American Water Charitable Foundation,” said American Water President and CEO Susan Story. “Our employees who are in union-represented jobs are among the most talented and skilled professionals in the nation, and we are very excited to provide financial and staff support to Work Boots on the Ground projects that will enhance the outdoor experience of our customers, our employees and their families.”

“To every conservation project union members take on through Work Boots on the Ground, they bring an unmatched work-ethic, superior trade skills and a desire to give back to their community,” said USA Executive Director and CEO Fred Myers. “We commend American Water for its good corporate citizenship in supporting this program, and we look forward to working together to improve public access to the recreational opportunities that clean water provides.”

During the April 18 dinner, West Virginia American Water announced an additional $10,000 grant for the Charleston, W.Va. Work Boots on the Ground project.

“A large number of West Virginia American Water employees are avid outdoor enthusiasts, hunters and fishers, and this project aligns employee interests with community-based initiatives that preserve and promote our natural resources,” said West Virginia American Water President Jeffrey McIntyre. “This additional donation will help ensure that we complete a top-notch project in the Charleston area to benefit our customers and our employees.”

Columbus Metal Trades Volunteers Help Prevent Electrical Shock Hazards at Florence Marina State Park

March 23, 2015 in Adopt A Park, Conservation News, General

Under the banner of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Work Boots on the Ground program, members of the Columbus Metal Trades Council (CMTC) volunteered their time and skills on Feb. 21 to inspect six boat docks and 66 boat slips at Florence Marina State Park for electrical hazards and make needed repairs, saving the park $1,500 to $2,000.

James Carr, Curtis Culpepper and Mike Culpepper, members of Electrical Workers Local 613, along with project leader Dave Hall, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 85, and Trish Carr looked for exposed wiring, broken receptacle covers, bad ground fault circuit interrupters and other hazards that could put boat slip tenants and park visitors at risk.

(L-R) Dave Hall, Curtis Culpepper, James Carr and Trish Carr volunteer their Saturday morning at Florence Marina State Park.

(L-R) Dave Hall, Curtis Culpepper, James Carr and Trish Carr volunteer their Saturday morning at Florence Marina State Park.

Work Boots on the Ground brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to projects that conserve wildlife habitat, educate future generations of sportsmen and women, improve public access to the outdoors or restore America’s parks. Sitting at the northern end of 45,000-acre Lake Walter F. George in Omaha, GA, Florence Marina State Park is popular among a variety of outdoor enthusiasts, especially anglers and boaters. As with most state parks, it is managed with a tight budget.

IMG_0728“If there were any exposed wires or other electrical issues, and a renter or guest slipped into the water, it could cause serious bodily injury. The inspection helps prevent hazards and minimize risks,” said Tracy Yearta, park manager of Florence Marina State Park and Providence Canyon State Park. “Lots of these projects have to be funded by the department and, with funding the way it is, it’s very critical to bring in outside resources. Their [CMTC volunteers] skills and leadership ability is exactly what we need.”

Yearta first saw their skills and leadership in action in 2014 when CMTC volunteers cleared a 7-mile hiking trail and restored scenic views at nearby Providence Canyon State Park—Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.

According to Hall, “Everybody was happy doing it…there was a sense of pride in knowing that we helped out the local community. The very next month at our meeting, everybody was exciting, smiling, happy. Some of the same volunteers wanted to do another project.”

This summer and fall, the volunteers will renovate Florence Marina State Park’s waste water treatment facility and install additional campsites at the park.

NJ Pheasant and Quail Programs Get a Boost from Union Volunteers

January 26, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

Most sportsmen and women know, and even appreciate, that their hunting and fishing licenses and permits support the management of fish and wildlife.  In other words, their favorite activities fund fish and wildlife agencies, which then work to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations, bringing their hard earned money full circle.

In New Jersey, some of those funds are used to operate the Rockport Pheasant Farm and the associated statewide stocking program.  The first pheasants raised at Rockport were released in 1923, and since then, the hatchery has raised more than two million birds.  For the 12,000 New Jersey residents who hunt pheasants each year, the program is invaluable.

Donald Mullins shows the inside of a pheasant transport box.

Donald Mullins shows the inside of a pheasant transport box.

Thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program and a group of dedicated union volunteers, New Jersey sportsmen’s dollars are now stretching a little further.
Following the USA’s 1st Annual Tri-State Area Conservation Dinner in 2013, Tom Mattingley, a member of IBEW Local 351 and the Tri-State dinner committee, contacted the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife to determine how union volunteers could be of service.  Using $5,000 of the money raised at the dinner to purchase planked cedar and other construction materials, a group of union volunteers then built 50 pheasant transport boxes in a woodshop owned by Don Mullins, a retired member of Insulators Local 14.

Armed with table saws, planers and Mattingley’s best drafting sketches, the volunteers constructed and painted stackable boxes that fit into the bed of a truck. According to Mattingley, “they’re a work of art, like bird condominiums.”

“We had been accumulating boxes over the years, but it had been awhile since we had any new boxes due to lack of funding,” said Dave Golden, Chief of the New Jersey Bureau of Wildlife Management.  “So when the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance stepped in and offered to build the boxes, it was a big help.  Some of our boxes are up to 20-years-old and still in operation.”

(L-R) Mike Rocha, IUPAT DC 711 Apprentice Coordinator, and Steve Atkinson, a 3rd year apprentice.

(L-R) Mike Rocha, IUPAT DC 711 Apprentice Coordinator, and Steve Atkinson, a 3rd year apprentice.

After the success of the project in 2013, the USA’s 2nd Annual Tri-State Area Conservation Dinner committee decided to replicate it. Using $5,100 worth of building supplies purchased with 2014 dinner funds, Mullins and his 88-year-old father, Larry, built 52 pheasant and 10 quail transport boxes, which Ray MacDowell of UA Local 322 delivered to IUPAT DC 711, where they were painted by IUPAT DC 711 3rd year apprentices Steve Atkinson, Rocco DiSipio and Herminio Luciano.

According to Edward Flanagan, IUPAT DC 711 Apprenticeship Coordinator, the apprentices gain valuable experience by working on a variety of local outreach programs that, in turn, support the community.

“Federal grants can be applied to other things, but the pheasant program is paid for with hunter and angler license fees,” said Golden.  “So every dollar that is donated through the pheasant boxes saves license sales money, so those funds can be used for other things.”

“I think projects like this show what we’re all about,” Mullins said.  “We’re not just individuals.  We’re a brotherhood that works together to get things done.”

The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife stocked 63,000 ring-necked pheasants in 2014 and approximately 11,000 quail in wildlife management areas throughout the state.  The USA was happy to support the release efforts thanks to these Tri-State Area Conservation Dinner committee members and volunteers: Rob Walsh and Ken Cockerill (IUOE Local 542); Gerald Taggart, Edward Flanagan, Mike Rocha, Steve Atkinson, Rocco DiSipio, Herminio Luciano (IUPAT DC 711); Tom Mattingley, Dan Cosner and Ken Lowry, Jr. (IBEW Local 351); Roger Giberson and Domenic Gazzara (SMART Local 27); Ray MacDowell (UA Local 322); Mike Conry (IBEW Local 164); John Stahl III and Don Mullins (Insulators Local 14); and Larry Mullins.

“We need to get involved in conservation efforts because it’s our heritage, and we need to preserve our hunting privileges and lands,” Mattingley said.  “The state fish and wildlife needs not only financial help but they need ‘hands on tools,’ and we have the skills.”

See Photos from the 2013 Pheasant Box Build Project

USA’s Ohio State AFL-CIO Dinners Help Fund Black Fork Wetlands Environmental Studies Center

November 13, 2014 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

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Black Fork Wetlands Environmental Studies Center while still under construction.

Ashland University’s new 1,200-square-foot Environmental Studies Center at the Black Fork Wetlands in Ashland, Ohio, is now ready for students to research wetlands first-hand thanks to several major donors, including the AFL-CIO’s Crawford/Richland Central Labor Council with supporting funds from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and its Ohio State AFL-CIO Conservation Dinners.

Featuring an open classroom, a storage area, skylights and two composting toilets, the “green” Environmental Studies Center will assist Ashland University students as well as local students of all ages in studying the wetlands by serving as a staging area for them to receive instruction and equipment and a place to examine specimens.  Located halfway between Columbus and Cleveland, the 298-acre wetlands provide habitat for fish, wildlife and a variety of critical plants. Prior to classroom construction, the first phase of the Ashland University project saw the development of a parking area, walking trail and 400-foot boardwalk with an observation deck and bird-watching tower.

“The classroom building will be a unique educational facility that will further science education and the research of wetlands in the north central Ohio region,” according to Dr. Patricia Saunders, director of the environmental science program and associate professor of biology at Ashland University.

In order to raise the $136,000 needed to build the Black Fork Wetlands Environmental Studies Center, Ashland University reached out to Ron Davis, president of the AFL-CIO’s Crawford-Richland Central Labor Council.

“I took it to my council; they liked it,” said Davis.  “It’s one of a kind…there’s nothing like it in Northern Ohio.”

(L-R) Ashland University Vice President of Development Margaret Promfret, Crawford/Richland Central Labor Council President Ron Davis and Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk accept the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance check for $17,000 at the Ashland University Black Fork Wetlands Environmental Studies Center dedication ceremony on Oct. 30, 2014.

(L-R) Ashland University Vice President of Development Margaret Promfret, Crawford/Richland Central Labor Council President Ron Davis and Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk accept the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance check for $17,000 at the Ashland University Black Fork Wetlands Environmental Studies Center dedication ceremony on Oct. 30, 2014.

After taking on fundraising for the facility, the Crawford-Richland Central Labor Council reached out to labor contractors and organizations, including the Ohio AFL-CIO, which contributed $17,000 from funds raised at the USA’s Ohio State AFL-CIO Conservation Dinner in 2013 and 2014 and an additional pledge from the USA.

“With the proceeds we’ve raised thus far with our USA dinners, which are held in Columbus, we have been able to make a substantial contribution to the Black Fork Wetlands project,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga.  “The Ohio AFL-CIO is proud that we could be a part of this project and the learning experiences that will be shared on the grounds of Ashland University.  I personally want to thank the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for all they do, not only in Ohio, but across the country.”

“When union members put their mind to something, there is no stopping them,” said USA Executive Director Fred Myers.  “This new state-of-the-art facility is a perfect example.  Between the efforts of the Crawford-Richland Central Labor Council in raising funds for the facility, the Ohio AFL-CIO in hosting two successful USA Conservation Dinners, and the union workers and contractors that built the facility in three months, this project was truly a labor of love.”

18 IN Parks to Close Temporarily for Deer Reductions

November 4, 2014 in Conservation News, Hunting

As Seen in The Outdoor Wire on Nov. 4, 2014

deer_300Select Indiana state parks will close temporarily to allow for controlled deer reductions in the coming weeks.  The dates for the temporary closings are Nov. 17 and 18, and Dec. 1 and 2.

The state parks affected are Brown County, Chain O’Lakes, Charlestown, Clifty Falls, Fort Harrison, Harmonie, Indiana Dunes, Lincoln, McCormick’s Creek, Ouabache, Pokagon, Potato Creek, Prophetstown, Shakamak, Spring Mill, Summit Lake, Tippecanoe River and Whitewater Memorial.

These state parks will close to the general public the evening before each of the two efforts and reopen the morning after each two-day reduction.

Only individual hunters drawn last September and those hunters they listed on their applications may participate at Brown County, Chain O’Lakes, Charlestown, Clifty Falls, Harmonie, Lincoln, McCormick’s Creek, Ouabache, Pokagon, Potato Creek, Prophetstown, Shakamak, Summit Lake, Tippecanoe River and Whitewater Memorial. There will be no standby drawings at those parks.

For Fort Harrison (an archery hunt) and Indiana Dunes and Spring Mill (both are firearms hunts), a public standby drawing to fill spots left vacant will take place on property each morning of the reduction.

Indiana Dunes State Park will conduct daily standby drawings at 8 a.m. CST. Potential standby participants can apply on site between 7 and 7:45 a.m. CST but cannot enter the park before 7 a.m. CST.

Spring Mill and Fort Harrison will conduct daily standby drawings at 8:30 a.m. EST. Potential standby participants can apply onsite between 7:30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. EST but cannot enter the park before 7:30 a.m.

Eligibility for daily onsite standby drawings is limited to Indiana residents who are 18 years of age by Nov. 17, and have any valid license to take deer in Indiana. Indiana residents who possess an Indiana lifetime license to take deer are also eligible. Participants must wear a hunter orange hat or cap and vest, coat, jacket or coveralls at all times while on the property.

Applications can include up to three individuals. The number of participants drawn will be based on the number of unclaimed spots for each day; it is not a first-come, first-served process. The need for stand-in hunters tends to increase with each hunt day.

