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Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Names Vance Ayres IUEC Conservation Steward of the Year

November 7, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Volunteers celebrate the completion of the restored Jones Point Park fishing pier.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Director of Governmental Affairs Vance Ayres with the 2019 IUEC Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his exemplary commitment to conservation and community service.

The award recognizes volunteers from each of the USA’s charter unions who have made exceptional contributions to the USA’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

Ayres, of King George, Virginia, is a longtime USA supporter, project volunteer, and has been instrumental in fundraising efforts in the USA’s Capital Area market.

The resulting funds have fueled the completion of multiple projects including the USA’s 100th Work Boots on the Ground project at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia. That effort saw more than 100 union volunteers, including Ayres, donate nearly 900 hours of skilled labor to restore a 60-year-old public fishing pier on the Potomac River.

Capital Area projects also include the improvement of recreational shooting opportunities at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland. Union volunteers donated more than 445 hours to build three covered, fully-accessible shooting stations available to community residents and other guests using the range.

Vance Ayres (right) with AFL-CIO President and USA Board of Directors Chair Richard Trumka.

“Vance Ayres has been a fantastic leader for the USA and our conservation efforts for many years,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “It is impossible to convey the value of someone like Vance. Without dedicated volunteers like him we wouldn’t have nearly as great an impact on the future of conservation as we do today.”

Ayres grew up in an outdoors-oriented family who nurtured a love of hunting and fishing, and the desire to preserve and protect the nation’s natural resources. In addition to his hands-on volunteer work for the USA, he helped organize the USA’s first sporting clays shoot at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in 2009. He also helped coordinate the 2nd Capital Area Conservation Fundraising Dinner.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this award from the USA,” said Vance. “It’s a great organization that does great things for communities and conservation, in which the building trades and the labor movement have always played huge roles.

“Volunteering is one of the most important things all of us can do to make our lives better and to protect our communities,” he continued. “It has had a profound impact on my way of thinking and a positive impact on the future of my family and friends. I urge others in the labor movement to get involved to help the many great things in our world like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance!”

The Conservation Steward of the Year selection process begins with the nomination of potential recipients by peers or union leadership. From this pool of nominees, USA staff select individuals who have had the greatest impact on the USA’s mission, represented their unions in the most exemplary fashion, and made the biggest difference in their local community.

Youth Fishing Event Celebrates Dedication of Suncoast Youth Conservation Center Pier

November 3, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Hundreds of local youth and their families gathered Saturday, Nov. 2, to celebrate the dedication of a new boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

The wheelchair-accessible pier gives thousands of youth and other local residents visiting the SYCC campus an opportunity to study coastal marine habitats and learn to fish with minimal impact to the environment.

The massive structure is the result of a multi-year community service project organized by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) through its Work Boots on the Ground conservation program.

A consortium of partners supported the effort, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Southern States Millwright Regional Council, Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, Florida AFL-CIO, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Ben Hur Construction, Pure Fishing, TECO Energy, The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Bass Pro Shops and a number of local labor unions.

All young participants received a free Shakespeare rod, reel and tackle kit courtesy of Pure Fishing.

Donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses from these partners topped $800,000. Volunteers alone donated more than 2,000 hours of skilled labor valued at over $100,000 to create the SYCC’s new boardwalk and pier.

The effort is the USA’s largest to date and marks the organization’s 200th Work Boots on the Ground project completion.

More than 500 youth signed up to participate in a free Take Kids Fishing Day event built into the day’s festivities. Volunteers from local labor unions, the FWC and members of the National Football League Players Association assisted the excited young anglers, each of whom received a free Shakespeare rod, reel and tackle kit courtesy of Pure Fishing, plus additional items including game calls from Plano Synergy. Prior to the dedication ceremony, a free picnic lunch was provided to all participants.

Part of the FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the SYCC is a marine-focused conservation education center on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay. The campus includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility and annually serves more than 11,000 youth and adults.

The boardwalk and pier flank a restored saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the educational complex. The new structure allows visitors to study coastal marine habitats. It also serves as the perfect platform to teach the joys of fishing, thereby supporting the FYCCN’s goal to create the next generation of conservationists by providing youth opportunities to participate in traditional outdoor activities that inspire lifelong stewardship for fish and wildlife conservation.

“We’re humbled by the generosity of our amazing partners and the highly skilled union workers who donated their time and talent to build this new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier,” said FYCCN director Rae Waddell. “Their dedication to FYCCN’s mission of creating the next generation of conservationists is an inspiration. Seeing these youth and families enjoying themselves here today—fishing, learning and watching wildlife—is the perfect way to celebrate the completion of a project that will benefit this community for years to come.”

Members of the NFL Players Association including pro Charles Riggins (left) volunteered their time to share their love of fishing with local youth.

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and job skills to complete the project: Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, IBEW Local 915, Insulators Local 67, Iron Workers Locals 7, 397 and 808, IUOE Local 487, LiUNA Locals 310, 517 and 1652, Machinists Local 1000, Roofers Local 123, UA Locals 123 and 915, UBC Locals 1, 283, 1000, 1809, 1905 and 4070, Ben Hur Construction and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office.

Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida President and CEO Andrew Walker shared Waddell’s enthusiasm about the new pier helping engage the next generation of conservationists. “Providing children and teens with high-quality outdoor recreation and education is increasingly important,” said Walker. “A project like this, that so many people helped make possible, is sure to inspire many others who work in youth education.”

Wayne Jennings, executive secretary treasurer of the Southern States Millwright Regional Council, said the Millwrights were proud to be part of such a broad-based project. “It was a pleasure for the SSMRC to be part of such a diverse group,” said Jennings. “Seeing everyone partnering together to accomplish this build was extraordinary. We truly had a multitude of different craft, contractors and volunteers all working harmoniously to deliver a project that will benefit the public for decades to come. It is a true sign of solidarity. I personally thank everyone involved.”

Ben Hur Construction’s Jason Brown echoed Jennings sentiments “Ben Hur would like to thank the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, FWC, as well as all the other partners and sponsors for giving us the opportunity to be part of such a great project for the community.”

“This project presented a number of challenges and obstacles,” said Florida State Building and Construction Trades Council President Theresa King. “I’m grateful for everyone’s persistence in pushing it through, particularly the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for its determination to make the new pier a reality for the community.”

“We are excited to see the Suncoast pier come to life,” added Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent. “Providing accessible educational and outdoor activities for all children is a fundamental way to help grow their interest in the outdoors. We were pleased to be able to help support the USA with this initiative and look forward to seeing the local community enjoy the pier for many years to come.”

“This is the dream team project,” added Connie Parker, a member of the USA Conservation Advisory Committee and Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida Board of Directors. “A consortium of partners came together to give the children of Florida this wonderful pier. We want to roll this out in all 50 states because we know if you put a fishing rod in a child’s hand, he or she will return to the water their entire life.”

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance said the project epitomizes the organization’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

Smiles were contagious and the fish were biting at the free youth fishing event, which included the outdoor-themed antics and fishing assistance of “Camo the Clown.”

“Our 200th Work Boots on the Ground project is a shining example of the great things that happen when hard-working union volunteers join forces to benefit their local communities,” he said. “Our projects are changing lives, changing the way the public looks at unions and changing the way union members see themselves. The beautiful new Suncoast Pier, which will provide more than 10,000 area youth a year with access to the Gulf of Mexico, is a testament to these volunteers’ willingness to donate their time and talents to give back to their communities.”

Vance was also quick to credit the support of project partners. “This is a union-led, private-public partnership that involves multiple non-profits, labor unions, union volunteers, a state agency, state wildlife foundation and numerous industry partners. We are thankful for everyone’s commitment to see this project through to completion.”

During the dedication ceremony, Vance announced the USA has received a Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund Grant totalling $25,000 to support the organization’s Get Youth Outdoors outreach events. Already, the USA Conservation department is working to apply a portion of the funds to a Take Kids Ice Fishing Day event in Minnesota next January. Five additional events will be sponsored by the grant.

The USA’s free, community-based youth outreach activities are also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

The USA also recognized a pair of volunteers with service awards. Dan Skuta received the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Conservation Steward of the Year Award, while Wayne Jennings of the Southern States Millwright Regional Council was honored with the USA’s Non-Charter Union Volunteer of the Year Award.

More than 500 youngsters, their families and volunteers gathered to celebrate the new boardwalk and fishing pier.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Kentucky American Water Host Lexington Youth Fishing Day

October 24, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Nearly 200 kids packed Jacobson Park in Lexington, Kentucky, on Oct. 19 for fishing and family fun during a Take Kids Fishing Day event hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Kentucky American Water and the American Water Charitable Foundation.

“The turnout was fantastic,” said Kentucky American Water External Affairs Specialist Ellen Williams. “And the kids had a wonderful time fishing on the reservoir.”

Each participant received a rod and reel courtesy of the American Water Charitable Foundation and Pure Fishing, as well as a set of game calls from Plano Synergy. Youth were coached in fishing techniques by a crew of volunteers, including members of Service Employees Local 320 in Louisville. Afterward, the children and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch.

“We’re always excited to get people, especially children, into the outdoors,” said Williams. “It’s our hope that kids exposed to nature at a young age will grow to appreciate water as a valuable natural resource, and want to take care of it throughout their lives.”

Nearly 200 youth enjoyed the Lexington event and went home with a free rod and reel.

The event was one of a series of free community outreach activities across the country that are run through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, and made possible through strong partnerships with organizations like the American Water Charitable Foundation, according to USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation and USA have collaborated on a number of conservation projects, including the construction of the handicap-accessible fishing pier the children used at Jacobson Park,” he said. “And we’re very proud that the Foundation recently decided to renew and strengthen our partnership by pledging a three-year, $300,000 grant that will be utilized to further conduct outreach activities such as the Take Kids Fishing Day in Lexington, as well as support USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program on infrastructure projects in American Water service areas.”

“Our partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is an important component of our efforts to give back and make a difference in the communities served by American Water,” said Carrie Williams, president of the American Water Charitable Foundation. “The Take Kids Fishing Day at Jacobson Park is a wonderful example of our partnership. Several years ago, USA union members and Kentucky American Water employees volunteered their time and skills to build the pier and today, our community outreach event is an opportunity to revisit this beautiful park and further enhance the outdoor experience for our customers, our employees and their families.”

The USA’s free, community-based youth outreach activities are also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

About American Water
With a history dating back to 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse U.S. publicly traded water and wastewater utility company. The company employs more than 7,100 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to more than 14 million people in 46 states. American Water provides safe, clean, affordable and reliable water services to our customers to make sure we keep their lives flowing. For more information, visit amwater.com and follow American Water on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

About the 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 online at amwater.com/corporate-responsibility.

About 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 more than half a million people.

Camo the Clown entertained participants with his outdoor-oriented routines.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Partners Host Chicago Area Family Outdoor Day

October 1, 2019 in Articles, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 100 South Chicago area youth took their first steps in learning how to fish, shoot and hunt during the Family Outdoor Day held Sept. 28 at the William W. Powers State Recreation Area.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), in cooperation with New Concept Benefit Group (NCBG), Pheasants Forever, Illinois Conservation Foundation, Illinois Learn to Hunt Program, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Bowfishing Association of Illinois and the National Wild Turkey Federation hosted the event.

Participants experienced a variety of outdoor activities under the experienced supervision from local labor union members and other volunteers. Each youth also received a free rod and reel from NCBG, game calls from Plano Synergy, and enjoyed a picnic lunch with their families and mentors.

“With help from the very dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers on-site, the kids got a chance to go fishing, try bowfishing, shoot trap, learn archery skills and participate in an Illinois Learn to Hunt seminar,” said Doug Aller, NCBG president and driving force behind the Family Outdoor Day. “Our goals for the event were to give children the opportunity to engage with each other and their families, and encourage an interest in conservation and the outdoors as an alternative to smart phones and computer screens.”

Heavy rains the night before diminished during the morning hours, but still forced a slow start to the day, according to Aller. A steady stream of eager youngsters and their families began arriving as the skies cleared, however.

A little damp weather didn’t stop more than 100 participants from enjoying new outdoor activities like fishing.

“Things were a little wet and sloppy,” he said. “But it turned out to be a great day with a lot of kids enjoying fantastic outdoor experiences—some for the first time. I saw one young boy beam a wide smile at his mother when he realized a fish was nibbling the bait on his line. It was clear this was the first time he’d held a fishing rod, and for me, that excited grin made the whole day worthwhile.

“Young people growing up in urban areas don’t have the same opportunity to connect with the outdoors as do kids with rural backgrounds,” added Aller. “We hope this event sparked an interest, and showed the youth and their parents a doorway toward taking the next step.”

“The Family Outdoor Day coordinated by Doug Aller and the NCBG runs parallel to the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground outreach program, and we were proud to be part of it,” said Rob Stroede, USA conservation manager. “It’s becoming increasingly important to hold events like this one in metropolitan areas where young people don’t get as much exposure to the conservation message and outdoor lifestyle.”

The event was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized and supported by Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF).

William W. Powers State Recreation Area encompasses 580 acres of land and water on Wolf Lake in South Chicago, and offers visitors opportunities to fish, hunt, hike, ride trail bikes and more. In early 2020 it will be the site of a new, expansive USA Work Boots on the Ground conservation project that will include the construction of a new fishing pier, kayak launch and other amenities.

USA, UAW Help Improve Access to Flint River

October 1, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Throngs of community residents flocked to the new Paddler’s Landing access for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony and release of 100 lake sturgeon.

Anglers and paddle-sports enthusiasts of all ages and physical abilities are enjoying better access to Michigan’s scenic Flint River, thanks in part to a $7,000 donation raised during the inaugural Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 1-D Conservation Dinner.

The funds, along with a matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), helped fuel the creation of the new Paddler’s Landing public access in Mott Park Recreation Area in Flint.

The new structure is part of an on-going, large-scale revitalization project driven by the city of Flint, Corridor Alliance Chapter (CAC) of the Flint River Watershed Coalition and other stakeholders to benefit local residents, area businesses and visitors.

Historically, river access here has been difficult. Within the city, water follows a concrete channel that provides no access, while the park’s rocky banks are not easily negotiated. It’s one reason project supporters feel the park, which draws fewer than 5,000 visits per season, is greatly underutilized.

“With the new landing and the future completion of the Riverfront Restoration project in downtown Flint, we expect this number to grow significantly,” said CAC manager Sarah Scheitler.

Indeed, the Flint River offers ample opportunities for watersports activities including canoeing, kayaking and tubing. Plus, the fishery holds largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleyes, northern pike and panfish—in fact, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website promises anglers that the river holds the state’s best smallmouth fishing.

Paddler’s Landing provides access to a wealth of opportunities for anglers and other watersports enthusiasts to enjoy the Flint River.

A wide concrete stairway, bordered by protective boulder rip-rap, the Paddler’s Landing structure offers safe access to and from the river, even when water levels fluctuate. It includes a wooden-rail watercraft slide, as well as a transfer seat and step system to allow those with limited mobility to safely access the water.

“As part of our official ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 21, participants released 100 young lake sturgeon supplied by the DNR,” said Scheitler. “There were dozens of people, young and old, standing on the access during the release. After all the work everyone has done, it was both exciting and gratifying to see how easily and safely people could reach the water’s edge.

“Until the UAW made this connection for us, we had not had a relationship with the USA,” Scheitler noted. “And we were amazed by their ability to raise funds. The group’s $7,000 donation essentially became $14,000 with the matching MEDC grant, which was a bit more than 10 percent of the total project budget. It was a substantial donation with which we were thrilled. And we’re eager to work with the USA again on future projects.”

Though the landing is already in use, one final piece remains to be placed, according to UAW Local 659 community service representative and CAC board member Dale Snyder.

“Under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program, our UAW local is proud to be part of this fabulous project,” he said. “As soon as possible, union volunteers have plans to fabricate and install a metal handrail along the downstream side of the stairway.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Welcomes Plano Synergy as National Conservation Partner

September 25, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Plano Synergy, an industry-leading producer of must-have gear for serious hunters and anglers, has joined the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) mission to unite the union community to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

“Our members, staff and supporting partners are proud to welcome Plano Synergy as a National Conservation Partner as we harness union workers’ power, passion and skills to enhance and ensure opportunities for millions of Americans to enjoy the great outdoors for generations to come,” said USA Director of Corporate Partnerships Brian Dowler.

The outdoor manufacturing powerhouse brings together 17 top brands in the outdoor industry, including Barnett Crossbows, Frabill, Plano and Wildgame Innovations. All are dedicated to creating innovative, high-performance products that help users make the most of time spent afield.

“Partnering with the USA to help preserve our hunting and fishing heritage for future generations is a paramount priority and speaks to the core values of all our brands,” said Plano Synergy VP of Marketing Pete Angle. “Like the USA, Plano Synergy strongly pursues habitat conservation and new hunter and angler recruitment efforts.”

As a USA National Conservation Partner, Plano Synergy will directly support Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program, which organizes union volunteers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone.

Launched in 2010, the WBG program has touched communities in 31 states. The value of donated volunteer labor topped the $1,000,000 mark in early 2019 and the USA’s youth programs will soon reach the milestone of taking more than 10,000 kids fishing.

“In addition, a dedicated portion of Plano Synergy’s commitment benefits our United Outdoors Conservation Fund—an innovative grant funding program that allows the USA to further expand its conservation footprint and mission impact,” Dowler added.

The Plano Synergy partnership also supports the USA’s popular Brotherhood Outdoors television show, which airs 26 weeks a year on the Sportsman Channel, along with the USA Shooting Tour and USA Conservation Dinner program. As a bonus to USA members, select Plano Synergy products will be available at UnionSportsmenStore.com.

About Plano Synergy: Plano Synergy Holding, Inc. is the leading U.S. manufacturer and marketer of fishing tackle boxes, archery equipment, game cameras, protective cases and other gear for hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. The company’s market-leading brands include Ameristep Hunting Products, Barnett Outdoors, Evolved Harvest & Habitats, Flextone Game Calls, Frabill, Halo Optics, Plano, Tenzing Outdoors and Wildgame Innovations. For more than a half-century, Plano Synergy brands and products inspire people to engage in outdoor pursuits throughout the world. For more information, visit: www.planosynergy.com.

Union Volunteers Host Ohio Youth Fishing Day

September 23, 2019 in Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 160 young anglers learned about conserving and protecting Ohio’s natural resources while experiencing the thrill of catching fish Sept. 21 during the 2nd Annual Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Marietta Take Kids Fishing Day. 

Held at scenic Buckeye Park and sponsored by the Ohio AFL-CIO, the event was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized under Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF).

Nine members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 972 donated 153 hours of their time to plan, organize and put on the special event in which kids from 2 to 15 years old learned how to bait a hook, cast their line and reel in feisty bluegills, bass and catfish.

“It was a perfect day,” said IBEW Local 972 event organizer Nathan Bail. “The weather was warm and sunny, and the kids had a wonderful time catching a lot of fish.”

Smiles and feisty fish were abundant during the free community event.

Each participant received a free rod-and-reel from USA partner Pure Fishing, along with a t-shirt and goody bag courtesy of the USA, Plano Synergy and RBFF. Adding to the fun, the first 25 youth that caught a fish received a $20 Kroger gift card courtesy of J & D Waterproofing. Afterward participants and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch at the park.

“The USA and IBEW teaming up to host an event like this really brings to light how much local unions and their members care about the future of the community,” said Bail. “That we want kids to have an opportunity to experience things that they might not normally have a chance to enjoy, and instill in them an appreciation for nature and the outdoors.”

While community outreach is a primary goal with Take Kids Fishing Day events across the country, of equal importance is the opportunity to open doors for youngsters to a way of life that cherishes the outdoor heritage, according to USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede.

“Research has proven that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for children to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation,” he said. “Free events such as this one help promote the importance of education a future generation of American anglers from diverse communities and communities and backgrounds; people who will one day carry the torch in the name of conservation and the outdoor lifestyle.” 

“It’s a blessing to just be a part of what the USA does for conservation and the outdoors,” Bail added. “Hopefully we can continue to work together to make a positive impact on the community of Marietta.”

Funds raised from the USA’s Ohio Conservation Dinner helped fund the event, along with support from a number of local donors. These funds also covered the cost of stocking the pond with 100 catfish and more than 700 bluegills that will continue to provide great fishing opportunities at Buckeye Park in the future.

Special thanks to Coonskin Crossing of Amesville, which donated nearly $300 in live bait for the event and to Boat House BBQ for providing burgers, hot dogs and chips. Additional fishing rod and reel combos from the event were donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Marietta.

Pure Fishing Earns Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Lifetime Partner Award

September 9, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Pure Fishing has donated more than 10,000 rod-and-reel combos to the USA’s Take Kids Fishing Day events and other outreach activities.

Pure Fishing’s unwavering support of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) mission to improve the future of angling and conservation has earned the legendary tackle maker the organization’s prestigious $250,000 Lifetime Partner Award.

The award recognizes the South Carolina-based sportfishing powerhouse—a leading worldwide producer of fishing line, lures, rods and reels—for surpassing the $250,000 donor mark.

Known for iconic brands including Abu Garcia, Berkley, Shakespeare and more, Pure Fishing in 2017 signed a memorandum of understanding with the USA to collaborate on angler recruitment and retention programs that connect union and non-union families to the joys of fishing and spirit of conservation.

Pure Fishing has since donated more than 10,000 rod-and-reel combos to the USA’s Take Kids Fishing Day events and other outreach activities under the umbrella of the organization’s Get Youth Outdoors and Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) programs.

In addition, Pure Fishing donated time and product to a multi-partner undertaking to build a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida. Finished in August 2019, the SYCC pier was the 200th WBG project completed since the program’s inception in 2010.

The SYCC project exemplifies the WBG program, which unites labor union workers to volunteer their time and talents to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone. The program has touched communities in 31 states and is currently enjoying a surge in growth. The value of donated volunteer labor topped the $1,000,000 mark in early 2019 and the USA’s youth programs will soon reach the milestone of taking more than 10,000 kids fishing.

Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent

“We are truly honored to receive the Lifetime Partner Award from the USA,” said Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent. “Over the years our partnership with the USA has offered families the opportunity to enjoy learning about conservation and fishing through projects like the SYCC boardwalk and fishing pier, which we were thrilled to be able to support. As a partner of the USA, we applaud their commitment to preserving fishing and the outdoors for our local communities.”

“Thanks to the generosity of Pure Fishing, the number, scope and impact of youth outreach and conservation projects orchestrated by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program has increased dramatically since 2017, when we completed our 100th project,” said USA Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications Brian Dowler.

“We’re honored to have Pure Fishing as a partner,” Dowler continued. “The company’s donations of fishing rods, reels and tackle allow participants to begin their fishing careers and strengthen their bond with nature long after attending one of our outreach events.”