Questions about participating in the standby drawings should be directed to the property of interest.

DNR biologists evaluate which parks require a reduction each year based on habitat recovery and previous harvest rates at each park. The state parks are home to more than 32 state-endangered plants and numerous significant natural communities. The reductions help control browsing by deer to a level that helps maintain habitat throughout the state parks for all plants and animals.

Information on 2015 state park deer reductions, including online applications, will be available next summer at dnr.IN.gov/fishwild. The application deadline is usually the end of August.

Donation from Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and volunteerism of Proctorville, Ohio outdoor sportswoman support Ohio-based nonprofit that introduces special needs youth to joy of hunting

October 29, 2014 in Conservation News, General

by Laura Tingo

A donation by the Ohio AFL-CIO Conservation Dinner committee with funds raised from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Annual Ohio State Conservation Dinner held in Columbus, Ohio, and the dedicated volunteerism of Brittney Sowards, 19, of Proctorville, Ohio, is putting smiles on a lot more faces, in more places and more often for youth outdoor enthusiasts served by the Special Needs Youth Sportsmen, Inc.

The USA’s gift of more than $4500 will support the nonprofit’s mission to provide youth with special needs safe access and opportunity in the outdoor sporting world.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance gives us an opportunity to give back to those that support us – our members who enjoy the great outdoors and the enjoyment and relaxation it brings when the whole family is together, fishing and hunting and making memories with their children,” said Tim Burga, Ohio AFL-CIO President.

Brittney Sowards, 19 with one of her prize deer.

Brittney Sowards, 19 with one of her prize deer.

“Special Needs Youth Sportsmen is a strong example of providing safe access and hands-on experience to all youth, early on to foster their enjoyment of the outdoors and instill a lifelong commitment to preserving the great outdoors for future generations,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Sowards first learned about the Special Needs Youth sportsmen, Inc. at the age of 14, when a brochure circulated in her classroom inviting kids, like her, to hunt. On her second time out, Sowards, who live with Autism, harvested her very first deer. Since aging out of the program she has enjoyed for five years, Brittany returns to volunteer every chance she gets.

“I just keep going back,” said Sowards, who helps with things like setting up for the events, getting the kids outfitted and making lunches. “It’s a neat experience, I met a lot of new friends…I found a lot of people could relate to me,” she said. “We all finally fit in.”

This year marks the fifth year that the Ohio-based nonprofit has taken youth ages 6 – 18 on elaborate hunting trips with a host of volunteers and community supporters. Over the Oct. 18th weekend, kids had the chance to experience a European-style pheasant hunt. The organization’s founder, George McCalvin, said the USA’s donation will help expand programs and services for participants.

“(The donation) is a great shot in the arm for us,” said McCalvin. “It gives us the opportunity to do more with the kids…to get them in the outdoors.”

It was the USA Ohio State Conservation Dinner Committee, led by Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk, that made the decision about how to allocate proceeds raised by the more than 368 USA member and avid sportsmen and women through support and attendance at the dinner.

“Not only do we want to encourage young people to know about labor but to also get to experience something in the outdoor world,” said Mauk. “This organization provides resources and gives a young adult the chance to experience the outdoors in a safe way.”

For Sowards, the draw to return year after year is about her love for the great outdoors and meeting new friends.

“You get out and breathe the fresh air… enjoy the outdoors,” she said. “One year, one of the little kids came in with his dad and the trucks jumping up and down screaming that he got his first deer! We were all so excited for him.”

“What’s neat about this whole thing is that we never met and, now, we are friends and like family.”

To learn more about Special Needs Youth Sportsmen, Inc., visit their website at: www.specialneedsyouth.org.

USA Dinner Proceeds Benefit Ohio-Based Outdoor Sporting Program for Special Needs Youth

October 23, 2014 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

by Laura Tingo

Ohio whitetail hunt organized for youth with special needs in 2011.

Ohio whitetail hunt organized for youth with special needs in 2011.

A donation by the Ohio AFL-CIO Conservation Dinner committee with funds raised from the USA’s Annual Ohio State Conservation Dinner held in Columbus, Ohio, is putting smiles on a lot more faces, in more places and more often for youth outdoor enthusiasts served by the Special Needs Youth Sportsmen, Inc. The gift of more than $4,500 will support the nonprofit’s mission to provide youth with special needs safe access and opportunity in the outdoor sporting world.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance gives us an opportunity to give back to those that support us—our members who enjoy the great outdoors and the enjoyment and relaxation it brings when the whole family is together, fishing and hunting and making memories with their children,” said Tim Burga, Ohio AFL-CIO President.

“Special Needs Youth Sportsmen is a strong example of providing safe access and hands-on experience to all youth, early on, to foster their enjoyment and appreciation of the outdoors and instill a lifelong commitment to preserving the great outdoors for future generations,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

This year marks the fifth year that the Ohio-based nonprofit has taken youth ages 6 – 18 on elaborate hunting trips with a host of volunteers and community supporters. Over the Oct. 18th weekend, kids of every age had the chance to experience a European-style pheasant hunt. The organization’s founder, George McCalvin, said the USA’s donation will help expand programs and services for participants.

“(The donation) is a great shot in the arm for us,” said McCalvin.  “It gives us the opportunity to do more with the kids…to get them in the outdoors.”

It was the USA Ohio State Conservation Dinner Committee, led by Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk, that made the decision about how to allocate proceeds raised by the more than 368 USA members and avid sportsmen and women through support and attendance at the dinner.

“Not only do we want to encourage young people to know about labor but to also get to experience something in the outdoor world,” said Mauk. “This organization provides resources and gives a young adult the chance to experience the outdoors in a safe way.”

Titans Cheerleaders, Rachel Holder bring “flavor” to USA’s Ironworkers shoot

October 6, 2014 in Conservation News, Press Release

Nashville celebs bring local "flavor" to USA's Ironworkers shoot, celebration.

Nashville celebs bring local “flavor” to USA’s Ironworkers shoot, celebration.

Titans Cheerleaders and Curb Recording Artist Rachel Holder bring Nashville “flavor” to celebration of Ironworkers, retirees, U.S. Veterans at USA’s 1st Ironworkers International Sporting Clays Shoot.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, a non-profit, conservation organization based in Nashville, along with the Ironworkers International and Ironworkers Local 492, hosted a round of sporting clays and family picnic on Saturday, Sept. 20 at Nashville’s Tennessee Clay Target Complex. While serving as a fundraiser to support the USA and its conservation mission, the event also provided a great opportunity to recognize union members, retirees, U.S. Veterans and their families. More than 300 people came out to enjoy a day of family-fun activities and entertainment.

Highlights of the program included a full sporting clays tournament and special appearances by Titans Cheerleaders and Nashville’s own Curb Recording Artist Rachel Holder. Titans Cheerleaders signed autographs and posed for photos with fans of all ages. Rachel Holder and her band performed an energetic set of old and new hits, after Holder’s impressive display of busting clays with attendees on the shooting course. Darrell Roberts, Executive Director of Helmets to Hardhats, was on-hand to inform attendees about the organization’s mentoring, training programs and job placement services for veterans.

When scores were tallied, it was Ironworkers International Team B that took home top honors with the High Over All (HOA) score of 470 out of 500. The HOA Individual award went to Hugh Bennett. Amanda Pilcher earned the HOA Female award for the event.

“We appreciate the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s efforts to unite the union community through conservation, so we were happy to lend our support by hosting a fundraising event in Tennessee,” said Dick Ward, First General Vice President of Ironworkers International.

“This event was a true celebration of the union community and our veterans,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “It was planned with the local flavor of Nashville at the forefront, and we appreciate the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders and Rachel Holder for being a part of this important day of recognition for the Ironworkers and our veterans.”

In 2012, Ironworkers Local 492, IBEW Local 429 and Insulators Local 86, volunteered through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program conservation program to build the Tennessee Scholastic Shooting Complex. Union Sportsmen’s Alliance members and staff assisted with the building, installation and painting of the facility’s entrance gate, secured electrical supplies and volunteered their services for future projects in the construction of a scholastic youth shooting complex.

Also in 2013, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, along with volunteers from the Nashville Building & Construction Trades and Spann Brothers Lumber Co., volunteered their time and talents to build a new walking bridge in the heart of Montgomery Bell State Park to replace the one that was washed away by the 2010 floods.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

3rd Annual Union Sportsmen’s Alliance ‘Get Youth Outdoors Day’

September 19, 2014 in Conservation News, Press Release

Youth gain hands-on training in archery, trap, and rifle shooting at 3rd Annual Union Sportsmen’s Alliance `Get Youth Outdoors Day’ in Clear Lake, MN.

Mike Ganz, Vice President and Business Representative of Bricklayers Local 1 gives kids the chance to get up close and personal with pheasants as a part of his live upland bird dog demo.

Mike Ganz, Vice President and Business Representative of Bricklayers Local 1 gives kids the chance to get up close and personal with pheasants as a part of his live upland bird dog demo.

A record number of youth came out to experience what it’s like to shoot arrows, shotguns and rifles at the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 3rd Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day on Sunday, Sept. 14 at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays in Clear Lake, MN.

USA’s annual Get Youth Outdoors Day brings together union volunteers from the Roofers, Bricklayers and Central Minnesota Building Trades to teach participating kids firearm safety and coach them in trap shooting, rifle shooting and archery target shooting. This year, 50 children enjoyed hands-on introduction to the shooting sports by rotating between archery, rifle and shotgun stations. Prior to these activities, they received a lesson in basic firearm safety and had the chance to identify various waterfowl decoys and big game sheds.

Kinsey Robinson, International President of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers was on hand to help out and share his love for the outdoors with the kids.

“Get Youth Outdoors Day is a prime example of the USA’s efforts to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage by hands-on events that instill youth with a love for the great outdoors,” said Robinson. “The Roofers are so proud to be part of this event each year, to see it grow from 22 youth the first year to 50 this year and to witness the smiles on the kids’ faces when they break clay targets or watch their arrows fly straight to the bullseye.”

Mike Ganz, Vice President and Business Representative of Bricklayers Local 1 who was instrumental in launching the event, returns each year to volunteer as a youth mentor on the course. Ganz also brings along his hunting dog and pheasants for a live demonstration that gives kids the chance to see an upland bird dog get on point on a pheasant. Following the demo, he lets them touch the pheasants.

Kinsey Robinson, International President of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers and wife Mona were on hand to help out and share their love for the outdoors with the kids.

Kinsey Robinson, International President of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers and wife Mona were on hand to help out and share their love for the outdoors with the kids.

“We get them out into the outdoors…give them a little taste of different things,” said Ganz, who explained what keeps him coming back. “I had a repeat kid from last year who came up and asked if we had the pheasants again. Two kids showed up with a local newspaper photo of themselves because they wanted to show me they got a turkey. That was pretty cool.”

Evan Wood, of St. Cloud, who celebrated his 10th birthday at this year’s Get Youth Outdoors Day, claimed it was, ‘the best thing he has ever done.’

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Record number of youth receive shooting instruction at Get Youth Outdoors Day

September 18, 2014 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

A record number of youth came out to experience what it’s like to shoot arrows, shotguns and rifles at the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 3rd Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day on Sunday, Sept. 14 at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays in Clear Lake, MN.

USA’s annual Get Youth Outdoors Day brings together union volunteers from the Roofers, Bricklayers and Central Minnesota Building Trades to teach participating kids firearm safety and coach them in trap shooting, rifle shooting and archery target shooting. This year, 50 children enjoyed hands-on introduction to the shooting sports by rotating between archery, rifle and shotgun stations. Prior to these activities, they received a lesson in basic firearm safety and had the chance to identify various waterfowl decoys and big game sheds.

Kinsey (R) and Mona (L) Robinson coach youth at sporting clays.

Kinsey (R) and Mona (L) Robinson coach youth at sporting clays.

Kinsey Robinson, International President of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers was on hand to help out and share his love for the outdoors with the kids.

“Get Youth Outdoors Day is a prime example of the USA’s efforts to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage by hands-on events that instill youth with a love for the great outdoors,” said Robinson. “The Roofers are so proud to be part of this event each year, to see it grow from 22 youth the first year to 50 this year and to witness the smiles on the kids’ faces when they break clay targets or watch their arrows fly straight to the bullseye.”

Mike Ganz gives youth an up-close look at a pheasant.

Mike Ganz gives youth an up-close look at a pheasant.

Mike Ganz, Vice President and Business Representative of Bricklayers Local 1 who was instrumental in launching the event, returns each year to volunteer as a youth mentor on the course. Ganz also brings along his hunting dog and pheasants for a live demonstration that gives kids the chance to see an upland bird dog get on point on a pheasant. Following the demo, he lets them touch the pheasants.

“We get them out into the outdoors…give them a little taste of different things,” said Ganz, who explained what keeps him coming back. “I had a repeat kid from last year who came up and asked if we had the pheasants again. Two kids showed up with a local newspaper photo of themselves because they wanted to show me they got a turkey. That was pretty cool.”