John Heinz NWR Enhancements Earn Union Sportsmen’s Alliance 2019 Project of the Year Award

August 21, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

 

Union volunteers’ efforts to enhance visitors’ experiences at the nation’s first Urban National Wildlife Refuge earned the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 2019 Project of the Year Award.

Located just six miles from downtown Philadelphia, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge conserves critical wildlife habitat of the Tinicum Tidal Marsh. With 35 million people living within a two-hour drive, the refuge also offers tremendous opportunities for connecting community residents with the outdoors.

John Heinz NWR welcomes 260,000 visitors annually with a wide variety of interpretive programs and recreational activities including fishing, kayaking, hunting and wildlife watching. It also serves as a living classroom, offering environmental education and outreach programs that touch the lives of 17,000 area youth each season.

Unfortunately, funding and staff shortages left a number of maintenance projects at this urban treasure undone. When USA Conservation Advisory Committee member Connie Parker learned that parts of the refuge infrastructure were in dire need of attention, she connected the USA with Department of the Interior (DOI) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Aurelia Skipwith. 

In turn, Skipwith was instrumental in connecting the USA with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, who administer the National Wildlife Refuge System, and getting the project started. Organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, these efforts have completed a series of improvements.

Union volunteers spent nearly 700 hours completing a series of projects to improve visitor experiences at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

In 2018, union volunteers from four Philadelphia-area locals donated nearly 700 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $36,000 to make critical road repairs, install a new non-motorized boat launch and restore a popular wildlife observation tower. Machinery usage valued at $20,000 pushed the total project value over $56,000. With work continuing in 2019, the value of refuge enhancements that benefit local residents continues to climb.

Volunteers from the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 14, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 21, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542 and United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local 30 donated their time and varied trade skills to the project.

“Our engineers came in to stabilize and resurface the refuge’s wetland loop road while the construction and painting crews worked on the kayak/canoe launch and tower,” said John Stahl, volunteer project leader and apprenticeship training director for Insulators Local 14.

Volunteers scraped and repainted the double-deck observation tower, one of the refuge’s oldest and most-used features, and rebuilt its deteriorating access walkway. They also installed a support foundation for a new floating boat launch and constructed a hinged walkway that allows the platform to rise and fall with tidal fluctuations. 

Such improvements were godsends to refuge staff and will enhance the experience of all visitors. “What these volunteers did here really benefits the public by making sure we have safe and equal access for everyone who comes to visit,” said John Heinz Refuge Manager Lamar Gore. “If we didn’t have these skilled volunteers through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, we would have to close some things down for longer periods of time. These guys help us keep things moving, which means people can continue to fully appreciate this space.”

“We’re very honored to support the National Wildlife Refuge System’s efforts to protect our precious natural areas for current and future generations of Americans to enjoy,” said USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “And we are proud of the many union volunteers and their selfless dedication to restoring these features that are so important to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Their accomplishments truly deserve the recognition the Project of the Year Award brings. 

“Every one of the people who donated their free time to work on this great project deserves credit,” Stahl said during the award presentation at the USA’s recent Fundraising Gala in Washington, D.C. “Because coming together as union brothers and sisters to support our communities is what it’s all about. And I think that’s what the presentation of this award really shows. I’m very proud to be part of a brotherhood that cares enough to give back.”

The DOI has also acknowledged the importance of such public-private partnerships. On September 29, 2018, the USA joined DOI officials at John Heinz NWR to celebrate the first Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day and kickoff of refuge-enhancement projects. A coalition of partners including Pure Fishing, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Plano Synergy supported the event.

Refuge improvements included the creation of a launching dock for kayaks and canoes.

Suncoast Pier Completion Marks Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s 200th Work Boots on the Ground Project

August 14, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) celebrated the completion of its 200th Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) project this week as union volunteers put the final touches on a new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

The multi-year, collaborative effort gives thousands of youth and their families opportunities to study, enjoy and appreciate the Gulf of Mexico’s inshore fish and wildlife resources.

The project is the USA’s largest to date and has drawn support from a coalition of public, private and union partners including the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Southern States Millwright Regional Council, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Ben Hur Construction, Pure Fishing, TECO Energy and a number of local labor unions. 

Collectively, donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses topped $800,000. Volunteers alone donated more than 2,000 hours of skilled labor valued at over $100,000 to create the SYCC’S new boardwalk and pier.

Part of the FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the SYCC is a marine-focused conservation education center on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay. The campus includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility and annually serves more than 11,000 youth and adults. 

The boardwalk and pier flank a restored saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the educational complex. The new structure allows visitors to study coastal marine habitats. It also serves as the perfect platform to teach the joys of fishing, thereby supporting the FYCCN’s goal to create the next generation of conservationists by providing youth opportunities to participate in traditional outdoor activities that inspire lifelong stewardship for fish and wildlife conservation.

“We owe our deepest gratitude to all the skilled professionals who volunteered their time and talents at the FWC’s Suncoast Youth Conservation Center,” said FYCCN Director Rae Waddell. “The outstanding workmanship on this project will provide greater access to fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities for years to come. The generosity of our volunteers and partners in support of FYCCN’s mission means we’ll be able to engage more youth and families in the outdoors and conservation.”

Union volunteers completed work on a new boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center.

Wayne Jennings, Southern States Millwright Regional Council executive secretary treasurer, said the Millwrights were quick to support the project. “We were honored to partner with USA to assist with the construction of the Suncoast boardwalk,” he said. “The SSMRC is excited to give back to the community and we hope everyone enjoys the boardwalk for years to come. Together we can accomplish anything imaginable.”

Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida President and CEO Andrew Walker shared Jennings’ enthusiasm. “We were thrilled to be a partner on this project,” he said. “We are deeply committed to ensuring that nature and outdoor recreation are accessible to all, and this boardwalk does exactly that.”

Ben Hur Construction’s Jason Brown echoed those sentiments. “Ben Hur Construction would like to thank the USA for the opportunity to be a partner in such a rewarding project,” he said. “It was great to see so many organizations and individual people come together to deliver such a great project for the community. We look forward to working together in the future with the USA on other great projects.”

“We are excited to see the Suncoast pier come to life,” added Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent. “Providing accessible educational and outdoor activities for all children is a fundamental way to help grow their interest in the outdoors. We were pleased to be able to help support the USA with this initiative and look forward to seeing the local community enjoy the pier for many years to come.”       

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and talents to complete the project: Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, IBEW Local 915, Insulators Local 67, Iron Workers Locals 7, 397 and 808, IUOE Local 487, LiUNA Locals 310, 517 and 1652, Machinists Local 1000, Roofers and Waterproofers Local 123, UA Locals 123 and 915, UBC Locals 1, 283, 1000, 1809, 1905 and 4070, Ben Hur Construction and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office.

The SYCC project exemplifies the WBG program, which unites labor union workers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects which would otherwise go undone.

Launched in 2010, the WBG program has since touched communities in 31 states. The value of volunteer labor donated through WBG topped the $1,000,000 mark in early 2019 and will soon surpass $1.5 million.

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance is proud of these achievements, and is quick to note how the organization’s surge in growth is allowing the USA and its allies to complete a rising number of projects aimed at enriching the lives of community residents while protecting the nation’s outdoor heritage.

“We celebrated the completion of our 100th project in 2017 after seven years of doing the WBG program,” said Vance. “Now we are celebrating the completion of our 200th project just 20 months later. Not only has our number of WBG projects expanded rapidly, their scope and impact on conservation and local communities has increased dramatically as well.”

Construction of a new boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center will provide visitors of all ages and physical abilities with better access to the center’s hands-on recreational and educational programs.

The SYCC wrap-up comes on the heels of a number of other 2019 project completions, including public piers at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge just outside Liberty, Texas, and Harrison County Sheriff’s Office’s County Farm near Gulfport, Mississippi.

Union volunteers also recently completed shooting range improvements at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland, donated a pair of track chair-accessible ground blinds to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and repaired hurricane damage at Goose Island State Park near Corpus Christi, Texas. 

The USA has also orchestrated a flurry of youth outreach events in 2019. These include Get Youth Outdoors Day events—held in concert with the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) First Shots program—in Tennessee and Texas, along with Take Kids Fishing Day events in Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. “Additional events in 2019 will propel the USA’s youth programs to the incredible milestone of taking more than 10,000 kids fishing,” Vance noted. 

The USA has plenty of other WBG projects and events in the works for 2019 and beyond, including ongoing improvements at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia. A large-scale enhancement project is also planned for the William Powers State Recreation Area in southeast Chicago, which includes construction of an ADA-compliant fishing pier. 

Additional efforts range from the construction of a weigh station-pavilion on the shores of Smith Lake near Jasper, Alabama, to an archery range at North Marcum Recreation Area on Illinois’ Rend Lake and a pedestrian walkway in Prineville, Oregon.

“Our projects are changing lives, changing the way the public looks at unions and changing the way union members see themselves as local heroes and volunteers,” Vance said. “All of this is driven by an amazing team effort that includes the contributions of our founding partners, charter unions, corporate supporters, agency allies, staff and the hardworking union members who give up their weekends to offer their skills to give back to their communities.”

USA, Partners Celebrate Union-Powered Public Shooting Range Improvements

August 1, 2019 in General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson (center right) and IBEW Local 26 Business Manager George Hogan (center left) joined union volunteers at a ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicating new shooting stations at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and a consortium of partners celebrated the improvement of public recreational shooting opportunities at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland, July 31.

A dedication ceremony marked the completion by local labor union members of three covered, fully accessible shooting stations that will be available to community residents and other guests using the range.

“We’re proud to be part of this effort, where union members rolled up their sleeves to help Prince George’s continue to provide the community with some of the finest shooting opportunities in the United States,” said Kinsey Robinson, USA board of directors member and international president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers.

Organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, the project was completed at no cost to the public. 

Union volunteers from IBEW Local 26, SMART Local 100, IUEC Local 10, IW Local 5 and the UBC, along with the Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO), collectively donated more than 445 hours of skilled labor worth over $23,500. Plus, $10,000 in materials was donated using funds from the USA’s Capital Area Conservation Dinner, for a total project value of more than $33,500.

Located just outside Washington, D.C., Prince George’s Trap and Skeet Center is a premier shotgun clay target shooting range open to the public, youth groups and other organizations year-round. The addition of the new shooting stations gives visitors from all walks of life expanded opportunities to enjoy a variety of shooting sports activities including trap, skeet and sporting clays.

The facility is part of the Department of Parks and Recreation administered by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

USA, RBFF, Union Volunteers Unite to Build Public Fishing Pier in Harrison County, Mississippi

July 25, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Fishing just got better at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office’s County Farm near Gulfport, Mississippi.

Labor union members, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) joined forces to create a new fully accessible public fishing pier at the property, which hosts hundreds of local residents every season. 

Designed to give community members of all ages and physical abilities improved access to the farm’s popular fishing pond—home to an abundance of catfish, panfish and bass—the new floating pier stretches 100 feet from the shoreline and features a 50-foot “T” on the end.

“Research shows that accessibility is key to growing fishing participation,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “We are pleased to partner with the USA to bring a fun, safe fishing opportunity to such a popular location, encouraging strong participation for generations to come.”

Union volunteers united by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG) installed the user-friendly structure, along with a concrete sidewalk running from the parking area to the pier, and a lakeside fish-cleaning station complete with running water and electricity. 

Union volunteers installed a new floating fishing pier, fish cleaning station, sidewalk and pier abutment at the Harrison County Sheriff’s County Farm.