Evan Wood, of St. Cloud, who celebrated his 10th birthday at this year’s Get Youth Outdoors Day, claimed it was, ‘the best thing he has ever done.’

Volunteers build kayak shed at Georgia’s Hard Labor Creek State Park

September 8, 2014 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union tradesmen volunteer expert skills to build kayak shed at Georgia’s Hard Labor Creek State Park

Hard-Labor-Creek_Kayak-shed-construction

Visitors to the recreational lake at Georgia’s Hard Labor Creek State Park will find a new kayak shed along its shoreline, thanks to the hands-on, volunteer support of union electricians and elevator constructors who put their talents to work with Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground program in August. The USA, a national, conservation-focused non-profit organization based in Nashville, created the program to bring together skilled union volunteers to help rebuild, renew and restore America’s parks so they will be here to enjoy for future generations.

For three Saturdays, about 25 dedicated union volunteers from Atlanta’s IBEW Local 613 and IUEC Local 32 turned out in high temperatures to make the idea of the new kayak shed – three years in discussion – a reality.

Phil Delestrez, Resource Manager of Hard Labor Creek State Park, said the new kayak shed is an asset for park staff and visitors who participate in the park’s kayak program, which offers educational, historical outings.

“Until now, the program has been cumbersome to run with mile and a half treks to and from the lake and loading and unloading of the kayaks occurring several times per week,” Delestrez said. “The park staff was awestruck by the fact that folks would come out and just do a project like this. The guys really went above and beyond.”

“The new kayak shed at Hard Labor Creek State Park is a perfect example of how union members give back to their communities outside the workplace,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “These men and women bring specialized skills to the table to get the job done right. Our Work Boots on the Ground program helps meet challenges our cherished parks face due to tight budgets and limited manpower.”

Hard-Labor-Creek_Completed-Kayak-Shed

Kevin Moody, Business Manager of IUEC Local 32 who served as project coordinator on behalf of USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program, even put in one extra day on the project to add finishing touches to the kayak’s roof.

“There were a lot of guys out there who knew what the project needed,” said Moody, of Locust Grove. “They all worked well together and really seemed to enjoy it and have a lot of fun out there.”

Moody added that he brought his teenage son, Andrew, along to volunteer and learn more about the skilled trades.

“I wanted him to see what the jobs are, and it was an eye-opener for him,” said Moody. “It was good for him. After working out there all day, he finally figured out he wants to be on the engineering side.”

Also providing leadership on the project were Gene O’Kelley, Business Manager of IBEW Local 613, who arranged the donation of piling equipment, and Ken Wallace, a member of Jacksonville, Florida’s IBEW 177, who made the trip to volunteer with fellow union brothers on project.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

For information about park programs at Georgia State Parks, visit: www.GaStateParks.org

Interior Department and USA Sign Agreement to Restore Public Lands

August 4, 2014 in Conservation News

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, USA Executive Director & CEO Fred Myers and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka signed a Memorandum of Understanding on July 29, 2014

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, USA Executive Director & CEO Fred Myers and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka signed a Memorandum of Understanding on July 29, 2014

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance signed a Memorandum of Understanding on July 29, 2014, stating their collective commitment to rebuild, renew and restore our country’s national parks, national wildlife refuges and other public lands alongside youth and veteran conservation corps.

The agreement, signed at the USA’s Annual Conservation Gala in the nation’s capital, pairs the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program with shovel-ready projects on public lands.

WATCH DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR VIDEO ABOUT THE PARTNERSHIP

“This agreement with the AFL-CIO and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is really a win-win,” said Secretary Jewell. “Not only will our nation’s parks and public lands benefit from the expert labor, but many young people will have an opportunity to work alongside the union volunteers, learning about the great outdoors and gaining important trade skills. I applaud the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for their work to continue to strengthen the nation through volunteer efforts that will make a big difference in conservation projects across the country.”

The MOU outlines a mutual commitment to the cooperative Work Boots on the Ground program among the Department of the Interior and its three land-managing bureaus – the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management— and the AFL-CIO, acting through the USA.

Top L-R: Fred Myers (USA), Secretary Jewell, Richard Trumka (AFL-IO). Bottom L-R: Frank Christensen (IUEC), Bill Creeden (Boilermakers), Tom Buffenbarger (IAMAW), Kinsey Robinson (Roofers), Gerard Scarano (BAC), Dan Penski (IUPAT)

Top L-R: Fred Myers (USA), Secretary Jewell, Richard Trumka (AFL-CIO). Bottom L-R: Frank Christensen (IUEC), Bill Creeden (Boilermakers), Tom Buffenbarger (IAMAW), Kinsey Robinson (Roofers), Gerard Scarano (BAC), Dan Penski (IUPAT)

“America’s workers are committed to doing our part to save our nation’s parks and restore our public lands,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The USA was established to unite the union community for conservation under a single banner, to protect our most precious and beautiful lands, waters and wild spaces.”

There are potential Work Boots on the Ground projects identified as `shovel-ready’ and in discussion in Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Minnesota, Maryland, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.

“When our union members show up with their tool belts on, they have the skills and training to get the job done,” said Fred Myers, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Executive Director and CEO. “To every conservation project they take on, they bring an unmatched work-ethic, superior trade skills and a desire to give back to their community.”

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance created the all-volunteer “Work Boots on the Ground” program in 2010 to provide a framework to recruit and coordinate members of the labor union community to volunteer their expert trade skills for conservation projects. In 2013, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance announced the launch of its park program. Since then, park projects have been completed in several states, saving agencies thousands of dollars. The park projects are in addition to many other “Work Boots on the Ground” projects around the country, including Get Youth Outdoors Day and Take Kids Fishing Day events in three cities.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance reports there are more than 7 million union members who recreate regularly in the outdoors, making them one of the nation’s largest single constituencies of outdoor users.

The signed agreement complements the Interior Department’s youth initiative to inspire millions of veterans and young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. The Memorandum of Understanding emphasizes that, when possible, the AFL-CIO and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance will work collaboratively with youth and veteran corps in order to share experience and expertise.

Register the kids for the 3rd Annual Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Get Youth Outdoors Day

July 21, 2014 in Conservation News, General

Register the kids for the 3rd Annual Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Get Youth Outdoors Day

Register the kids for the 3rd Annual Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Get Youth Outdoors Day

A fun day of hands-on archery and firearm instruction – Free, open to first 45 kids

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), a Nashville-based non-profit, conservation organization, invites children ages 9 -17 to join the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and its valued volunteers for its 3rd Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day. The event is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Sept. 14 from 9 a.m. – noon at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays, 13481 County Road #3 SE, Clear Lake, Minnesota.

Get Youth Outdoors Day, an initiative of USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program that brings together union members from around the country to volunteer for conservation, is free and open to the public, but limited to the first 45 kids. Pre-registration is required by the Aug. 5 deadline.

To register: email Kate Cywinski at katec@unionsportsmen.org, or 615.332.4900.

Union volunteers from the Roofers, Bricklayers and Central Minnesota Building Trades will be on-hand to mentor and coach participating kids with introductions to trap shooting, rifle shooting and archery target shooting.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is committed to preserving North America’s outdoor heritage for the next generations and the USA’s annual Get Youth Outdoors Day is a great opportunity to introduce young boys and girls to the shooting sports and the outdoors,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Union volunteers team up to roof a picnic pavilion and repair a bridge at Wisconsin’s Horicon Marsh

July 7, 2014 in Conservation News, General, Work Boots On The Ground

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Visitors to Horicon Marsh in Mayville, Wisconsin will have new scenery to enjoy with the completion of the latest Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Work Boots on the Ground, all-volunteer project that brings together union members from all over the country for conservation.

Union volunteers, all members of the South Central Wisconsin and Northeast Building and Construction Trades councils, donated their time and expert trade skills to put a roof on a picnic pavilion and refurbish bridge decking in need of repair on June 13. Throughout the day, workers installed roof tresses and shingles and repaired and replaced portions of a bridge deck that were weathered and in need of refurbishing.

A picnic pavilion at Horicon Marsh, has a new roof thanks to the expert trade skills of union volunteers who participated in the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s `Work Boots on the Ground,’ conservation initiative in Wisconsin.

A picnic pavilion at Horicon Marsh, has a new roof thanks to the expert trade skills of union volunteers who participated in the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s `Work Boots on the Ground,’ conservation initiative in Wisconsin.

Dave Branson, Executive Director of the South Central Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council, headed up the project. “It’s nice to get out in the community and do something for the marsh out there that people can use and enjoy,” Branson said.

Union volunteers included members of Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 599, Sheet Metal Workers Local 18, Plumbers Local 75, Bricklayers Local 13, Electrical Workers 159 and 494 and the South Central Federation of Labor. Wisconsin resident Tim Bindl, who formerly coordinated the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program, lent some additional elbow grease to the project.

“Union volunteers bring expert skills and sincere dedication to our Work Boots on the Ground projects all over the country,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “They bring a strong work-ethic to the job in small towns and big cities, making a huge impact in our daily lives. They want to give back in their local communities, and being part of our conservation initiatives gives them a way to do that.”

Union volunteers spent the day building a roof on a picnic pavilion, to help shelter visitors, along The Egret Trail at Horicon Marsh, in Mayville, Wisconsin.

Union volunteers spent the day building a roof on a picnic pavilion, to help shelter visitors, along The Egret Trail at Horicon Marsh, in Mayville, Wisconsin.

Erin Railsback, Visitor Services Manager at Horicon Marsh, said The Egret Trail, where the work took place, is the most popular site on the refuge.

“It’s fantastic that this group was able to donate the time to help enhance the facilities for our visitors,” Railsback said. “Because of their volunteerism and commitment to conservation and education, thousands of visitors will be able to take advantage of the shelter…and continue to enjoy access to the marsh itself.”

Union Volunteers team up to put roof on picnic pavilion, repair bridge decking at Horicon Marsh

June 26, 2014 in Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union volunteers spent the day building a roof on a picnic pavilion, to help shelter visitors, along The Egret Trail at Horicon Marsh, in Mayville, Wisconsin.

Union volunteers spent the day building a roof on a picnic pavilion, to help shelter visitors, along The Egret Trail at Horicon Marsh, in Mayville, Wisconsin.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), is pleased to announce the completion of its newest Work Boots on the Ground all-volunteer conservation initiative at Horicon Marsh, in Mayville, Wisconsin. Union volunteers, all members of the South Central Wisconsin and Northeast Building and Construction Trades councils, donated their time and expert trade skills to put a roof on a picnic pavilion and repair bridge decking on June 13. Throughout the day, workers installed roof tresses and shingles and repaired and replaced portions of a bridge deck, weathered and in need of refurbishing. The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program brings together union members from around the country to volunteer for conservation.

Dave Branson, Executive Director of the South Central Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council, headed up the project. “It’s nice to get out in the community and do something for the marsh out there that people can use and enjoy,” Branson said.

Union volunteers included members of Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 599, Sheet Metal Workers Local 18, Plumbers Local 75, Bricklayers Local 13, Electrical Workers 159 and 494 and the South Central Federation of Labor. Wisconsin resident Tim Bindl, who formerly coordinated the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program, lent some additional elbow grease to the project.

A picnic pavilion at Horicon Marsh, has a new roof thanks to the expert trade skills of union volunteers who participated in the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s `Work Boots on the Ground,’ conservation initiative in Wisconsin.

A picnic pavilion at Horicon Marsh, has a new roof thanks to the expert trade skills of union volunteers who participated in the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s `Work Boots on the Ground,’ conservation initiative in Wisconsin.

“Union volunteers bring expert skills and sincere dedication to our Work Boots on the Ground projects all over the country,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “They bring a strong work-ethic to the job in small towns and big cities, making a huge impact in our daily lives. They want to give back in their local communities and being part of our conservation initiatives gives them a way to do that.”

Erin Railsback, Visitor Services Manager at Horicon Marsh, said The Egret Trail, where the work took place, is the most popular site on the refuge.

“It’s fantastic that this group was able to donate the time to help enhance the facilities for our visitors,” Railsback said. “Because of their volunteerism and commitment to conservation and education, thousands of visitors will be able to take advantage of the shelter…and continue to enjoy access to the marsh itself.”

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s two annual ‘Take Kids Fishing Day’ events in Wisconsin teach kids the joy of fishing and invite families to enjoy public access to the outdoors

June 23, 2014 in Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Adults and kids enjoyed fishing and public access to the outdoors together, fishing in Eau Claire and La Crosse, WI, thanks to union volunteers who supported the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground ‘Take Kids Fishing Days’ events.

Adults and kids enjoyed fishing and public access to the outdoors together, fishing in Eau Claire and La Crosse, WI, thanks to union volunteers who supported the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground ‘Take Kids Fishing Days’ events.

Two Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Work Boots on the Ground ‘Take Kids Fishing Day’ events over the June 7-8 weekend in La Crosse and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, gave nearly 170 youth the chance to enjoy the thrill of baiting hooks, eating a picnic lunch, taking home prize giveaways – and reeling in some nice fish! For many of the kids who came out to fish, it was their first time holding a fishing pole or touching a fish.

Both events were free and open to the public thanks to the generous volunteerism, sponsorship and support of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, which hosted the Eau Claire event, and the Western Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council and Greater West Central Area Labor Council, who hosted the La Crosse event.

Volunteering this year at Carson Park in Eau Claire and Pettibone Lagoon in La Crosse were members of USW Local 449, OPEIU Locals 272, 277 and 599, LIUNA Locals 140 and 268, IAM Locals 21 and 1115 and District Lodge 66, AFTW Local 3605, UA Local 434, AFSCME Locals 1914, 1449, 2484 and 2748, BLET Local 13, IBEW Local 14, CWA Local 4640, OPCMIA Local 599, and BCT&GM Local 22.

“Engaging youth in the outdoors is one of the key reasons we created Work Boots on the Ground…Involving them early in conservation is key to passing on our outdoor heritage,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “These free events, staffed entirely by volunteers from the labor community, are a prime example of the value of introducing youth and their families to a healthy, outdoor pastime and the value of union members in our communities.”

Local unions and companies also generously provided funds and supplies for these events, and additional funding was provided by a private donor from the Jesse A. Skrove Memorial Fund to honor Jesse, an avid fisherman who had appreciated the event’s purpose and who recently passed away. At the events, each youth angler was given a ticket for a chance to win a prize, and every ticket was a winner. Kids were awarded giveaways like tackle boxes and fishing poles.

Kid_Fish_EauClaire_WI_2014

“Those that won fishing poles, of course, wanted to use them, so we had volunteers busy rigging them up,” said Terry Hayden, Eau Claire event organizer, President of the Western Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council and Business Manager of UA Local 434. “Being connected with nature as a youth helps build a healthy respect for the world we live in.”

Because the events were planned to take place during Wisconsin’s Free Fishing Weekend, adults who did not hold fishing licenses had the opportunity to fish along with the kids.

Bill Brockmiller, President of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, headed up the family fun in La Crosse. “Not only do kids love to fish, but it’s satisfying for grown-ups to watch a kid who’s all smiles while catching a fish…and there’s no better time than now to get a kid hooked on fishing.”

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

USA’s two annual ‘Take Kids Fishing Day’ events in Wisconsin teach kids the joy of fishing and invite families to enjoy outdoor public access

June 19, 2014 in Articles, Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

by Laura Tingo

Dean Scanlon helps a young girl fish for the first time.

Dean Scanlon helps one little girl fish for the first time – and she catches one!

Two educational Work Boots on the Ground projects the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) looks forward to each year are its ‘Take Kids Fishing Day’ events held in La Crosse and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. This year, over the June 7 – 8 weekend, nearly 170 youth had the chance to enjoy the thrill of baiting hooks, eating a picnic lunch, taking home prize giveaways – and reeling in some nice fish!

For many of the kids who came out to fish, it was their first time holding a fishing pole or touching a fish. Both events were free and open to the public. All this is thanks to the generous volunteerism, sponsorship and support of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, which hosted the La Crosse event, and the Western Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council and Greater West Central Area Labor Council, who hosted the Eau Claire event.

Volunteering this year at Carson Park in Eau Claire and Pettibone Lagoon in La Crosse were members of USW Local 449, OPEIU Locals 272, 277 and 599, LIUNA Locals 140 and 268, IAM Locals 21 and 1115 and District Lodge 66, AFTW Local 3605, UA Local 434, AFSCME Locals 1914, 1449, 2484 and 2748, BLET Local 13, IBEW Local 14, CWA Local 4640, OPCMIA Local 599 and BCT&GM Local 22.

Local unions and companies also generously provided funds and supplies for these events, and additional funding was provided by a private donor from the Jesse A. Skrove Memorial Fund to honor Jesse, an avid fisherman who had appreciated the event’s purpose and who recently passed away.

“Engaging youth in the outdoors is one of the key reasons we created Work Boots on the Ground. Involving them early in conservation is key to passing on our outdoor heritage,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “These free events, staffed entirely by volunteers from the labor community, are a prime example of the value of introducing youth and their families to a healthy, outdoor pastime.”

One youth shows off his nice catch in Eau Claire.

One youth shows off his nice catch in Eau Claire.

At each event, every youth angler was given a ticket for a chance to win a prize, and every ticket was a winner. Terry Hayden, Eau Claire event organizer, President of the Western Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council and Business Manager of UA Local 434, said kids were awarded giveaways such as tackle boxes and fishing poles.

“Those that won fishing poles, of course, wanted to use them, so we had volunteers busy rigging them up,” said Hayden. “Being connected with nature as a youth helps build a healthy respect for the world we live in.”

Because the events were planned to take place during Wisconsin’s Free Fishing Weekend, adults who did not hold fishing licenses had the opportunity to fish along with the kids.

Bill Brockmiller, President of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, headed up the family fun in La Crosse. “Not only do kids love to fish, but it’s satisfying for grown-ups to watch a kid who’s all smiles while catching a fish…and there’s no better time than now to get a kid hooked on fishing.”

Union volunteers build roof for archery range at Everglades Youth Conservation Camp

May 29, 2014 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

A project of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program.

The idea of putting a permanent roof on the youth archery range at the J.W Corbett Wildlife Management Area’s Everglades Youth Conservation Camp in West Palm Beach, Florida has come to fruition thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and its Work Boots on the Ground program that mobilizes skilled union members for conservation.

A new, permanent roof, built by union volunteers provides shelter at the archery range for kids at J.W Corbett Wildlife Management Area’s Everglades Youth Conservation Camp.

A new, permanent roof, built by union volunteers provides shelter at the archery range for kids at J.W Corbett Wildlife Management Area’s Everglades Youth Conservation Camp.

Members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 32 and Electrical Workers Local 359 showcased the program in full force as they utilized their trade skills to cover the 84-foot archery range. Side by side, utilizing tools, plywood, metal tin, airguns and compressors, they worked throughout the weekend, May 3-4, to finish the job in record time and expert fashion.

According to Lynne Hawk, Regional Hunter Safety Coordinator with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the archery range provides year-round hunter safety courses for children and adults, as well as school and community groups.

Hawk facilitated the project with the leadership of the Work Boots on the Ground volunteer project leader Rick Pazos, a training director and member of SMART Local 32. “Rick did an excellent job. This project wouldn’t have gotten done if it weren’t for him. The guys (all) worked really hard…I am so thankful for all of them.”

“The archery range is used by kids every day during the facility’s summer camp,” added Hawk, “…We now have a new roof on the archery range that should last for many, many years to come.”

Union members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 32 and Electrical Workers Local 359 utilized their expert trade skills to cover the 84-foot archery range.

Union members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 32 and Electrical Workers Local 359 utilized their expert trade skills to cover the 84-foot archery range.

Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, said the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program was created to form collaborations all over the country on behalf of conservation, to drive projects faced with narrowing budgets, staffing and materials challenges.

“The people who volunteer with us to identify projects, raise money to support them and show up in numbers to provide the hands-on labor all have a commitment to conservation and their communities,” Myers said. “They want to give back and find that our Work Boots on the Ground collaborations provide a vehicle to get involved and make a difference for future generations.”

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Volunteers team up to refurbish fishing pier at Sheldon Lake State Park

May 21, 2014 in Adopt A Park, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Workers from local community and union trades in the Houston area lend expert skills, time, supplies.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), a Nashville-based non-profit, conservation organization, is pleased to announce the completion of its latest Work Boots on the Ground project that brought together volunteers to refurbish a fishing pier at Sheldon Lake State Park, in Houston, Texas.

On Saturday, May 3, about 30 skilled workers from the Houston-area union trades along with members of the community, volunteered their time and talents to replace floor boards and hand rails and to make needed repairs to the pier.

Members of Ironworkers Local 84, IUEC Local 31, IBEW Local 716, IBEW Local 66 and UA 62 all came out, contributing to the job well-done. The project was led by Ed Vargocko, Business Manager of Ironworkers Local 84 in Houston.

Skilled workers from the Houston-area union trades and members of the community, volunteered their time and talents to replace floor boards and hand rails and to make needed repairs to a fishing pier at Houston's Sheldon Lake State Park.

Skilled workers from the Houston-area union trades and members of the community, volunteered their time and talents to replace floor boards and hand rails and to make needed repairs to a fishing pier at Houston’s Sheldon Lake State Park.

“If we don’t give back to our community, who will?” said Vargocko of Rosenberg, Texas. “I like the idea of a state park so close to Houston, so that many people who would not regularly get a chance to be outdoors and fish have a safe pier to fish off of.”

Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, said the organization created Adopt-A-Park as a branch of Work Boots on the Ground to address the issues of budget challenges and a backlog of repair and maintenance projects facing America’s parks.

“American’s more than 7,000 state parks are an intrinsic part of our country’s culture and legacy,” said Myers. “All over the country, we are forming committees, identifying needs, raising money and taking on projects to ensure future generations can enjoy the outdoor opportunities that we enjoy today.”

Kelley Morris, Park Superintendent of Sheldon Lake State Park, said the park, just 20 miles north of downtown Houston, is available to the public, free of charge. “It is exciting to have the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance dedicate their time and give back to the community so others have a chance to experience and appreciate the angling and wildlife viewing opportunities that the reservoir provides.”

About USA’s Work Boots on the Ground: USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program is a volunteer initiative that mobilizes skilled labor union volunteers to tackle hands-on conservation projects.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Volunteers rebuild footbridge at Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art in Millersburg, PA

May 14, 2014 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

A project of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s ‘Work Boots on the Ground’ conservation program

A dedicated group of volunteers from the Central Pennsylvania Building Trades Council and the Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art’s Lands and Trails Committee celebrated the opening of a new footbridge this week, thanks to the completion of a conservation project spearheaded by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) ‘Work Boots on the Ground” program. The project, involved the hands-on work of about 12 volunteers over two consecutive weekends in April, to tear out the existing, temporary, all-wood bridge and to reconstruct it as a permanent structure, complete with new hand rails and gravel.

Union workers and members of the community volunteered expert skills, time and talents to rebuild a walking bridge at Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art.

Union workers and members of the community volunteered expert skills, time and talents to rebuild a walking bridge at Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art.

The USA’s ‘Work Boots on the Ground’ program, a volunteer initiative that mobilizes skilled labor union volunteers for conservation projects, was tapped by long-time USA member and Ned Smith Board of Trustees Member Matt Roberts. When he learned about the Center’s need to replace its older footbridge in disrepair, Roberts brought the idea for a ‘Work Boots’ project to the attention of the Central Pennsylvania Building Trades Council, and they agreed it would be a great fit.

“I felt this was a perfect situation to bring it all together,” said Roberts, noting the weather was the only small challenge to the volunteer crews out on the job to complete the project. “We had rain from lunch on,” he said, “but the guys wouldn’t give in to Mother Nature’s fury.”

Dedicated crews made up of union sheet metal workers, steel workers and carpenters, along with community volunteers from the Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art worked to complete the bridge over a two-day period, despite the weather.

Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, said that speaks to the spirit of the outdoorsmen and women who enjoy membership in the USA, volunteering their time and talents to support conservation projects.

A new walking bridge is enjoyed by visiting patrons at the Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art thanks to the USA's 'Work Boots on the Ground' conservation program.

A new walking bridge is enjoyed by visiting patrons at the Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art thanks to the USA’s ‘Work Boots on the Ground’ conservation program.

“There’s no group of people with more skills and know-how than union members to help take on today’s conservation challenges,” said Myers, who founded the non-profit organization seven years ago. “All over the country, we are forming committees, identifying needs, raising money and taking on projects to ensure future generations can enjoy the outdoor opportunities that we enjoy today.”

Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art is home to 12-miles of hiking trails and offers educational value for the thousands of students, families, hikers, anglers and hunters who visit the Center’s 500-plus acres each year. The Center’s Executive Director, Stephen Quigley, is grateful for the partnership between the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and the Center, in particular, its joint commitment to educating youth.

“The union contractors and partners involved in this project have personal lives as sportsmen themselves, enjoying the outdoors…and know that the youth today are not as connected to the environment as a generation ago,” said Quigley. “While the team worked well together and had fun doing the project, they understand that there is a significant purpose in using these projects as a catalyst for educating our youth about the environment and conservation of our natural resources.”


About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

For more information on the Ned Smith Center’s lands, galleries and education programming, please visit www.nedsmithcenter.org.