To get the job done, volunteers from United Association Local 568, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 6 and United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 1846 donated more than 200 hours of skilled labor valued at over $10,000 to the project. 

Materials were purchased with nearly $20,000 from the Mississippi Building and Construction Trades Council’s annual USA Conservation Dinner and $2,500 from RBFF. Harrison County provided $5,000 to cover the cost of a dock extension at the request of the Sheriff’s Office.

UA Local 568 Business Manager Kevin Cruso, who served as local project leader, said organizers were inspired to build the pier after seeing physically challenged park visitors watching from the sidelines as others fished from the pond’s hard-to-navigate bank.

“We thought it would make their day to be able to catch a fish or two, and really improve the facility’s fishing opportunities overall,” he said. “So we approached the Sheriff’s Office with the idea of building a pier everyone could use, and they loved it.”

“We can’t thank the union volunteers or Union Sportsmen’s Alliance enough for building this,” said Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson. “This is not for departmental use, it is for everyone in the community—including handicapped residents who want to go fishing.”

Peterson noted that the new pier will be a perfect addition to the Sheriff’s Office’s annual Youth Fishing Rodeo, which draws more than 300 children from all walks of life. “We have kids from the city, the county and everywhere in between come out and enjoy a day of fishing,” he said. “We will definitely use the pier for this event. Plus, local residents can come out and fish from it year-round.”

An official dedication ceremony is planned for October 12, in conjunction with the 2019 Harrison County Sheriff’s Youth Fishing Rodeo. The USA will join a number of local and national partners in sponsoring this event.

USA, Union Volunteers Restore Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge Fishing Pier

June 28, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

A popular fishing pier on Champion Lake in the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge received a much-needed facelift thanks to union volunteers, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and the Lower Trinity Basin Master Naturalists.

Organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, volunteers from the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 31, United Association Plumbers Local 68, United Steelworkers Local 13-1, Insulators Local 22 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Locals 716, 351 and 66 joined forces June 22-23 to restore the aging, 150-foot structure.

“We replaced pretty much everything above the waterline,” said project leader and retired Local 68 secretary/treasurer Mike Cramer, adding that the effort entailed roughly 240 hours of skilled labor and 80 hours of general labor—a donation of time and talent worth nearly $15,000.

Funds for lumber and other building supplies were also donated. “The project required nearly $10,000 worth of construction materials,” said Cramer, “which were purchased with proceeds from the annual conservation fundraising dinner organized by the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council and the USA.”

Union volunteers donated more than 300 hours to restore the popular fishing and wildlife observation pier.

The spacious T-shaped pier is a favorite destination for refuge visitors who want to view wildlife or fish for abundant bass, crappies and catfish on the 800-acre lake.

“The pier was built 15 years ago,” said refuge manager Stuart Marcus, “and was showing its age. Between the flooding we get from time to time, extreme seasonal temperature swings and normal wear and tear, it really did need to be repaired.

“We’ve enjoyed working with the unions over the years, and this was another fantastic job.” he added. “It would not have been possible without the USA, the volunteers who donated their time and the union-raised funds used to purchase the materials.” 

Though the project took only two days to complete, getting started on it proved to be challenging, according to Cramer. “Our plan was to start work several weeks ago when air temperatures were in the 70s,” he explained, “but heavy rains upstream put the structure under water. When lake levels dropped and the volunteers could finally get to it, they were working in sweltering 90-plus degree weather. But they’re a dedicated bunch and got the job done.”

USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker explained that the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge project, like similar efforts the USA has organized across the United States, was a labor of love. 

“It’s an honor to support the national wildlife refuge system’s efforts to protect a network of lands and waters for conservation for the benefit of all Americans,” he said. “And we are extremely proud of the union volunteers who donate their time and trade skills to complete projects on refuges and elsewhere in their local communities to improve public access and impact the future of conservation and our shared outdoor heritage.”

Parker noted that projects resulting from the USA’s partnership with the Department of Interior (DOI) also include ongoing enhancement work at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, where union volunteers donated more than 800 hours of skilled labor to install a kayak launch dock, make improvements to an observation tower and repair roads and trails.

USA, Union Volunteers Host Kentucky Youth Fishing Events

June 25, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 70 Kentucky youth went fishing last Saturday, June 22, at Take Kids Fishing Day events hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 110 and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Held in Lexington, Louisville and Paducah, the events were part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized under Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program, and were supported by national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing, Plano Synergy and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

More than 70 Kentucky youth experienced the joys of fishing last Saturday during free, union-organized Take Kids Fishing Day events.

The budding anglers had fun despite wet weather and, in one case, a storm that threatened to end things before they started. “In Paducah, an overnight storm dropped trees and limbs in Bob Noble Park,” said SMART Local 110 Manager Mark Adams. “But park employees managed to get them cleared in time for the event. It was a bit rainy during activities at every location, too, but all the children had a great time and a wonderful experience catching fish—mostly bluegills and crappies.”

Each youth who participated in one of the events received a free rod and reel from Pure Fishing and a pair of game calls from Plano Synergy. Volunteers from Local 110 then helped the youngsters bait hooks, and coached them in casting and landing the fish.

Overall, 74 young anglers participated, mentored by 36 union volunteers who donated more 150 hours of their time to plan and hold the events.

“We believe hosting activities like these is an important part of our function in the community,” explained Adams. “Not only to offer children a chance to go fishing, experience the outdoors and learn about conservation, but also to show our neighbors who we are and what our union is all about—supporting our neighbors while providing people with an opportunity for solid employment and a secure way of life.”

With help from the USA, union locals across the country hold Take Kids Fishing Day events that are free to children and their families. While they help strengthen ties between union workers and the people in their neighborhoods, the primary goal is to encourage young people to enjoy the outdoors and teach them about conserving and preserving natural resources.

“Many children these days don’t get a chance to go fishing or participate in outdoor activities in general,” said Robert Stroede, USA conservation manager. “We know that involving kids in outdoor pursuits early on helps them develop a lasting interest in environmental conservation. It passes on a love and respect for the outdoors to the next generation.”

USA Joins Effort to Expand Rend Lake Recreational Opportunities

June 17, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

USACE St. Louis District Commander Col. Bryan Sizemore (center, in uniform ) and partners who helped complete the Pollinator Trail Project at North Marcum Recreation Area cut a ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the trail opening to the public. The group also announced plans to further expand recreational opportunities with a new archery range, and the addition of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to the team of project supporters.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has joined ongoing efforts to expand recreational opportunities at North Marcum Recreation Area on Rend Lake near Benton, Illinois.

A coalition of partners including the USA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), local labor unions, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Rend Lake College, Rend Lake Bike Club, Scholastic 3-D Archery and Rend Lake Conservancy District have pledged to help build and maintain a state-of-the-art archery range at the popular public day use area.

The handicap-accessible, sheltered archery range will feature over a dozen targets plus an elevated shooting platform, along with a 3-D archery course and 12-mile mountain bike trail.

“We have had such wonderful experiences working with our local unions on past projects, and look forward to continuing this strong partnership in the future,” said USACE Natural Resources Specialist Cassie Magsig. “Today we signed a partnership agreement with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, representing several labor unions, and five other local stakeholder groups to begin the next improvement project for the North Marcum multiple resource area. Rend Lake greatly appreciates the continuous dedication and efforts made by these incredible partners and friends.”

Labor union members donated their time and talents to create the new Pollinator Trail at North Marcum.

The partnership was announced at a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the grand opening of the new Pollinator Trail at North Marcum, featuring a rejuvenated pond complete with four fully-accessible fishing stations. The 1,200-foot trail encircles the pond and is surrounded by five acres of native grass and plants that attract insects, birds and other wildlife that can be viewed from the trail. The pond was dredged and expanded to improve habitat for gamefish and other wildlife species.

While the USACE covered part of the cost of the project, other partners including local labor unions donated time, materials and equipment to bring it to conclusion, according to Jim Hobbie of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA).

“We have a very close relationship with the USACE on Rend Lake,” he said, “and jumped at the chance to help with this important project.”

Along with LIUNA Local 773, volunteers from the Carpenters Regional Council, Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 318, Lake Contracting, Erb Equipment and Ryterski Trucking all played a part in the planning and construction, donating well over 100 hours of time to the expansion, he explained.

Construction on the archery range project is expected to begin shortly, with an opening date yet to be determined.

Union Volunteers Build Blinds For Physically Challenged Sportsmen

June 13, 2019 in Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

A pair of new track chair-accessible ground blinds donated to the Michigan DNR will give physically challenged hunters and wildlife watchers better access to the great outdoors.

Disabled veterans and other physically challenged outdoors enthusiasts will soon enjoy better access to Michigan’s public lands.

Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO), in partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and United Auto Workers (UAW) Ford National Community Outreach Program, donated two track chair-accessible ground blinds to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) at a recent charity event in South Lyon, Michigan.

Presented by MiOFO President Tom Jones during the Garmin Automotive OEM Technology Show and Charity Golf Outing, the structures will be placed within the Sharonville State Game Area in Jackson County, where they will be available for hunting and wildlife viewing.

The donated blinds are among a dozen such structures that have been, or will soon be, placed on public hunting lands in Michigan as part of a far-reaching program developed by MiOFO and executed by USA and UAW volunteers.

The new blinds will create outdoor opportunities for hunters of all physical abilities.

As part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation initiative, union volunteers from the UAW-Ford National Community Outreach Program donated their time and expertise to construct the blinds, according to Jones.

“Our partners’ gift of labor allows us not only to expand outdoor opportunities for individuals with health challenges,” he said, “but also to increase the number of hunters in the community, which helps ensure that public lands will always be around for everyone to enjoy.

“About 12 percent of Michigan’s land area belongs to the public,” he continued, “and with the help of the USA, UAW and MDNR, our goal is to install at least one accessible blind within every one of the state’s designated game areas.”

A project with such lofty and wide-ranging goals is a perfect fit for this partnership, said UAW-Ford Community Outreach and Veterans Initiative Coordinator Jeff Terry.

“It’s a testament to our close teamwork,” said Terry. “And to all that can be accomplished through collective bargaining for our members, as well as in the communities in which we live, play and work.”

Union Volunteers Make Salt Lake City Area Take Kids Fishing Event A Success

June 11, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The waters of Fairmont Park Pond were the backdrop for more than 80 young anglers and their families who gathered on June 8, 2019, for the inaugural Salt Lake City Area Take Kids Fishing Day event, a cooperative effort between the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Utah Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) and Salt Lake City Trails and Natural Lands.

Union volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 354 and International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 3 donated their time and expertise to introduce both kids and adults to fishing and make their time on the water a success. Each youth received a free rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing, as well as a gift bag with other items including game calls donated by Plano Synergy.

The Salt Lake City-area event was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized under Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was also supported by national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing, Plano Synergy and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

The USA supplied all bait and tackle needed for the budding anglers to bring in plenty of rainbow trout and catfish, which are stocked in Fairmont Park’s pond by the Utah Division of Wildlife as part of its community fishing program. After the fishing, all participants and their families enjoyed a picnic lunch at no cost.

Smiles were catchy when more than 80 youth and their families enjoyed the Salt Lake City Area Take Kids Fishing Day June 8.

Local event coordinator, union organizer and IBEW member Brad Baugh said the inaugural Salt Lake City-area event was a resounding success.

“It went very smooth and was well attended,” he said. “We had a whole bunch of people who’d never fished or were coming back to fishing after a long absence, so they were really excited about it—especially about being able to take home a new rod and reel. It was great to see grandparents fishing with their grandkids and taking trout home to eat for dinner.”