Union hands and community families volunteer to restore Bolsa Chica wetlands

May 13, 2014 in Conservation News, General, Work Boots On The Ground

A community-wide conservation effort to help restore the wildlife and recreational coastal wetlands of Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve in Huntington Beach, California, made big strides this month with a generous display of commitment by more than 100 volunteers who worked together on May 4 to support another Union Sportsmen Alliance Work Boots on the Ground project.

Volunteer work crews, made up of skilled union trade workers and both adults and youth from the community, joined together to work on a one-mile stretch of trail, measuring 5-feet wide. Some conducted trail maintenance by pulling weeds to remove invasive species, while others repaired wood and metal fencing and removed graffiti.

All the hard work was to refurbish Bolsa Chica’s more than 500 acres of wildlife habitat, a known source of food and rest for hundreds of ducks and other migratory birds.

Union volunteers worked alongside community adults and youth to refurbish wetlands at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve.

Union volunteers worked alongside community adults and youth to refurbish wetlands at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve.

USA members Rene Thorn and daughter Jodi Thorn, supporters of Bolsa Chica wetlands conservation efforts, invited the collaboration between the Bolsa Chica Land Trust and USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program in 2012. Before the day’s efforts had wrapped, a third “Work Boots” project to benefit Bolsa Chica was already in the works.

“It’s great to see a project that brings a community together,” said Rene, a member of UA Local 250, from Huntington Beach. “It shows the community that organized laborers and their families care about the community where they live and work. Work Boots on the Ground is a great way to show who we are and that we care about conservation and our communities.”

In addition to ramping up community volunteers for the project, Rene called on some union labor friends who would bring expert trade skills to the job. Brent Beasley, a USA member and Business Manager with RWAW Local 220, from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, stepped up to lead the charge as project coordinator.

“It’s good to give back,” said Brent, who brought in a host of expertly-skilled tradesmen and women made up of operating engineers, painters, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, roofers, brick masons and sheet metal workers, to name a few.

USA "Work Boots on the Ground" volunteers in Southern California, pulled weeds to remove invasive species, repaired wood and metal fencing and removed graffiti.

USA “Work Boots on the Ground” volunteers in Southern California, pulled weeds to remove invasive species, repaired wood and metal fencing and removed graffiti.

“Everybody was working together, brainstorming,” he said of the experts who turned out to lend diverse talents. “We work efficiently, quicker and do more of it.”

Brent also noted the positive display of community adult role models at work alongside volunteer youth who came out with their families. “Kids were pulling weeds…while ironworkers were doing rust remediation,” he said. “It’s good to see the younger (generation) understanding what it means to work with their community.”

As an added highlight of USA’s “Work Boots” collaborative, Field & Stream helped to rally and showcase the volunteers as part of the national outdoor magazine’s “Hero for a Day” program. Camera crews captured the volunteers, calling them, “heroes of conservation” in a segment scheduled to broadcast on fieldandstream.com as a part of its 10-video series.

Volunteers donate skills to restore wildlife habitat and trails at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve

May 8, 2014 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Project spearheaded by Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s conservation-focused “Work Boots on the Ground” program

All-volunteer work crews, made up of skilled union trade workers and both adults and youth from the community, refurbished a trail at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve.

All-volunteer work crews, made up of skilled union trade workers and both adults and youth from the community, refurbished a trail at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve.

A community-wide conservation effort to help restore the wildlife and recreational coastal wetlands of Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve in Huntington Beach, California, made big strides this month with a generous display of commitment by more than 100 volunteers who came out on Sunday, May 4 to support another Union Sportsmen Alliance Work Boots on the Ground project.

All-volunteer work crews, made up of skilled union trade workers and both adults and youths from the community, joined together to work on a one-mile stretch of trail, measuring 5-feet wide. Some conducted trail maintenance by pulling weeds to remove invasive species, while others repaired wood and metal fencing and removed graffiti.

All the hard work was to refurbish Bolsa Chica’s more than 500 acres of wildlife habitat, a known source of food and rest for hundreds of ducks and other migratory birds.

Community volunteers and members of expert union trades locals worked together to remove invasive species, remove graffiti and repair wood and metal fencing.

Community volunteers and members of expert union trades locals worked together to remove invasive species, remove graffiti and repair wood and metal fencing.

USA members Rene Thorn and daughter Jodi Thorn, supporters of Bolsa Chica wetlands conservation efforts, invited the collaboration between the Bolsa Chica Land Trust and USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program in 2012. Before the day’s efforts had wrapped, a third “Work Boots” project to benefit Bolsa Chica was already in the works.

“It’s great to see a project that brings a community together,” said Rene, a member of UA Local 250, from Huntington Beach. “It shows the community that organized laborers and their families care about the community where they live and work. Work Boots on the Ground is a great way to show who we are and that we care about conservation and our communities.”

In addition to ramping up community volunteers for the project, Rene called on some union labor friends who would bring expert trade skills to the job. Brent Beasley, a USA member and Business Manager with RWAW Local 220, from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, stepped up to lead the charge as project coordinator.
“It’s good to give back,” said Brent, who brought in a host of expertly-skilled tradesmen and women made up collectively of operating engineers, painters, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, roofers, brick masons and sheet metal workers, to name a few.

Youth volunteers worked tirelessly along the trail at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve.

Youth volunteers worked tirelessly along the trail at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve.

“Everybody was working together, brainstorming,” he said of the experts who turned out to lend diverse talents. “We work efficiently, quicker and do more of it.”

Brent also noted the positive display of community adult role models at work alongside volunteer youth who came out with their families. “Kids were pulling weeds…while ironworkers were doing rust remediation,” he said. “It’s good to see the younger (generation) understanding what it means to work with their community.”

As an added highlight of USA’s “Work Boots” collaborative, Field & Stream helped to rally and showcase the volunteers as part of the national outdoor magazine’s “Hero for a Day” program. Camera crews captured the volunteers, calling them, “heroes of conservation” in a segment scheduled to broadcast on fieldandstream.com as a part of its 10-video series

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Union metal trades workers volunteer expert skills to restore views at Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon

April 4, 2014 in Adopt A Park, Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

A cleared and restored hiking trail at Providence Canyon State Park – known to locals as Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon in southwest Georgia – is the result of hands-on, volunteer support from the Columbus Metal Trades Council. Workers removed fallen trees, cut dead limbs overhead and refreshed trail markers in support of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Adopt-A-Park program, which brings together skilled union volunteers to help renew, rebuild and restore America’s parks, so they will be here to enjoy for future generations.

Workers from Columbus Metal Trades Council removed fallen trees, cut dead limbs overhead and refreshed trail markers at Providence Canyon State Park.

Workers from Columbus Metal Trades Council removed fallen trees, cut dead limbs overhead and refreshed trail markers at Providence Canyon State Park.

A hiking trail with scenic views of a 550 ft. canyon is the key draw to Providence Canyon State Park, but until recently, it was dotted with downed trees and limbs and severely overgrown with vegetation, which extended up to 15 feet beyond the fence that runs along the canyon rim. As Park Manager Tracy Yearta was deciding how to address the trail, he got a call from Dave Hall, Recording Secretary for the Columbus Metal Trades Council (CMTC).

“It was a very pleasant surprise to get that call,” said Yearta, who has managed both Providence Canyon State Park and Florence Marina since the parks were restructured a few years back. “It got me rejuvenated because we were trying to form a game plan to tackle a section of park we felt needed the most attention, knowing we didn’t have the manpower to do the whole thing.”

Located in Fort Benning, GA, the CMTC is an umbrella group of six unions including IBEW Local 613, IUOE Local 926, LiUNA Local 515, UA Local 52, IAMAW Local 2699 and SMART Local 85. Its leadership learned about USA’s Adopt-A-Park at a union convention, and it sparked their interest.

After a few discussions with USA’s conservation project coordinator, Hall, nominated to organize the project, contacted Yearta and laid plans for volunteers to clean up the 7-mile trail beginning at the park entrance.

On Feb. 8, Hall, CMTC President Mike Culpepper and members of each CMTC union along with Pablo Diaz, the human resources manager of CMTC’s main contractor Tiya Management, and his son met up with park staff equipped with chainsaws and determination.

A hiking trail with scenic views of a 550 ft. canyon in Providence Canyon State Park is cleared and refurbished, thanks to the volunteer efforts of tradesmen and women from the Columbus Metal Trades Council.

A hiking trail with scenic views of a 550 ft. canyon in Providence Canyon State Park is cleared and refurbished, thanks to the volunteer efforts of tradesmen and women from the Columbus Metal Trades Council.

“Seven miles is a lengthy area to clear, and when we ran into the other team at the end of the day, you could see the light in everyone’s eyes,” said Hall. “It was one of the most fulfilling events I have ever been a part of! Everyone…had a sense of pride knowing the work we were doing would have a lasting impression on the park staff and our community.”

Following the success of the project, the CMTC has already had follow up discussions with Yearta about more joint projects like improvements to dock and cabin facilities at Florence Marina.

“I just can’t say enough how much I appreciate those guys taking their personal time to come out and help. … It’s really important to the visitors and park staff,” Yearta said. “We basically have one team taking care of two parks, so groups like the Columbus Metal Trades Council are a tremendous asset to the park system.”

“The USA’s success at Providence Canyon State Park is a perfect example of how union members give back to their communities outside the workplace,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “These men and women bring specialized skills to the table to get the job done right. Our Adopt-A-Park program helps meet challenges our cherished parks face due to tight budgets and limited manpower.”

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Dedication at Montgomery Bell State Park recognizes volunteers who donated supplies, expert trade skills to rebuild a bridge washed away by 2010 floods

April 3, 2014 in Adopt A Park, Articles, Conservation News, General

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), a Nashville-based non-profit, conservation organization, held a dedication ceremony on Saturday, March 29, at Montgomery Bell State Park to recognize volunteers who rebuilt a walking bridge in the heart of the park, formerly washed away by the 2010 floods. The first project to be completed as part of the USA’s new Adopt-A-Park program, the bridge reconstruction was supported by the Nashville Building and Construction Trades, Spann Brothers Lumber Co., and Montgomery Bell State Park staff. All lumber used to build the bridge is reclaimed wood from fallen trees in the park.

Tradesmen and women from the Nashville Building and Construction Trades who volunteered their time and talents to rebuild a bridge in the heart of Montgomery Bell State Park stand beside a permanent sign installed to recognize their contribution.

Tradesmen and women from the Nashville Building and Construction Trades who volunteered their time and talents to rebuild a bridge in the heart of Montgomery Bell State Park stand beside a permanent sign installed to recognize their contribution.

Despite rain and chilly temperatures, more than 50 friends, colleagues and guests gathered on Saturday morning at the Woodhaven Picnic Pavilion for refreshments, music and a short program, led by USA Executive Director and CEO Fred Myers. The program kicked off with the Presentation of Colors by Boy Scouts Troop #85, who led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance and recited a poem that celebrated the unified appreciation of the outdoors. Myers recognized and thanked everyone who collaborated to make the bridge re-build a reality and discussed the unmatched, unique value union tradesmen and women offer their communities

Anthony Nicholson, President of the Nashville Building and Construction Trades/Business Manager of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 86, shared his personal story of growing up near the park and enjoying the park’s offerings throughout his youth. Pat Wright, Park Manager of Montgomery Bell State Park, spoke about the historical impact of the bridge and thanked all involved.

Following the program, guests enjoyed a nature walk to the bridge where they watched as a permanent sign was installed to recognize the volunteers. Wright and Nicholson did the honor of cutting the ribbon tied to bridge posts and guests, wearing green ribbon bows in support of conservation, then took a ‘first’ ceremonious walk across the bridge.

Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen's Alliance, thanked everyone who made the bridge re-build a reality - and discussed the unmatched, unique value union tradesmen and women offer their communities.

Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, thanked everyone who made the bridge re-build a reality – and discussed the unmatched, unique value union tradesmen and women offer their communities.

“Everyone who comes to this walking bridge in Montgomery Bell State Park from now on will know that this bridge was built by union hands who volunteered their time and talents,” said Myers. “The USA is committed to organizing more conservation projects through our Adopt-A-Park program, bringing together volunteers to help renew, rebuild and restore America’s parks, so they will be here to enjoy for future generations.”

A sincere thank you to: The Nashville Building & Construction Trades Unions: Heat & Frost Insulators Local 86, Teamsters Local 327, Operating Engineers Local 369, Laborers Local 386,Electrical Workers Local 429, Painters & Allied Trades Local 456, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 572, Plasterers & Cement Masons Local 909, Electrical Workers Local 1749, along with Spann Brothers Lumber Co. and Montgomery Bell State Park staff for making this project possible.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Bridge Dedication at Montgomery Bell State Park Tennessee

March 28, 2014 in Adopt A Park, Articles, Conservation News, Press Release

Bridge Dedication at Montgomery Bell State Park to recognize volunteers who donated supplies, expert trade skills, to rebuild a walking bridge washed away by the 2010 floods.

Volunteers from the Nashville Building & Construction Trades carry lumber to the site of walking bridge in the heart of Montgomery Bell State Park that was washed away in the 2010 floods.

Volunteers from the Nashville Building & Construction Trades carry lumber to the site of walking bridge in the heart of Montgomery Bell State Park that was washed away in the 2010 floods.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), a Nashville-based non-profit, conservation organization, is pleased to announce a Bridge Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony planned to recognize volunteers who rebuilt a walking bridge in the heart of Montgomery Bell State Park washed away by the 2010 floods, as part of USA’s Adopt-A-Park program. **The event will take place on Saturday, March 29, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, at Montgomery Bell State Park, 1020 Jackson Hill Road, in Burns, Tenn.

**Program for Photo Opportunities:

10:30 – 11:15 – Welcome/Refreshments – Woodhaven Picnic Pavilion – Live Bluegrass musicians, Boy Scouts of America Troop #85 and Guests enjoy a short program led by Fred Myers, Executive Director of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. Myers is slated to recognize the union volunteers from the Nashville Building & Construction Trades, Spann Brothers Lumber Co., and Montgomery Bell State Park.

11:15 a.m. – 11:45 – Guests enjoy a nature trail ranger walk to the bridge.

11:45 a.m. – Noon – Ribbon cutting; Guests take first “ceremonious” walk across the bridge.
All lumber used to build the bridge is reclaimed wood from fallen trees in the park.

Visitors to Montgomery Bell State Park enjoy a walk across a newly-constructed walking bridge made entirely from reclaimed wood from fallen trees in the park.

Visitors to Montgomery Bell State Park enjoy a walk across a newly-constructed walking bridge made entirely from reclaimed wood from fallen trees in the park.

“American’s more than 7,000 state parks are an intrinsic part of our country’s culture and legacy, but they’re continually faced with budget challenges and often have a backlog of repair and maintenance projects,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “USA’s Adopt-A-Park program brings together volunteers to help renew, rebuild and restore America’s parks so they will be here to enjoy for future generations.”

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Union Volunteers Refurbish Trails at Government Canyon State Natural Area

February 6, 2014 in Adopt A Park, Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) brought its Work Boots on the Ground conservation program to San Antonio, Texas on Jan. 17, when union trades workers, both from the local community and around the country, gathered to volunteer their time and expert skills to refurbish trails at Government Canyon State Natural Area, in San Antonio, Texas. The community project is one of many that took place last week during the city-wide Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. honorary observance.

san_antonio_275About 35 expert union trades workers generously volunteered their time and talents to clean up a 150-foot stretch of trail leading to the camping grounds at Government Canyon State Natural Area. Workers spent a large part of the day installing wood-frame barriers to help prevent future trail erosion and conserve the park’s natural setting.

The project was identified as a priority by the State Parks on its spring volunteer project list because most of the trail has been washed away by rain. It is the third conservation project the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program has sponsored and coordinated with the agency. The first project brought together union volunteers from Dallas and Fort Worth to evaluate and repair three bridges in various stages of disrepair at Cedar Hills State Park, making them safe for park visitors. The second, was the successful completion of a mobile deer blind, custom-built to provide safe, comfortable hunting for youth living with mobility and health challenges.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is very proud to support the conservation efforts of Texas State Parks,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “These projects align perfectly with the USA’s conservation mission and the unique trade skills among our membership, now at 213,000.”

Union workers who turned out to complete the job in a one-day timeframe, gathered at Government Canyon State Natural Area from the nearby United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 142 and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 653, both in San Antonio. Others who helped to make the project a success represented unions from across the country, in town this week for the AFL-CIO 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference.

Gerry Showers, a business representative with IUPAT District Council 78 in Florida and President of the Central Florida Chapter Coalition of Black Trade Unions made the trip with a team of volunteers to pitch in on the project.

“This is a great opportunity to come together with all the unions to work in the community and give back,” Showers said. “It great to have the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance take part in this historic ongoing day of service for Martin Luther King Day.”

“We don’t usually have groups this large,” said Chris Holm superintendent of Government Canyon State Natural Area. “It’s amazing how hard these union members worked today to complete this well needed project. Thank you to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for choosing our state natural area for their conservation project.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance achieves landmark climb in membership to 213,000

January 13, 2014 in Adopt A Park, Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, General, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Increase in support powers expansion of conservation, youth initiatives

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) rings in the new year with landmark growth in its membership to 213,000 members. This positions the organization for ambitious growth and expansion in its delivery of wildlife conservation, outdoor access and youth mentoring projects.

Josh Kelly, 9, of Garden Ridge, Texas, sets his sights on a target from a custom deer blind in the Texas Hill Country. The successful completion of this USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation project, in partnership with volunteers and donations from the Houston-area Union community, affords kids with mobility issues to experience the thrill of the hunt safely and comfortably.

Josh Kelly, 9, of Garden Ridge, Texas, sets his sights on a target from a custom deer blind in the Texas Hill Country. The successful completion of this USA Work Boots on the Ground conservation project, in partnership with volunteers and donations from the Houston-area Union community, affords kids with mobility issues to experience the thrill of the hunt safely and comfortably.

As part of its growing events program, the USA plans to host 30 sporting clays shoots and 30 conservation dinners this year to bring together men and women from diverse trades for fellowship and fun while recruiting members and raising awareness and funds to support the USA’s conservation mission. Some of the USA’s celebrated conservation projects in 2013 included work on the Minnetonka Gun Club to expand shooting opportunities, the Annual Ohio Special Needs Youth Hunt, the construction of a custom deer blind in Houston, Texas, for kids with mobility challenges and a trail access improvement project at Virginia’s York River State Park. Each was made possible by a host of expertly-skilled volunteers who signed on to strengthen the outreach of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.

USA Executive Director Fred Myers said aggressive membership drives, in partnership with its union partners tied to exciting national promotions with dedicated corporate partners like Remington and Carhartt, along with the expansion of its events program are some of the factors that fostered the organization’s significant increase in membership.

“As the USA membership grows, we are able to organize and engage more and more union sportsmen and women to volunteer their time and unmatched trade skills to improve access to the outdoors and further the conservation of wildlife and our natural resources,” Myers said. “Our members share a passion for hunting, fishing, shooting and the great outdoors and are eager to share it with today’s youth. Working together, we can make great strides in passing on our incredible outdoor heritage to future generations.”

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Custom deer blind creates safe hunting access for kids with mobility challenges

November 21, 2013 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Volunteers raise money, support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Work Boots on the Ground project

Nashville, TN – November 21, 2013 – A new, custom-built deer blind in the Western portion of the Texas Hill Country set the stage for kids with mobility issues to experience the thrill of the hunt safely and comfortably, due to the successful completion of a conservation project organized and sponsored by the Houston-area Union community and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA.) The blind, affectionately named “Hugo” for the USA member who solely constructed the park apparatus, was built to meet the needs of youth hunters dealing with a wide range of mobility issues from being wheelchair bound to using canes, crutches, or braces. Some are living with debilitating medical conditions from cancer to heart disease.

Sergio Hernandez, 17of San Antonio, TX

Sergio Hernandez,17 of San Antonio, TX

The project began last year, when members of the Houston-area union community came together for a conservation dinner organized by long-time USA members and project Co-Chairmen Michael Cramer and Mike Shelton to raise funds for the organization’s first conservation project in Texas. A year later in October, many of the same union tradesman who attended the first dinner attended the area’s second dinner to see the finished blind and to realize the project’s success.

“This truly was a labor of love,” said Cramer, financial secretary of UA Plumbers Local 68 in Houston. “It was a cooperative effort that is good for the community, good for youth with special needs and good for labor.”

Walt Ingram, the USA’s conservation dinner manager, said when the dinner attendees saw the slide presentation showing the stages of the project from start to finish, they clapped and cheered.

“Not only does it feel good,” said Ingram, “but it’s more about the idea that it is something we can contribute and leave behind to help our communities.”

“It’s really great to have an organization realize we had a need for a specialized hunting blind and to provide a mobile blind that exceeded our highest expectations,” said Jerry Warden, executive director of the Texas Youth Hunting Program, a division of the Texas Wildlife Association. “This blind is extremely well-designed and very user-friendly.”

Josh Kelly, 9 from Garden Ridge, TX

Josh Kelly, 9 from Garden Ridge, TX

Each year, the program, led by Warden and a team of trained volunteers, organizes 150 hunts, involving an average of 1500 kids in the sport.

The finished product is due to the engineering and ingenuity of Hugo Kraft, a member of IBEW Local 66 in Houston. After signing on to help out with the project and talking with Warden about the concept, Kraft was in his own words, “off to the lumber yard.”

“I brought it home and started building,” said Kraft, a USA member of five years. “I felt whatever it took, I’m donating that.”

Over the period of a few months, putting in the time Kraft equates to a weekend – the blind was finished. This deer stand is truly state-of-the-art with a wheelchair accessible ramp, a floor to withstand 500 lbs., a window ledge, an adjustable and a handmade gun prop, to support, “…a steadier, better shot,” he said.

Kraft’s final request to the conservation committee – to purchase a trailer to allow the blind safe transport between hunting grounds – was approved with a unanimous vote. Kraft went on to modify the trailer with enhancements of chains, a wench, straps, hardware, and even a spare tire.

“Anytime you can do something to help people with disabilities, it just makes you feel good,” he said.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance:

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated outdoor organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the Union community to expand and improve hunting and fishing access and wildlife habitat throughout North America. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Final phase completes trail access improvements at Virginia’s York River State Park

November 19, 2013 in Adopt A Park, Conservation News, Press Release

Union volunteers turn out to complete the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Adopt-A-Park project

Nashville, TN – November 19, 2013 – A dedicated volunteer Union labor force arrived in numbers
on Nov. 18 at Virginia’s York River State Park to complete a project they started over the summer when they turned out to lend their expert skills and hard work to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Adopt-A-Park program. The project – chosen to improve walking and wheelchair access as well as overall safety for park visitors – brought together volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 666, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Locals 10, 540 and 110, the Virginia Building and Construction Trades Council, Virginia Pipe Trades, United Brotherhood of Carpenters Locals 613 and 388 and the Operative Plasters and Cement Masons Local 891.

Volunteers at work in Virginia's York River State Park

Volunteers at work in Virginia’s York River State Park

Volunteers and park employees arrived to quite a different view of the work site compared to August, when the project first began. Then, the original pavement, laid down in the 1980s, was buckled, cracked and uneven from invasive tree roots hindering access to amazing scenic views by park visitors. The day’s tasks surrounded the pouring and finishing of the same concrete walkway, but the volunteers have been responsible for the entire project. Work from the first two phases of the job has included demolition of the original pathway, removal of the debris and the digging and construction that framed the new sidewalk.

“America’s more than 7,000 state and national parks receive more than a billion visits annually and are an intrinsic part of our country’s culture and legacy, but they’re continually faced with budget challenges and have a backlog of repair and maintenance projects,” said USA Executive Director Fred Myers. “In September, the USA was pleased to host its first conservation dinner in Richmond to raise funds for more projects in Virginia, as a part of its continued commitment to conservation efforts like today’s celebrated completion of the York River State Park project through its Adopt-A-Park program.”

Part of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve System, York River State Park is located on the York River with 2,550 acres of coastal forest and wetlands as well as 30 miles of trails. Park visitors can enjoy mountain biking, hiking and equestrian trails in the park’s main area, as well as the Croaker Landing fishing pier and boat launch area.

USA Adopt-A-Park_York River State Park_Virginia_Volunteers at work(3)

Visitors to York River State park can enjoy improved hiking and wheelchair access to discover amazing scenic views.

“The USA’s Adopt-A- Park program is most beneficial because these skilled laborers improve areas in the Parks for the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Jonathan Tustin, park manager, York River State Park. “Replacing the damaged sections of the accessible Blue Bird Loop improves access for the physically challenged, enabling them to enjoy the beautiful views of the York River from the Park gazebo. We are extremely grateful to the USA for their generous support.”

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance:

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated outdoor organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the Union community to expand and improve hunting and fishing access and wildlife habitat throughout North America. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

Photos courtesy of: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Union sportsmen volunteer for conservation projects

October 31, 2013 in Articles, Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

By Bill Knight

Labor unions work for wages, hours and working conditions, but also fishing, hiking and even “hacking towers,” as the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance volunteers to do what union workers do best: organize, work and defend – in their case, public spaces.

“It’s important to look toward the future impact we can have on America’s outdoor heritage,” said Fred Myers, director of Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA). “Whether restoring a weathered visitors center or rebuilding the park ranger station, USA members will come together to exhibit pride, craftsmanship, dedication and unity while demonstrating to all park visitors the best of what being union in America really means.”