According to Baugh, events like this do far more than make memories in terms of shaping attitudes.

“A lot of times we talk to people who have negative opinions about unions,” he said. “When people have such a positive experience with a union-organized event, it helps them realize we’re all the same, and that we’re good people trying to make a living.”

Baugh also said the positive results of this year’s event and the smiling faces of all those who participated laid the groundwork for more Take Kids Fishing Days in years to come. “It was our first time, but we’re looking forward to doing a lot more,” he said.

USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the participants had never fished before. “Reaching these children is one of the reasons Take Kids Fishing Day events are so important to us,” he said. “Because research shows that youth who are introduced to fishing before the age of 14 are more likely to adopt it as a lifelong pastime.

“This is also a great example of what can be accomplished when local labor unions, union volunteers and partners like Salt Lake City Trails and Natural Lands and the Utah Division of Wildlife join forces with the USA and our national supporters to make a difference in the lives of children and their communities,” he added.

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

June 10, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Participants enjoyed a youth fishing derby during the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park.

More than 70 youngsters and their families joined union volunteers for a weekend packed with conservation-related activities during the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) third annual Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, Tenn., June 8 and 9.

The weekend included variety of engaging outdoor experiences including a snake exhibition, youth fishing derby, hiking and an instructional archery event. Along with the free events, free lodging and delicious meals enjoyed by all participants, youth also received a rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing and game calls provided by Plano Synergy. Organized by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the event was supported by the Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council, Montgomery Bell State Park and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The Montgomery Bell campout was part of a series of free, community-based outreach activities organized under Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was also supported by national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing, Plano Synergy and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

USA Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell felt the event went well and noted its importance to families new to outdoor recreation.

Archery was also on the agenda for young campers.

“It was extremely rewarding to see youth and parents enjoy themselves outdoors together, especially those who’ve never experienced these traditional outdoor activities or gotten close to nature,” said Campbell. “We opened the door to a whole new world for them and provided the tools and confidence to continue exploring it.”

One parent told Campbell the weekend-long event was, “Our first experience camping, fishing and spending time outdoors as a family.” Another said bringing his family to the campout, “Really brought us all together.”

While volunteering at the event, Nashville BCTC President Anthony Nicholson was reminded of the benefits union members enjoy while giving back to their communities and encouraging young people to get outdoors.

“Some of these children had never fished before, never owned a fishing pole or even sat by a campfire,” he said. “Getting together with other union members to introduce them to these experiences was priceless.”

USA, Union Volunteers Host More Than 400 Youth at June 1-2 Fishing Events

June 4, 2019 in Articles, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 400 Wisconsin and Tennessee youth went fishing last weekend — many for the very first time — thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), dozens of volunteers from local labor unions and a consortium of partners dedicated to introducing kids to the joys of fishing.

The union-led community events, held June 1-2 in La Crosse, Eau Claire, Madison and Janesville, Wisc., and Spring Hill, Tenn., were all part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, which organizes free Take Kids Fishing Days and other youth outreach events across the country. The events are supported by local and international labor unions and national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing, Plano Synergy and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

Each child who participated received a free rod and reel from Pure Fishing and a pair of game calls from Plano Synergy. Union volunteers ranging from electricians and machinists to engineers and fire fighters helped them rig up, bait up and start fishing. Afterward, union volunteers prepared a picnic-style lunch for the young anglers and their families.

“The USA, in cooperation with labor unions in each area, holds Take Kids Fishing Day activities in many locations each year, but this was by far our biggest weekend,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede.

More than 400 youth enjoyed fishing at USA Take Kids Fishing Day events last weekend in Wisconsin and Tennessee.

While the community-outreach Take Kids Fishing Day events are designed to strengthen ties between local unions, union workers and the people in their neighborhoods, the main focus is encouraging young people to enjoy the outdoors and develop an interest in conserving natural resources.

“Many children today don’t get the chance to go fishing, hunting, camping, or do any of the outdoor activities we all did when we were young,” said Robert Potter, president of the South Central Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council, which sponsored and hosted the Madison and Janesville events. “And we think it’s pretty important to provide those types of opportunities.”

“Research shows that outdoor activities such as fishing encourage kids to develop an interest in environmental conservation,” Stroede added. “And introducing them to the sport at a young age makes it more likely that they’ll continue to participate as adults.

“Through special excise taxes, sportfishing funds fisheries conservation and public water access projects to the tune of $600 million per year,” he noted. “So we need to ensure the next generation of anglers has a solid foothold when starting along that path.”

Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Tyler Tubbs said teaching children about the sport and seeing their excitement at reeling in a fish makes volunteering a labor of love. “When a little kid pulls up a little fish, it’s like a 30-inch walleye to her,” he said. “Something so small gives youth so much satisfaction. That, in and of itself, makes giving our time totally worth it.”

USA Names Ben Hur Construction Union Contractor of the Year

May 10, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

USA Strategic Accounts Manager Sam Phipps (left) presented the USA Union Contractor of the Year Award to Ben Hur Construction Vice President Mark Douglas.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) proudly announces it has recognized Ben Hur Construction Company of St. Louis, Missouri, with its inaugural Union Contractor of the Year Award.

Presented May 1 at The Association of Union Constructors Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, the prestigious award acknowledges Ben Hur’s selfless commitment to unite the union community behind a large-scale conservation project in Florida.

“Our goal for the Union Contractor of the Year Award is to recognize a contractor who truly lives and breathes solidarity and community,” said USA Strategic Accounts Manager Sam Phipps. “A contractor who goes above and beyond to make the mission of uniting a unique community through conservation possible. We want to recognize a union contractor who believes in making a positive impact and providing our future generations of outdoors enthusiasts opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise.”

The $800,000 project, organized by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, encompasses building a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier alongside a 2.5-acre saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida. The project will be the USA’s largest undertaking to date and is expected to be completed in May of 2019.

Until 2017, the effort to build the long-awaited structure was stalled due to a lack of funding. It was then that the USA tackled the endeavor—working with a consortium of partners including the Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, Florida AFL–CIO, Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Southern States Millwright Regional Council, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Pure Fishing and a number of local labor unions.

To give the project one of its largest pushes forward, Ben Hur Construction volunteered to manage the entire construction effort and to see it through to completion. The move amounted to an in-kind donation valued at $100,000.

Ben Hur Senior Project Manager Jason A. Brown said when the company first heard about the project, it quickly volunteered to help.

“We’ve been around for 120 years as a union contractor and have a long history of community support,” he explained. “Being involved with an organization like the USA is a great fit for us, and a perfect way to give back to the union members who work so hard for us every day.”

SYCC’s campus, located on the eastern shoreline of Tampa Bay, includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility, outdoor classroom, hiking and kayak trails, as well as a wildlife observation tower—all of which help to attract more than 11,000 youth and adults per year to visit and participate in its various marine education programs.

By design, the new boardwalk and fishing pier will now allow even greater access to fishing, observation of wildlife and the study coastal marine habitats with minimal impact to the environment.

Union Volunteers Introduce Dayton Area Youth to Fishing

May 7, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

From morning to early afternoon of Saturday, May 4, more than 120 young anglers and their families lined the bank of Lakeside Lake near Dayton, Ohio, to experience fishing firsthand during the free Dayton Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

A team effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Division of Wildlife and Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of fishing.

The Dayton-area event was the latest in a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities held as part of Work Boots on the Ground, the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was produced with support from USA national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

More than 120 young anglers experienced fishing firsthand Saturday during the free Dayton Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

Each of the young anglers received a free fishing rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing. They also received game calls courtesy of Plano Synergy, a partner in the event, and T-shirts courtesy of local union sponsors. Union volunteers rigged up the rods and provided participants with fishing instruction and assistance. To cap off the day, youth enjoyed a free picnic lunch with their union mentors.

Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk noted that union members are quick to give back to their communities, and—along with teaching kids to fish—events such as this help the general public learn more about their union neighbors and organized labor.

“People unfamiliar with labor unions have a chance to connect with our members and see how willing they are to donate their time, funds and talents to their communities,” she said.

USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede explained that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for young people to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation.

“Take Kids Fishing Day events educate a future generation of American anglers and conservationists from diverse communities and backgrounds,” said Stroede. “With more than 40 million anglers generating $35 billion in retail sales and $600 million for fisheries conservation and public water access through special excise taxes each year, it’s critical to continue recruiting new participants.”

The event comes on the heels of efforts by the USA and Ohio AFL-CIO, along with other organizations and partners, to improve public access and amenities at the lake. The improvements included a massive cleanup and installation of a new fishing pier, completed in October 2017.

Both Mauk and Stroede were involved in that project, and Stroede added that it is nice to see how the efforts of union members pay off with events like this.

“It’s really kind of the whole mission of what we do,” he said. “After completing an infrastructure project that improves the access or facilities at a location, we follow up with an event that showcases the new opportunities available to community members thanks to the efforts of union volunteers, the USA and our many conservation allies.”

USA, IBEW Host Colorado Springs Area Take Kids Fishing Day

April 30, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 40 young anglers and their families lined the water at scenic Manitou Lake, Colorado, Saturday, April 27 to learn about fishing firsthand during the free Colorado Springs Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

Organized by the Union Sportsman’s Alliance (USA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 113, the free event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of fishing.

The Colorado Springs-area event was the latest in a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities held as part of Work Boots on the Ground, the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was produced with support from USA national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

More than 40 youngsters learned the joys of fishing firsthand at the Colorado Springs Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

Each of the young anglers received a free fishing rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing, to ensure that everyone had a chance to participate and hopefully continue fishing for years after. They also received game calls courtesy of Plano Synergy, a partner in the event. Along with the rods and reels, prizes were given out throughout the day for categories such as first fish, last fish, largest fish and smallest fish. Burgers and hot dogs were also provided for free to finish off the day.

IBEW organizer Daniel Mondragon thought the event went very well and called it, “a very successful day.” He added that not only did the kids have a great time, the 17 volunteers present benefitted from the event as well, getting to share their love of fishing with those in attendance.

“I think in general it’s great for local unions to engage in the community and let them know who we are,” said Mondragon. “We’re about family and we’re about engaging with the community and this was an opportunity to teach kids a little bit about fishing and get them outdoors.”

Mondragon noted that holding such events gives union members a chance to know the reward of teaching a young person to fish.

“It’s very gratifying when you teach a kid how to do something and see them succeed or make progress in whatever you’re helping them with,” said Mondragon.

USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede noted how such outreach events, “Give youth and their parents an opportunity to get out and experience something they might not do on their own.

“These events also provide great opportunities for union members to connect with and give back to their communities,” Stroede added.

USA, NSSF Hold Houston Area Get Youth Outdoors Day

April 30, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The nonprofit Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), members of United Association (UA) Plumbers Local 68 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Locals 716 and 66 joined forces April 28 to host nearly 50 Houston-area youngsters during the free Get Youth Outdoors Day at the American Shooting Center in Houston, Texas.

The event, organized by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program and supported by NSSF, Savage Arms, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, was open to boys and girls ages 9 to 15 who each received hands-on introductions to trap shooting, rimfire rifle shooting and archery.

“All the kids had a fantastic experience,” said Mike Cramer, retired secretary/treasurer of Local 68. “It was just a great day for everyone involved. Volunteers from the union locals handled small arms and archery training, while instructors from the shooting center taught the kids about trap shooting and shotgun shooting in general.”

Each participant received a goody bag containing three Plano game calls, a license holder and other items, he added, and were provided eye and hearing protection as well as ammunition free of charge.

Nearly 50 youngsters got a firsthand introduction to the shooting sports and conservation at the Houston-area Get Youth Outdoors Day.

“On top of the interactive shooting stations, the kids got to study a number of additional conservation-based activities, including an extensive wildlife-centered display brought in by our friends at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge,” he said. “It was an incredible learning experience for them.

“It’s all very important because, as sportsmen, all us volunteers understand that the number of young people who participate in the shooting sports, and outdoor recreation in general, is trending downward,” he explained. “And as union members, we know we have the organizational and work skills we can use to do something about it—such as holding an event like this that exposes our youth to the great outdoors so they become inclined to help preserve it for everyone.”

The Get Youth Outdoors Day was just one of many such events held across the country that are designed to encourage and inspire a passion among young men and women for outdoor recreation and conservation, according to USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede.

“A large number of kids who attended the Houston-area event had never before been exposed to any kind of firearm safety training, or had held a firearm in their hands,” said Stroede, “and that’s a perfect example of why USA, along with our partners, sponsors and supporters, believe events like this one are so important. They can act as a stepping stone, not just for kids but their parents too, to a greater appreciation and love for the outdoors.”

Union Volunteers, Partners Propel Suncoast Youth Conservation Center Project Forward

April 17, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

A concerted effort by 65 skilled union volunteers on Saturday, April 13 pushed construction of a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Fla., closer to completion.

Collectively, donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses from project partners are expected to top $800,000. The project will be the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) largest undertaking to date and is expected to be completed in May of 2019.

Organized by the USA with support from a wide range of partners, the project aims to give thousands of Florida youth and their families better firsthand access to the Gulf of Mexico’s inshore ecosystem.

Union volunteers donated 622 hours of skilled labor valued at nearly $33,000 during Saturday’s workday event, focusing much of their efforts on installing the new pier’s decking.

The wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier project is being organized as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. Project partners include the USA, Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Southern States Millwright Council, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Ben Hur Construction, Pure Fishing and a number of local labor unions. 

Part of the FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the SYCC is a marine-focused conservation education center on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay. The campus, which includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility with an outdoor classroom, hiking and kayak trails, a wildlife observation tower, and a sea turtle rehabilitation center, was developed in partnership with TECO Energy and the Florida Aquarium. More than 11,000 youth and adults participate in SYCC programs annually. 

Nearly 70 union volunteers rolled up their sleeves to work on the new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center in Apollo Beach, Florida.

The new boardwalk and fishing pier will flank a recently restored, 2.5-acre saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the educational complex. By design, the new structure will allow visitors to study coastal marine habitats and learn to fish with minimal impact to the environment.

“We’re grateful to all the volunteers who have donated their time, talent and other resources to make this new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier a reality. Thanks to them, there will be greater access to fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities, which supports our mission to engage youth and families in the outdoors and conservation,” said Rae Waddell, director of FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network. “Providing access to the pond and saltwater marsh at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center is important for creating the next generation of conservationists. Time spent outdoors also provides youth, families, school groups and others with numerous benefits–ranging from health improvements to better academic performance.”

USA national partner Pure Fishing, the country’s largest manufacturer of fishing gear, has been a driving force in the project’s development. “While this project satisfies all of the conservation criteria—people, outdoors, on the water, learning to appreciate our great stewardship of natural abundance—it also speaks volumes of what can be done when it is for the right reason,” said Pure Fishing Stewardship and Government Relations Director Connie Parker, who also serves on the FWFF board of directors. 

“Multiple non-profits, labor unions, a state agency, state wildlife foundation and industry partners–all organizations with different business models–put down their ideology, joined talent, skill and dedication, dropped their return on investment rubicon and did what was right for land, water and people,” she continued. “We were in this moment united not in doing well but in doing good for the right reason at the right time of need for land, water and people. It is the epitome of a blueprint of success for conservation.”

“There is not enough room to say everything I would like to say about this project and the partners involved,” said USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “Our volunteers continue to amaze me with their skill and dedication to their communities and the future of conservation. 

“This project has been a journey and there were times that we hit a few walls,” he continued. “During these times, every player stepped up and pushed through, gaining a little more ground than we had before. I feel honored to work amongst and with such warriors. To see a public/private partnership such as this unfold is inspiring and should motivate us all to dig deeper and think outside the box. Rest assured, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is ready to partner anywhere we can unite the union community through conservation and make a difference in someone’s life.”

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and skills to Saturday’s workday: Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, IBEW International, IBEW Local 915, Insulators Local 67, Iron Workers Locals 7, 397 and 808, IUOE Local 487, Millwright Local 1000, Roofers International, UA Local 123, Ben Hur Construction and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office.

Union Fire Fighters Team with USA, Ohio AFL-CIO to Host Chillicothe Youth Fishing Event

April 16, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 300 held their annual Fish With A Fire Fighter Day April 13, hosting 187 young anglers at Yoctangee Park in Chillicothe, Ohio.

The free event, designed to introduce local youngsters ages 2 to 15 to conservation and the joys of fishing, has a rich history in Chillicothe, according to Local 300 President Jason Ferryman. “Our Fish With A Fire Fighter Day is a long-standing tradition that the kids and their families look forward to every year,” he said. “The kids get the chance to fish for rainbow trout in the park’s manmade lake and enjoy a picnic-style lunch with their families, while our fire fighters get the opportunity to interact with members of our community.”

This year, for the first time, Local 300 teamed up with the Ohio AFL-CIO and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Ferryman added, “to help make the event bigger and better than ever before. We can’t thank them enough for their assistance in making our day a huge success.”

The USA helped organize the Chillicothe event as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the organization’s flagship conservation program. It was produced with support from USA national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

Union volunteers hosted 187 kids during Fish With A Fire Fighter Day April 13 at Yoctangee Park in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Twenty-two IAFF volunteers and three Ohio AFL-CIO volunteers donated well over 100 hours in planning, preparation and during the event itself, helping youngsters rig equipment, hone casting skills and play feisty fish.

“Organized labor has a strong tradition of lifting up our local communities, and we are pleased to participate in the Fish With A Fire Fighter Day in Chillicothe,” said Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, based in Columbus. “IAFF Local 300 does an outstanding job of putting this event together and we’re happy to be part of it–especially when it involves fostering a love of the outdoors in the younger generation.”

During the registration/check-in process, the young anglers received a free rod-and-reel combo, courtesy of Pure Fishing. Then, with help from family members and fire fighter volunteers, they spent several hours catching hungry trout that had been stocked the previous day by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“They had a fantastic time,” said AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk, who was on hand to help register and organize the eager anglers. “For a lot of kids, it was their first experience fishing, and they were overjoyed that they got to take the rod and reel home with them.

“Afterward, close to 300 kids, family members and volunteers enjoyed a delicious picnic meal of hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, potato salad and fruit,” she added. “It was a wonderful and very busy day.”

Union Volunteers Introduce 200 Spring Hill Youth to Fishing

April 15, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

UAW Local 1853 President Tim Stannard was among the 32 UAW volunteers introducing kids to fishing at the Spring Hill Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

Despite early morning rains, 200 young anglers and their families lined the pond at the Tennessee Children’s Home Spring Hill Campus Saturday, April 13 for the Spring Hill Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 1853 and UAW Region 8, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and other supporters, the free event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of fishing.

The Spring Hill-area event was the latest in series of free, community-based youth outreach activities held as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was produced with support from USA national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

Many youngsters reeled in fish, which were plentiful and in a biting mood after the TWRA donated and stocked 400 pounds of catfish into the pond earlier in the week.

Each of the young anglers received a free fishing rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing, to ensure everyone had the chance to participate and hopefully continue fishing for years to come. Along with the rods and reels, prizes were given out at the end of the day for the largest fish–including three tackle boxes and a bait bucket.

UAW Local 1853 President Tim Stannard reported 32 volunteers—all from Local 1853–donated 150 hours toward planning and holding the event at no cost to the participants or their families. Volunteers provided instruction and assistance, including rigging the participants’ new fishing poles and offering sage advice on how to hook the big one.

Stannard said volunteers enjoyed sharing their love of fishing with those in attendance. “They had a blast getting to see how much fun the kids were having,” he said.

He also noted that holding such events helps non-union residents see the many ways unions and their members benefit the community. “These events help build bridges by showing people that union members are friends and neighbors who enjoy giving back to their communities,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t know much about unions or have heard bad stuff about them,” Stannard continued. “This shows that union members are normal, next-door neighbors who work together to provide living wages and benefits for our families—and we also care about getting kids out in nature, away from the video games.”

USA Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell was elated at how many families tried fishing for the first time. “The event was phenomenal, especially given the cool, rainy weather,” said Campbell. “Everyone had a great time. A lot of kids who never held a fishing pole prior to Saturday got to experience the thrill of fishing. The parents loved it, too. There were just as many excited moms and dads as there were kids.”

Houston Youngsters Invited to Free “Get Youth Outdoors Day” April 28

April 8, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

 

 

 

Boys and girls ages 9 to 15 are invited to learn about the outdoors and experience the shooting sports firsthand Sunday, April 28 at the free, fun-filled Houston Area Get Youth Outdoors Day.

The nonprofit Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is teaming up with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), local labor unions and other supporters to host the event from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the American Shooting Center, located at 16500 Westheimer Parkway in Houston.

Attendees will learn about wildlife, conservation and other outdoor traditions through hands-on activities and demonstrations. The event is also part of NSSF’s successful First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports.

Local union volunteers trained in firearms safety and instruction will provide hands-on introductions to trap shooting, riflery (.22 caliber) and archery. All supplies including eye and hearing protection, firearms and ammunition will be provided at no charge. Each youth will also receive a free goody bag containing a Plano game call, license holder and other items.

The event is free and open to the public, but participation is limited to the first 150 registrants, so please CLICK HERE to register now or contact Rob Stroede at: (615) 831-6770, or by email at roberts@unionsportsmen.org.

Youths must be accompanied by an adult chaperone, although adults are encouraged to bring multiple youngsters to the event. After the event, participants and chaperones are invited to enjoy a free picnic lunch!

The Houston event is part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized under Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It is sponsored by an NSSF grant with support from national conservation partners Pure Fishing, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and Provost Umphrey Law Firm.

USA, NSSF Hold Nashville Area Get Youth Outdoors Day

April 1, 2019 in Articles, General, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 30 youths learned about conservation and hunting while experiencing the thrill of the shooting sports firsthand Sunday, March 31 during the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Nashville Area Get Youth Outdoors Day.

The nonprofit USA teamed up with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), local labor unions and other supporters to host the event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nashville Gun Club, located on the banks of the Cumberland River in West Nashville.

Open to boys and girls ages 9 to 15, the event was part of NSSF’s First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports. Union volunteers from Roofers International and Insulators Local 86 provided hands-on introductions to sporting clays and archery, along with wildlife conservation, dog training and other outdoor topics. 

Hands-on instruction helped first-time shooters experience the thrill of the shooting sports.

“Unions and union workers are honored to give back to our communities by helping introduce kids to conservation and outdoor activities they can enjoy for a lifetime,” said Billy Dycus, president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council. “With fewer kids being raised in rural areas, this kind of outreach is more important than ever.”

All supplies, including eye and hearing protection, firearms and ammunition were supplied at no charge to attendees. Each youth also received a goody bag containing free gifts from Plano Synergy, NSSF, USA and other donors. Youth also enjoyed a picnic-style lunch with their mentors.