A new USA project is at Anderson Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, the largest of seven Fulton County lakes just across the Illinois River from Bath, south of Havana. It’s the most recent of several Illinois projects showing organized labor’s talents and value to society.

“It’s important to give back to the community,” said Eric Patrick, Business Manager for Local 196 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), who coordinated a USA project in northern Illinois. “You hardly ever see anything positive about labor organizations on TV or in the news. Projects like this help demonstrate to the public that union members are part of the community and care about those around them.”

Tim Bindl, Work Boots on the Ground Program Manager

Tim Bindl, Work Boots on the Ground Program Manager

Tim Bindl, USA’s national events/fundraising coordinator and manager of its Boots on the Ground program, summarized USA’s mission in a phone interview.

“We work to unite the union community to expand and improve hunting and fishing access and wildlife habitat,” Bindl said.
“We’re just getting started in some ways,” he continued. “We’ll finish the [Anderson Lake] osprey hacking towers this fall and have more conservation projects next year.”

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is more than a club, they say; it’s a cause.

“The future of our outdoor heritage depends upon the connection of today’s youth with nature,” said Kate Cywinski, Senior Communications Manager for USA, which is based in Nashville. “Boots on the Ground brings together union members willing to donate their time and skills for conservation projects.”

Union-member volunteers have done work as varied as building wild-hog traps and tree trimming to clearing debris and cleaning facilities.

A hacking tower feeds and protects young  ospreys

A hacking tower feeds and protects young ospreys

At Anderson Lake, about 50 miles southwest of Peoria, USA volunteers from the Carpenters and Laborers (LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America) are cooperating with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to construct hacking towers for ospreys, a fish-eating bird of prey listed as an endangered species in Illinois. Hacking towers are cages on platforms where young ospreys are fed and protected. When the birds are able, they’re released from the towers and usually return to nest in the area where they first flew. The idea is that the osprey can gradually and naturally return to the wild in its natural habitat in Illinois.

A couple of hours north of Peoria, members of the Painters and IBEW unions helped finish the new Youth Conservation Education Center and cleaned area campsites at Torstenson Family Farm. Owned and managed by the Illinois Conservation Foundation, the 750-acre property has woodlands, wetlands and prairies and is a hunting, camping and birding refuge used by area science classes, FFA members, Pheasants Forever and other groups.

“These projects are important to the labor movement because they give union members the opportunity to refine their skills while working together to volunteer for a great cause,” said Ryan Anderson, with Painters District 30. “Unions provide members with the best when it comes to career opportunities and representation. It’s great that our members are able to give some of that back to their communities with a skill set that allows them to do the jobs right.”

There, Operating Engineers have suggested helping develop a 5-acre pond and berms for a shooting range.

Wherever USA rallies its “troops, communities benefit,” Bindl said.

“USA not only helps with habitat and the quality of wildlife, it opens up opportunities, save foundations or states money, and opens up community involvement,” he said. “We’re geared toward the public.”

USA is largely self-sustaining. Last year, a sporting clays shoot in Illinois raised $50,000 to help support USA’s conservation activities, which range from TV’s “Brotherhood Outdoors” show to kids fishing events, from youth mentoring to the new Adopt-A-Park program, which already has helped rebuild foot bridges and improve access to trails in state parks in Tennessee and Texas.

There are more than 6,000 state parks in the United States, with more than 14 million acres of open space, 41,000 miles of trails, 207,000 campsites and 7,000 cabins, USA says. But, like Illinois, parks across the country face budget cuts and threatened shutdowns. Such financial pressures have created a backlog of repair and restoration projects, and USA is calling on its 60,000 union members to use their skills and volunteer to repair and rehabilitate projects that if left undone would deny access to the outdoors to millions of visitors, or even force states to close parks.

“Not only did labor come together to raise thousands of dollars to support conservation efforts,” commented Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan, “but union members from various communities around the state got the chance to connect on a lifestyle level outside of the workplace not only as brothers and sisters but as sportsmen and women.”

To learn more about the benefits of USA membership, visit http://unionsportsmen.org/take-action/join/

Article courtesy of: The Labor Paper, 400 NE Jefferson, Peoria, IL 61603, for subscription information call 309-674-3148 or email sharon@westcentralbtc.org.

Wisconsin Union Volunteers Save Mississippi Wildlife Refuge $11,000

September 13, 2013 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

“On time and under budget.” That’s a motto union workers live by, and this summer, a group of 15 Boots on the Ground union volunteers proved that ethic extends beyond jobs they get paid for.

In 2012, the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge, which runs along the Mississippi River through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, opened the La Crosse Visitor Center in Onalaska, Wis. Covering 240,000 acres, the refuge encompasses one of the largest blocks of floodplain habitat in the Lower 48 and offers both scenic beauty and productive fish and wildlife habitat. The Visitor Center serves as a gateway to the refuge and features exhibits, meeting rooms, interpretive presentations, trails and observation areas.

With the support of the Western WI Building & Construction Trades Council (BCTC) and Western WI AFL-CIO, union volunteers laid landscape pavers around the Visitor Center kiosk on July 31, saving the refuge $11,000 that can now be used for conservation and education programs. When USA’s Boots on the Ground Program Manager Tim Bindl showed up at the site 30 minutes early, volunteers representing the Laborers’, Bricklayers, Plumbers & Pipefitters, Firefighters, Insulators and Cement Masons were already hard at work, spreading the foundation.

“We are thankful we can give back to the communities that we live and work in,” said Terry Hayden, business manager of UA Local 434 and president of the Western WI BCTC. “This project was a great example of what the Union Trades do every day on the jobsite. There was no wandering around. These guys showed up ready to work and knew what to do to get the job done for the customer.”

With a compactor and skid steer donated by Hengel Brothers Inc. of La Crosse and a paver saw donated by Market & Johnson of La Crosse and Eau Claire, the volunteers backfilled gravel, leveled sand, installed pavers and finished the entire project that was expected to take a full day in just eight hours.

“We want to express our appreciation for all your efforts. ‘Unbelievable’ is the word used by several of our staff,” said James Nissen, La Crosse District Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It was a very professional job completed by a very professional crew. On behalf of our staff and the many thousands of visitors who will benefit from all your hard work, we thank you.”

See the photos of this project.

Union Volunteers Improve Trail Access for VA State Park Visitors with Mobility Issues

August 23, 2013 in Adopt A Park, Conservation News

As part of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Adopt-A-Park initiative, volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 666, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Locals 10, 540 and 110, and the Virginia Building and Construction Trades Council gathered on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at Virginia’ York River State Park to begin work on trail improvements that will create more accessible walkways for those with mobility issues.

volunteer_workingA branch of USA’s Boots on the Ground program, which brings together union members to volunteer their time and expertise to conservation efforts, Adopt-A-Park focuses those efforts specifically on renewing, rebuilding and restoring America’s valued parks.

“America’s more than 7,000 state and national parks receive more than a billion visits annually and are an intrinsic part of our country’s culture and legacy, but they’re continually faced with budget challenges and have a backlog of repair and maintenance projects,” said USA Executive Director Fred Myers. “Through our Adopt-A-Park program, we’re uniting America’s union labor to ensure a bright future for our parks. We’re thrilled to begin our first project in Virginia. This wouldn’t have happened without the commitment of America’s State Parks Foundation and Virginia State Park Director Joe Elton, who has been instrumental in helping us design this program.”

york-10With large pine roots growing through the asphalt, the handicap trail along the river and through the native plant gardens at York River State Park was in desperate need of repair. Throughout August and September, union volunteers will remove the broken asphalt and replace it with concrete to make the popular trail accessible to all visitors.

Part of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve System, York River State Park is located on the York River with 2,550 acres of coastal forest and wetlands as well as 30 miles of trails. It features mountain biking, hiking and equestrian trails in the park’s main area as well as the Croaker Landing fishing pier and boat launch area.

“As a day-use park, our nearly 30 miles of trails are an integral part of York River’s offerings,” said Russell Johnson, York River State Park manager. “It is rare to have a project like this one that enhances those offerings for all of our guests, no matter their physical capabilities.”

On Sept. 21, 2013, the USA will host its first Annual Conservation Dinner in Richmond to begin raising funds to implement additional Adopt-A-Park projects in Virginia State Parks.

“Our partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is a great fit for Virginia State Parks. The proximity of AFL-CIO members makes York River State Park a great place to kick-off these projects,” said Joe Elton, DCR’s director of state parks. “As president of America’s State Parks Foundation I have had the opportunity to see the good work these volunteers are doing around the country.”

Union Members Complete First Adopt-A-Park Project

July 1, 2013 in Adopt A Park, Conservation News

Imagine America without all of our state parks and the diverse recreational opportunities they provide. No trails to hike, no ponds to fish, lakes to take the boat, and no areas to take the kids to see wonderful plants and animals they can’t find around their home. Each year, our state parks suffer as budgets grow tighter, the list of needs of each park grows, repairs go untouched and general up-keep of trails and facilities become harder and harder to accommodate. Recognizing the value of our parks not only for their own families but for families and communities across the country, union members are stepping up to donate their own time and skills to ensure the parks remain a place of enjoyment for all.

Last year, unions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area gathered for a dinner in support of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and its Boots on the Ground program, which brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle conservation projects. As a part of Boots on the Ground, USA’s Adopt-A-Park program focuses those efforts specifically on America’s nearly 7,000 parks.

This year, Cedar Hills State Park in Dallas, TX submitted an application to the USA indicated three hiking bridges in need of repair. Using $3,000 of the money raised at USA’s Dallas Area Conservation Dinner for lumber, screws, bolts and other construction materials, volunteers representing the Dallas Building & Construction Trades Council; several union locals including UA 100, IUEC 21, IUPAT 53, IBEW 20, SMART 68; students and employees of the North Texas Job Corp Center; and union contractors such as Beard Integrated Systems came together on May 17, 2013 to repair the bridges.

Union members work to rebuild Cedar Hills State Park bridge

Union members work to rebuild Cedar Hills State Park bridge

“It’s important to be involved in projects such as this because they improve opportunities for everyone to enjoy our local outdoors. It gives us a place to get away from all the concrete, cars, and computers and to understand the outdoors and places we may have never gone,” said Jim Miille, coordinator for this volunteer project and a project manager at Beard Integrated Systems, a union contractor. “While this project brought together many different union trades, we all functioned as one team working toward a common goal.”

The total project took about 12 hours, as 72 volunteers replaced walk boards, horizontal support boards and the hand rails on the bridges. While the bridges were in different stages of disrepair, the volunteers carefully evaluated each bridge and updated each based on structural safety. Because of this project, those that visit the park no longer have to worry about splinters or tripping over warped boards; they can now simply enjoy the beauty of the hiking trails.

“We continually strive to maintain all facilities and services on minimal budgets. There are multiple projects, like trail bridge maintenance, that fall behind other higher priority maintenance issues and don’t receive funding,” said Assistant Park Superintendent Joshua Choate. “The unions and USA provided the materials, a large number of highly skilled volunteers and high quality service. We could not be more thankful for their dedication to conservation and community service.”

“This project truly provides a safer environment within the state park, making it more enjoyable to walk through. For me and many of the other volunteers, it was the first time we had visited the park. Getting to see all that it has to offer and knowing that we had a hand in making it a better place for others, many of us have already visited since,” said Miille.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and WI Unions Reel in Great Event

June 17, 2013 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Work Boots On The Ground

In a world where modern technology has become the entertainment of choice for many children under the age of 16, it is becoming increasingly important to introduce them to the outdoors at a young age.  Statistics show that the earlier kids get involved in outdoor activities, such as fishing, the more likely they will be to respect and enjoy the outdoors; programs like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s recent Take Kids Fishing Day event are fantastic opportunities to begin teaching basic skills.

On June 8th and 9th at Peititebone Beach Park in La Crosse, WI and at Braun’s Bay Carson Park in Eau Claire, WI, the USA’s Boots on the Ground program coordinated the 2013 event with the help of local unions: Western WI AFL CIO, Greater Eau Claire CLC, Western WI BCTC, UA 434, IAMAW District 66 and the USW International.  Over the course of those two days, 25 volunteers logged 150 total volunteer hours and donated fishing poles, door prizes, snacks, tackle, and banners to help teach kids techniques, such as tying your own hook and reeling in a fish.  They also educated the kids on the size and bag limits for keeping fish and the laws for fishing with a license.  While the majority of those participating were under the required age for a fishing license (15), volunteers found the event to be a great opportunity to inform parents and children on license requirements and public access rules.

Take Kids Fishing La Crosse (66)

“Take Kids Fishing Day is the perfect opportunity to educate youngsters on the benefits of fishing,” said USA National Events Coordinator Tim Bindl. “It’s also a great way to show families the abundance of public access opportunities available in their own communities.”

Boots on the Ground programs such as this are great examples of the USA’s conservation mission in action. The experience that the 150 kids gained during the event can positively affect and influence their preferences for and love of conservation and outdoor activities for years to come.