The Nashville-area event was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized under Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was sponsored by NSSF and Savage Arms with support from national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

“Hands-on, interactive youth events are critical to the future of fishing, hunting and recreational shooting,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “The USA and its union, industry and conservation partners are proud to support a variety of mentorship and outreach programs across the nation that provide opportunities for union workers to share their passion for the outdoors with young people and their families.”

 

Spring Hill, Tennessee, Youngsters Invited to Free “Take Kids Fishing Day” April 13

March 19, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Register youngsters now for the free Spring Hill Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

Boys and girls ages 2 to 15 are invited to learn about the outdoors and experience the joys of fishing firsthand Saturday, April 13 at the free, fun-filled Spring Hill, Tennessee, Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

The nonprofit Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is teaming up with United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 1853 and UAW Region 8, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and other supporters to host the family-friendly event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Tennessee Children’s Home Spring Hill Campus, located at 3375 Kedron Road.

Youth ages 2 to 15 are invited to join the fun and learn about fishing and conservation.

The event is free and open to the public, but kids must be pre-registered to participate. The first 300 registrants will receive a free fishing rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing. To register, CLICK HERE or contact USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede at: (615) 831-6770; email: roberts@unionsportsmen.org.

Volunteers from local labor unions will provide youngsters with instruction and assistance, and prizes will be awarded for the largest fish.

Youths must be accompanied by an adult chaperone, although adults are encouraged to bring multiple youngsters to the event. All attendees are invited to enjoy a free picnic-style lunch.

The Spring Hill area event is part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized under Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It is produced with support from USA national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

Nashville-Area Youngsters Invited to Free “Get Youth Outdoors Day” March 31

March 11, 2019 in Conservation News, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Boys and girls ages 9 to 15 are invited to learn about the outdoors and experience the shooting sports firsthand Sunday, March 31 at the free, fun-filled 1st Annual Nashville Area Get Youth Outdoors Day.

The nonprofit Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is teaming up with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), local labor unions and other supporters to host the event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nashville Gun Club, located along the banks of the Cumberland River in West Nashville.

Attendees will learn about wildlife, conservation and other outdoor traditions through hands-on activities and demonstrations. The event is also part of NSSF’s successful First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports.

Local youngsters ages 9 to 15 are invited to learn about the shooting sports and conservation during the free Get Youth Outdoors Day event March 31 at the Nashville Gun Club.

Local union volunteers trained in firearms safety and instruction will provide hands-on introductions to trap shooting, riflery (.22 caliber) and archery. All supplies including eye and hearing protection, firearms and ammunition will be provided at no charge. Each youth will also receive a free goody bag containing a Plano game call, license holder and other items.

The event is free and open to the public, but participation is limited to the first 75 registrants, so please CLICK HERE to register now or contact Rob Stroede at: (615) 831-6770, or by email at roberts@unionsportsmen.org.

Youths must be accompanied by an adult chaperone, although adults are encouraged to bring multiple youngsters to the event. After the event, participants and chaperones are invited to stay for a free picnic lunch!

The Nashville-area event is part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized under Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It is sponsored by an NSSF grant with support from national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

USA, Union Volunteers Tackle Hurricane Harvey Damage to Goose Island State Park

February 15, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Visitors to Texas’ Goose Island State Park will once again enjoy fresh water close at hand while camping and picnicking along the Gulf Coast, thanks to the efforts of hardworking union volunteers and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Located on St. Charles and Aransas bays north of Corpus Christi, the popular park offers fishing, boating, camping and wildlife watching opportunities. It is also home to the iconic “Big Tree,” an ancient live oak estimated to be more than 1,000 years old.

Due to these attractions, Goose Island State Park attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually—drawing guests from local communities and across the continent.

Unfortunately, the park’s beachside shelters had been without water since Hurricane Harvey battered the coastline in 2017. To remedy the situation, a coalition of volunteers from local labor unions stepped up to make the necessary repairs to get the taps flowing again.

Thirty-nine volunteers donated a total of 265 hours of labor worth more than $12,300 to the project, which included replacing damaged water lines and fixtures at 44 beach shelters along the park’s scenic waterfront. The repairs were completed in two phases, the latest of which wrapped up February 9. Park officials provided the necessary materials while union members donated their time, skills and tools to make the project a reality.

Union volunteers donated 265 hours of labor to restore the water supply at 44 beachside shelters at Goose Island State Park.

Participating union members represented United Association Local 68, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 278, Communications Workers of America Local 6137, American Federation of Teachers Local 3456 and International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 22.

“The staff of Goose Island State Park was extremely grateful that a group of talented volunteers were willing to complete such a mission,” said TJ Hinojosa, interim park superintendent. “The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance members’ service to their state park system provided park staff the ability to focus on other projects and daily tasks.

“Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Goose Island had its most successful year with over 190,000 guests,” Hinojosa noted. “Partners like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance help us return to our potential a little more every day.”

Local organizers and volunteers were grateful for a chance to make a difference. “We are thankful for everything the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance does to help union members give back to their communities through projects like this,” said CWA Local 6137 president Kristie Veit. “The Texas AFL-CIO has also been a big supporter of this project and similar efforts that benefit our neighbors and neighborhoods.”

“The Goose Island State Park project exemplifies how union volunteers are benefiting their communities and outdoors enthusiasts around the country through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “These infrastructure repairs will benefit thousands of people who visit this scenic, historic and environmentally significant park every season.”

The project restored water supplies that had been disrupted since Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Volunteer Labor Donations Top Million Dollar Mark

February 12, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

USA volunteers building educational kiosks in Michigan recently pushed the total value of labor donated through the organization’s Work Boots on the Ground program over the $1,000,000 mark.

Fueled by a flurry of project completions and strategic partnerships, the value of volunteer labor donated by Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) members to community-based conservation projects through the Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program has topped the $1,000,000 mark.

The milestone was reached as a crew of union volunteers from the United Auto Workers (UAW) Ford Community Service Ramp Program put the final touches on five informational kiosks for the USA’s conservation partners at Pheasants Forever. The kiosks will be placed on game management areas around Michigan to educate the public on the benefits of habitat, conservation and hunting.

The project exemplifies the WBG program, which unites union workers to complete critical conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects in communities across the country.

The USA celebrated its 100th WBG project in late 2017 and to date has coordinated the completion of 156 projects in 30 states and the District of Columbia. USA volunteers have logged 29,937 hours on these efforts, which include 63 outreach campaigns, 85 infrastructure projects and eight support projects.

WBG kicked off in 2010 under the guidance of program manager Jim Klatt. The first project saw union volunteers craft supersize mesh-and-metal live traps for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) researchers to use in buck mortality and fawn recruitment studies. As has since been the case in many WBG projects, the work would not have been possible without union volunteers. The DNR had secured funding to purchase building materials for the live traps but lacked the skilled labor and workspace to build them.

The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program kicked off in 2010, when union volunteers created live traps like this prototype for Wisconsin DNR whitetail deer research.

“We are extremely proud of our volunteers for reaching this milestone,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “They are without a doubt our greatest asset. Their willingness to freely donate time and talents to benefit their neighbors and protect our outdoor heritage continually propels us to new heights in mission delivery and impact.

“Our volunteers are also what make us so unique as a non-profit conservation organization,” he added. “They are the most well-trained and skilled volunteers in the world because of their unique apprenticeship and trades experience. Providing skilled and trained volunteers who can do things that other volunteer groups cannot is clearly our unique niche among the conservation community.”

The USA already has plenty in the works for 2019, including projects and events in communities coast to coast. In what promises to be the largest project to date, the group rallied a coalition of public, private and union partners to construct a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Part of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the marine-focused conservation education center serves more than 11,000 youth and adults annually. Union volunteers are expected to donate in excess of 1,000 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $50,000 to complete the pier and boardwalk, while the USA also contributed $20,000 and Southern States Millwright Council donated $50,000. National union contractor Ben Hur Construction is providing an additional $100,000 of in-kind donation to the project.

A large-scale enhancement project is also planned for the William Powers State Recreation Area in southeast Chicago, which includes construction of an ADA-compliant fishing pier. Additional projects range from the construction of a weigh station-pavilion on the shores of Smith Lake near Jasper, Alabama, to the refurbishment of a public pier at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge just outside Liberty, Texas. Union volunteers are also gearing up to build a pedestrian walkway in Prineville, Oregon, that will open access to 70 acres of public property, and install a handicap accessible fishing pier in Harrison County, Mississippi.

The USA is also organizing a pair of Get Youth Outdoors Day events in concert with the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports. A number of youth fishing events are also on the docket. The USA’s 2019 Take Kids Fishing Day schedule kicked off in Minnesota in January, with additional events set for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Partners Secure Funding for Suncoast Youth Conservation Center Project

January 28, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Construction of a new boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center will provide visitors of all ages and physical abilities with better access to the center’s hands-on recreational and educational programs.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to report that a multi-year, collaborative effort to give thousands of Florida youth and their families better firsthand access to the Gulf of Mexico’s inshore ecosystem has cleared its last financial hurdle.

The final funds needed to construct a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach have been secured, pushing total cash donations and in-kind commitments to the project to $600,000. 

A wide range of partners have made contributions, including the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida ($240,000), Southern States Millwright Regional Council ($50,000), The Saunders Foundation ($28,000), USA ($20,000) and Frank E. Duckwall Foundation ($10,000).

In addition, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is providing construction materials and Ben Hur Construction is contributing $100,000 in in-kind construction costs. The project is being organized as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. Through this program, union volunteers are expected to donate in excess of 1,000 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $50,000 to complete the pier and boardwalk, pushing the total project value even higher.

Part of the FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the SYCC is a marine-focused conservation education center on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay. The campus, which includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility with an outdoor classroom, hiking and kayak trails, a wildlife observation tower, and a Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, was developed in partnership with TECO Energy and the Florida Aquarium. More than 11,000 youth and adults participate in SYCC programs annually. 

The new boardwalk and fishing pier will flank a 2.5-acre saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the educational complex. By design, the new structure will allow visitors to study coastal marine habitats and learn to fish with minimal impact to the environment.

More than 11,000 youth and adults participate in SYCC programs annually and will benefit from the new pier.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, their partners and union volunteers have demonstrated a deep commitment to inspiring people to care about conservation and the outdoors through their support of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network,” said FYCCN Director Rae Waddell. “Their generosity and expertise is allowing the FWC to provide youth and families greater access to the pond for fishing, wildlife viewing and learning about conservation.”

“Getting children out into nature has become a national priority, and the boardwalk and fishing pier add significantly to the educational and recreational programs at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center,” said Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF) President and CEO Andrew Walker.

USA national partner Pure Fishing, the country’s largest manufacturer of fishing gear, also participated in the process, donating time and product to the project’s development. “We are thrilled that ground will be broken soon on the boardwalk and pier,” said Pure Fishing Stewardship and Government Relations Director Connie Parker, who also serves on the FWFF board of directors. “This addition to Suncoast’s campus will ensure that outdoor activities and learning are accessible to all children.”

“This is not your conventional conservation project with one or two partners,” noted USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “This is a union-led, private-public partnership that involves multiple non-profits, labor unions, union volunteers, a state agency, state wildlife foundation and industry partners. We are thankful for everyone’s persistence and support through two years of collaboration, strategic planning and old-fashioned hard work to make it all come together.”

Wayne Jennings, Southern States Millwright Regional Council executive secretary treasurer, said the effort was all about serving the community. “Unions were created for the greater good—not just in the workplace but also the surrounding community,” he explained. “The SSMRC embraces this ideal. By partnering with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and everyone involved with this project, we hope to demonstrate that through unity, anything can become reality. When we all pull in the same direction, we can accomplish extraordinary things. We are investing in the community and hope everyone enjoys the opportunities that this project provides.”