“Take Kids Fishing Events are perfect illustrations of what the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is all about,” said USA Executive Director Fred Myers.  “Being able to reach a young population, as this event did, enabled us to make a lasting impression and hopefully inspire kids to be more involved in conservation.”

Click Here to See More Photos from This Event

To find out how you can get involved in local conservation projects, contact Tim Bindl at timb@unionsportsmen.org or 608-397-1023.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Unites Local Union Members to Rebuild Popular Bridge at Montgomery Bell State Park

June 12, 2013 in Adopt A Park, Articles, Conservation News

After several busy weekends, union volunteers put the final touches on a new bridge leading to some of the most popular areas of Tennessee’s Montgomery Bell State Park as part of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Boots on the Ground program. The new bridge replaces one that was washed away in the 2010 floods, and the small, temporary bridge had stood in its place since then.

The Finished Bridge at Montgomery Bell State Park

The Finished Bridge at Montgomery Bell State Park

USA’s Boots on the Ground (BOTG) program brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle conservation projects. As a branch of BOTG, USA’s new Adopt-A-Park initiative focuses those efforts specifically on America’s parks. Looking to complete one of its inaugural Adopt-A-Park projects near the organization’s headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., USA Executive Director Fred Myers met with Montgomery Bell State Park Manager Pat Wright and later Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) President Anthony Nicholson to discuss possible conservation projects. When Wright identified the need for a new bridge, the Nashville BCTC quickly offered to help.

“There was an obvious need for repair to this bridge that was unfortunately washed away in the floods,” Myers said. “Anthony and the rest of the Nashville Building Trades didn’t hesitate to volunteer their time and skills as well as supplies for the rebuild. Their support is a tremendous help to the Middle Tennessee community.”

While Tennessee State Parks receive an average of 25 million visitors each year, budget constraints still make it difficult for all needed repairs to be addressed. According to the National Association of State Park Directors, there are 6,624 state parks in the U.S. that receive nearly three-quarters of a billion annual visits and generate $20 billion in economic benefits. Yet these parks are continually faced with budget cuts and have a backlog of repair and restoration projects. Through Adopt-A-Park, USA members volunteer their time and unique skills to renew, rebuild and restore America’s parks, whether by restoring a weathered visitor’s center, rebuilding the park ranger station or modernizing the facilities.

“Growing up near the park, I felt a personal obligation to be a part of this project,” said Nicholson. “Thankfully, the Nashville BCTC shared my passion for it. It really is a great show of local support, all around, for the community and conservation. Even the cost and labor to turn the fallen trees in the park into lumber were donated by Spann Brothers Lumber.”

Union Sportsmen's Alliance and Nashville BCTC members complete Montgomery Bell Bridge Build Project

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Nashville BCTC members complete Montgomery Bell Bridge Build Project

Beginning May 11 and ending June 8, union members spent four Saturdays at the park completing the bridge rebuild with a total of 362.25 volunteer hours. All lumber used in the project was reclaimed wood from fallen trees in the park and building supplies were generously donated by the Nashville Building Trades. Over the course of the project, the USA and the Nashville BCTC saved Montgomery Bell State Park $7,323.65.

“We would really like to thank the Union Sportsman Alliance and the Nashville Building Trades for all of their hard work and time that they contributed in building the bridge that crosses Four Mile Creek,” said Wright. “With the completion of the bridge, hikers can once again be connected to the Spillway Trail, the Montgomery Bell Overnight Trail and some of the most important recreational areas of the park.”

Click here to view more photos of this project.

NJ Pheasant Program Gets a Boost from Union Members

May 29, 2013 in Articles, Conservation News, Hunting, Work Boots On The Ground

The explosive flush, the beautifully patterned tail of a rooster in flight, the pride in a successful shot and a delicious meal after a day in the field–that’s what pheasant hunting is all about. Though New Jersey is the most densely populated U.S. state, approximately 12,000 residents hunt pheasant. This is made possible through the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife pheasant program, which raises and releases 50,000 pheasants annually across 24 Wildlife Management Areas that encompass about 100,000 acres.

This year, led by Tom Mattingley of IBEW Local 351, union volunteers from Electrical Workers Local 351 and 164, Insulators Local 14, Pipefitters Local 322, Sheet Metal Workers Local 27, Painters District Council 711 and Operating Engineers Local 542 teamed up to use their time and skills to support NJ Fish and Wildlife by raising funds and building the boxes needed to transport the pheasants.

Eager to help organize a USA Conservation Dinner and Boots on the Ground project in his area, Mattingley contacted a NJ Fish and Wildlife officer to find out how union members could assist the agency.

“In today’s world, when you walk up to a stranger and say you want to build something for them and also raise the funds to do it, they look at you like you have three eyes,” Mattingley said. “But I asked what we could do to benefit New Jersey sportsmen, and they suggested we build pheasant transport boxes.”

Check for $5,000 is presented to BOTG Pheasant Box Project Committee

Check for $5,000 is presented to BOTG Pheasant Box Project Committee

From there, everything began to fall into place. Using $5,000 from the money union members raised at USA’s 1st Annual Tri-State Area Conservation Dinner last fall, Mattingley purchased planked cedar to build the boxes. After volunteering at the conservation dinner and learning about the project, John Stahl III, the Apprenticeship Administrator for Insulators Local 14, coordinated volunteers to build the boxes. And after finding that one of his instructors, Don Mullins, has a complete woodworking shop behind his house, they soon had a location to build them.
“I think projects like this show what we’re all about,” Mullins said. “We’re not just individuals. We’re a brotherhood that works together to get things done.”

Armed with tablesaws, planers and Mattingley’s best drafting sketches in a shop that looks like it’s right out of the TV show, This Old House, union volunteers are cutting, shaping, drilling and constructing the lumber into specifically sized, stackable boxes that fit into a truck and hold 14 birds each. Once the boxes are all built, they’ll be painted by the 3rd year apprentices of Painters District Council 711. According to Mattingley, they’re a work of art–like bird condominiums.

(L-R) Don Mullins and Ray MacDowell

(L-R) Don Mullins and Ray MacDowell

“By raising money for materials and building the boxes, we’ve lessened the burden on the NJ Fish and Wildlife’s limited funds, so they can spend them on other things like more land,” Stahl said. “We can’t help them acquire more land, but we can sure help them with projects like this, and every little bit helps.”

For those interested in organizing a Boots on the Ground project, Mattingley offers this advice, “Don’t be afraid to ask what you can do. When this project got started, I didn’t know what we were going to do, but I went to the NJ Fish and Game, and they pointed us to the bird boxes. And through the bird boxes, I found the Insulators who have a woodshop and then the painters to paint the boxes. So instead of me trying to put this all together, it just sort of fell in place.”

“We need to get involved in conservation efforts because it’s our heritage, and we need to preserve our hunting privileges and lands,” Mattingley added. “The state Fish and Wildlife needs not only financial help but they need ‘hands on tools,’ and we have the skills.”

Click here to see more photos of this project.

Volunteers Wrap Up 1st Phase of Youth Shooting Facility

April 30, 2013 in Work Boots On The Ground

Wrapping up a year of beneficial Boots on the Ground conservation projects, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) staff and union volunteers wrapped up the first phase of a youth shooting facility in College Grove, TN to help educate and mentor the next generation of shooting enthusiasts.

Looking for a local project with a long term impact in the community, the USA teamed up with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) and the Nashville Building and Construction Trades in early 2012. After months of planning, they launched a Boots on the Ground project to construct the Harpeth Scholastic Shooting Complex on a 20-acre plot to benefit the shooting programs of nine middle and high schools near the USA’s headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.

Students who belong to these school shooting programs currently drive up to 1.5 hours to practice and compete—a burden both for the students and their parents. The new shooting complex will make the shooting sports readily accessible to more than 200 student competitors each year.

Nathan May (left) and Glen Sloan (right) construct a 36’ gate for the shooting complex.

Nathan May (left) and Glen Sloan (right)
construct a 36’ gate for the shooting complex.

In phase one of the project, Ironworkers Local 492 member Glen Sloan and Helmets to Hardhats apprentice Nathan May constructed a 36’ gate for the entrance of the new shooting facility. Volunteers from IBEW Local 429, Insulators Local 86 and Ironworkers Local 492 installed the gate while several USA staff painted it on Dec. 1. IBEW Local 429 also secured a donation of electrical materials from Conti Electric in Nashville, TN—part of the nationwide Conti Corporation—to wire the facility and install outdoor lighting.

“The shooting sports are a great way to get youth away from their electronics and engaged in an outdoor activity that teaches important life skills like hard work, dedication, awareness and safety,” said Gerald Grant, IBEW Local 429 Business Manager and Financial Secretary and one of the committee members for this Boots on the Ground project. “We’re proud to offer our support to help build a shooting complex that will benefit youth in our community, including the children of some of our own union brothers and sisters.”

The shooting range is just the first step in the development of the property. The TWRA plans to raise additional funds to build a learning center for hunter safety and wildlife management, so students can complete the live firing portion of the course at the same location, and to refurbish an old barn on the site. The Nashville Building and Construction Trades have offered labor for any other projects they undertake at the facility.

“Many members of the Nashville Building Trades are avid hunters and shooters, so we were thrilled to get them involved in USA’s Boots on the Ground project,” said Anthony Nicholson, President of the Nashville Building Trades and Business Manager of Insulators Local 86. “It’s up to today’s youth to carry on our outdoor sporting traditions, and this new shooting complex will introduce more school-age children to the shooting sports, which may also spark their interest in hunting.”

“The hardest part of building anything that isn’t monetarily motivated is finding funding and skilled volunteers,” said Williamson County Wildlife Officer Joe Fortner. “We’ve been able to raise a significant amount of money but not enough to write a contractor a quarter million dollar check. That’s where the USA stepped in. Skilled union volunteers are able to do things the average volunteer couldn’t do. Without the help of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, we wouldn’t be able to build this facility at this time.”

Conservation and the Farm Bill: Sportsmen Take Notice

February 27, 2013 in Conservation News

Why do American sportsmen have a stake in a sprawling piece of federal legislation governing nutrition standards and commodity prices?

The answer is clear. That legislation, the Farm Bill, also plays a central role in upholding public access opportunities and sustaining key fish and wildlife habitat across the country.

soybean_weed_300Farm Bill measures like the Conservation Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program and Wetlands Reserve Program have made millions of acres on America’s farms and ranches more attractive to fish and wildlife. Sportsmen in particular have seen firsthand the increases in the numbers of game species and other wildlife since the inception of these programs.

Right now, Congress is in the midst of deliberating the future of the periodically renewed legislation. The Senate has formulated a new version of the bill, co-written by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Ranking Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas. Stabenow describes the Senate bill as “the most significant reform in agriculture policy in decades.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is engaged in developing its own version of the bill. Congressional leaders and sportsmen alike are pushing for farm conservation programs to be adequately supported and sustained in the 2012 bill – and that the new Farm Bill be finalized before the year’s end.

Without question, these are trying times for private lands conservation. Federal and state incentive funding is very tight, high commodity prices are encouraging more farmers to take lands out of conservation, and the energy boom is turning open spaces into drilling pads and wind farms. Yet overall the Senate Farm Bill manages to maintain a strong conservation title, although many of the program names have changed and funds have been reallocated. By strengthening programs and eliminating redundancies, the bill makes the conservation title more efficient and user friendly.

In spite of some across-the-board cuts, several programs in the Senate bill represent definitive victories for sportsmen. Chief among them are the Senate’s adoption of a “sodsaver” provision, which discourages farmers from converting wildlife habitat into row crops. Sodsaver presents Congress with a rare opportunity to save taxpayer money, protect an iconic American landscape and preserve the ability of farmers and ranchers to manage their lands as they see fit.

The Senate bill also reauthorizes the so-called Open Fields program, which incentivizes private landowners to open their lands and waters to public access, including hunting and fishing access. Many union sportsmen, led by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, have been strong supporters of Open Fields.

“More than 3.2 million AFL-CIO union members spend some of their well-deserved free time hunting and fishing, and their ability to access lands and waters is central in sustaining those activities,” said Trumka, a TRCP board member. “Union sportsmen have a deep appreciation for our outdoor traditions, and continued funding for public access programs such as Open Fields helps safeguard the future of these traditions.”

In all, the new Farm Bill would save taxpayers more than $20 billion over the next five years and ensure that conservation remains a key part of our federal farm policy. With the bill’s conservation programs critical to the more than $95 billion in economic activity annually contributed by hunting and angling, now is the time for our elected leaders to work together toward swift passage of this critical piece of legislation. The TRCP and its sportsmen partners remain committed to assuring a new Farm Bill that secures access opportunities for hunters and anglers and upholds America’s cherished private lands sporting traditions.

Article provided by Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Visit www.trcp.org to learn more about the TRCP.