Construction is slated to begin in February, with completion in the summer of 2019.

Union Volunteers Introduce Twin Cities Youth to Ice Fishing

January 22, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Temperatures hovering around zero didn’t stop more than 100 budding young anglers and their families from participating in the Minneapolis Area Take Kids Ice Fishing Day at scenic Coon Lake on Saturday, January 19.

A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 9 and a coalition of other supporters, the free event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of ice fishing.

Much to their delight, the youngsters received a free ice fishing rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing and game calls from Plano Synergy—all while making great memories with their families and union mentors.

“The kids had fun and the event went really well,” said local project leader Dave Morin, a member of IUEC Local 9.

More than 100 budding anglers and their families enjoyed a great time on ice at Minnesota’s Coon Lake during the Take Kids Ice Fishing Day event.

Morin reported that 25 volunteers from the local community and various unions including IUEC Local 9, area building trades and International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 209 donated 152 hours toward planning and holding the event at no cost to the participants or their families. Volunteers provided instruction and assistance, including drilling holes, rigging the participants’ new fishing poles, and offering sage advice on how to hook the big one.

After fishing, the young hardwater warriors and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch, plus raffle prizes from hats to heaters and a brand-new Vexilar FL-8 fish locator.

“Seeing how excited the kids are getting out on the ice and the looks on their faces when they catch fish make it all worthwhile,” said Morin, a lifelong outdoorsman who was chosen to appear on a 2018 episode of the USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors television series based on his union work ethic and commitment to sharing the outdoor experience with others.

“I can’t thank the volunteers, local sponsors, union supporters and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance enough,” he added. “Without all of their help, this event wouldn’t have happened.”

Morin also noted that holding such events helps build relationships between unions and the general public, by reminding community members that union workers are friends and neighbors who enjoy giving back to our hometowns.

The event was led by IUEC Local 9 with support from other unions in the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, along with Pure Fishing, Plano Synergy, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Thorne Bros. Custom Rod and Tackle, Clam Outdoors and Vados Bait and Tackle.

“Our first-ever youth ice fishing event was a big success,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “Thanks to a diehard crew of volunteers from various local unions and the local community, participants were treated to good food, lots of prizes, free fishing gear and heated fishing shelters with holes pre-drilled and ready for them to wet their lines. The fish were fickle, but some participants managed to land a few yellow perch and a couple northern pike were caught on tip-ups. The day was filled with smiles and new friendships, and provided plenty of incentives for holding similar winter events in the future.”

Besides fishing, participants were treated to a picnic lunch, plenty of door prizes and free fishing gear.

The Minneapolis-area event was the latest in series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day activities held as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. In 2018, open-water fishing events were held in Marietta, Ohio, Barboursville, West Virginia, and Eau Claire, Janesville, La Crosse and Madison, Wisconsin, and collectively drew more than 800 participants. Additional events are planned for 2019.

“With more than 40 million anglers generating $35 billion in retail sales and $600 million for fisheries conservation and public water access through special excise taxes each year, it’s critical to continue recruiting new anglers,” Stroede added. “Plus, research has shown that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for children to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation.”

To view more event images on the USA’s Facebook page, CLICK HERE.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Unveils United Outdoors Conservation Fund

January 17, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s new United Outdoors Conservation Fund will provide significant financial resources to union-based organizations and other partners to harness the power of union volunteers as a force for conservation.

Building on record-setting increases in partnerships and completed projects, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to unveil the United Outdoors Conservation Fund—an innovative grant funding program that will allow the organization to further expand its conservation footprint and mission impact.

The fund will provide significant financial resources to union-based organizations, conservation-based non-profit organizations and agency partners to execute impactful conservation and public access projects, and conservation outreach, education and mentoring programs to benefit their local communities.

The monies available through the United Outdoors Conservation Fund are generated through a variety of sources including USA conservation dinners, corporate sponsorships and major donations.

“In the wake of major conservation successes in 2017, the USA has continued to expand its infrastructure projects and community engagement events,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “The launch of our United Outdoors Conservation Fund is a huge step toward further growth as it will both increase the number of conservation projects and events and open the door for even larger scale efforts.

“This grant fund empowers the USA, our union locals, conservation allies and agency partners to put public-private partnerships into motion in a way that not only increases the impact of our projects but also engages many more stakeholders and communities,” he continued. “It will enable labor to make a significant and substantial difference in our country’s conservation future.”

A variety of conservation projects and outreach efforts that benefit local communities will qualify for funding.

Since launching its flagship conservation initiative, Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), to connect union volunteers with hands-on conservation projects that would otherwise go undone, the USA has executed more than 150 projects across the nation. Both the pace and scope of these efforts has increased dramatically in recent months. The organization celebrated its 100th WBG project in the fall of 2017 and coordinated the completion of more than 50 projects in 2018.

The USA has also built a track record of partnering with other non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies, companies and communities to benefit all stakeholders while helping preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

To be considered for United Outdoors Conservation Fund support, projects must address a conservation need and benefit the community, as well as provide opportunities for multi-partner involvement and coordination using union volunteers and their families to execute the project. Infrastructure, community outreach and wildlife habitat projects on public or private property are admissible, but the property must be accessible to the public.

Examples include improving public access to the outdoors, restoring public parks, educating youth about the outdoors, introducing young adults to the union trades through conservation and conserving critical wildlife habitat.

Any union organization that has completed a USA conservation dinner or fundraising shoot in the past 18 months or a local union that is a member of USA’s new Partner Local program with at least half of its membership being active USA members may apply. Grant funds are also available to conservation-based non-profit organizations and local, state and federal agencies that work with unions.

Proposals for USA grants will be submitted in a two-stage process. The first stage includes an initial application (Letter of Intent). Selected applicants advance to the second stage of the grant process and are invited to submit full proposals.

Applications must be completed online at: unionsportsmen.org/grantfund. For additional information or questions regarding the United Outdoors Conservation Fund, email conservation@unionsportsmen.org.

Ohio AFL-CIO, Union Volunteers Introduce Marietta Youths to Fishing

October 17, 2018 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 100 local youngsters and their families participated in the Marietta Area Take Kids Fishing Day at scenic Buckeye Park in Marietta, Ohio, on Saturday, October 13. A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Division of Wildlife and a consortium of other partners, the free community event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of fishing.

Much to their delight, the youngsters received a free rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing and game calls from Plano Synergy. 

Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk reported that union volunteers representing IBEW Local 968 and Local 972, SMART Local 33, Southeastern Ohio CLC Laborers and Ohio AFL-CIO provided instruction and assistance, which included setting up and baiting the participants’ new fishing poles, plus offering sage advice on how to hook the big one.

After fishing, the budding anglers and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch, which provided the perfect opportunity to swap fish stories with their mentors.

“Union members are quick to give back to their communities, especially when it involves conservation and youths,” Mauk said. “We were surprised how many local youngsters had never held a fishing pole. Hopefully now that they’ve experienced the sport and have their own fishing equipment, they’ll continue to enjoy the sport for years to come.”

Participants were eager to wet a line with their new rod-and-reel combos, donated by Pure Fishing.

“It was wonderful to have the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Ohio AFL-CIO and union volunteers come together with our local civic team and other partners to make this event a success,” added Susan Joyce, office manager for Marietta’s Public Facilities Department. “The kids loved it and a great time was had by all.”

Event sponsors included the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife, JD Waterproofing, Ohio AFL-CIO, Marietta Building Trades, Southeast Ohio Labor Council, the city of Marietta, Pure Fishing, Take Me Fishing and Plano-Synergy.

In preparation for the event, the USA leveraged an ODNR grant to stock the pond at Buckeye Park with trout to bolster already abundant populations of gamefish, including catfish, bluegills and bass. The USA also contracted aquatic vegetation-control services to combat excessive weedgrowth that made the water body difficult to fish.

“Take Kids Fishing Day events aim to educate a future generation of American anglers from diverse communities and backgrounds,” explained USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “As a bonus, Marietta residents will enjoy lasting benefits from the fish stocking and vegetation control efforts at Buckeye Park.”

The Marietta event was one of six free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day activities held in 2018 as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. The other events were held in Barboursville, West Virginia, and Eau Claire, Janesville, La Crosse and Madison, Wisconsin. In all, a total of 838 youths participated.

“With more than 40 million anglers generating $35 billion in retail sales and $600 million for fisheries conservation and public water access through special excise taxes each year, it’s critical to continue recruiting new anglers,” Stroede added. “Plus, research has shown that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for children to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation,” he said.

USA, Pure Fishing and Allies Rally to Benefit John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

October 3, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

From left: Joined by refuge mascots, USA Conservation and Community Outreach Director Forrest Parker; Jaclyn Rhoads, Friends of Heinz Refuge; DOI Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Aurelia Skipwith; DOI Senior Deputy Director, Intergovernmental and External Affairs Ben Cassidy; and John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Manager Lamar Gore.

Representatives of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Department of the Interior (DOI) gathered at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge outside Philadelphia Saturday, Sept. 29 to celebrate Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day and commemorate refuge-enhancement projects supported by a coalition of partners including the USA, fishing industry powerhouse Pure Fishing and local union workers.

The event recognized the importance of such projects, along with the important role urban national wildlife refuges play in protecting wildlife habitat and providing outdoor recreational opportunities for all Americans.

“By celebrating Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day, we highlight the outdoor opportunities available on the doorstep of many of the nation’s urban and suburban residents,” said Interior’s Deputy Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Jim Kurth. “Urban refuges are places for families to gather and enjoy the outdoors, and places to reach out to the next generation of anglers and hunters, while providing safe access.”

Unfortunately, due to a shortage of staff and funding, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of deferred maintenance projects stands at more than $1.3 billion, including necessary repairs to roads, trails, dams, docks and levees. Adequately supporting maintenance requirements to keep the Service’s infrastructure in good condition is necessary to ensure safe and reliable outdoor recreational access for the American public on their public lands.

Organizations like the USA, aided by union volunteers who donate their time, talents and funding raised at local conservation shoots and dinners, are working to reduce this backlog, restore America’s Refuge System and improve public access to these national treasures.

DOI Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Aurelia Skipwith noted the importance of urban wildlife refuges for conservation and public use, and thanked refuge supporters for donating their time, talents and financial contributions.

Through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG), union volunteers with IAHFIAW Local 14, IUPAT DC 21 and Operating Engineers Local 542 have to date donated more than 200 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $7,100 on a kayak launch dock and observation tower improvements at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, with a variety of additional projects planned.

Donations from Pure Fishing, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation pushed total conservation partner contributions to more than $21,000. The figure will grow as additional projects are completed.

USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker attended the event and presented a check to Jaclyn Rhoads of the Friends of Heinz Refuge on behalf of the partnership.

“We are honored to join forces with these partners in support of the national wildlife refuge system’s efforts to protect a network of lands and waters for conservation for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans,” said Parker. “And we are extremely proud of the many union volunteers who donate their time and skills to complete projects on refuges and elsewhere in their local communities to help everyone enjoy the outdoors.”   

In honor of Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge hosted a series of outdoor recreation activities for the public including its first-ever 5K race, archery, fishing and kayaking. As part of the fishing component, Pure Fishing donated free fishing rods and reels for union volunteers to distribute to all youths in attendance. Plano Synergy provided game calls as an extra treat for the youngsters.

Attendees of all ages enjoyed the new floating kayak launch, installed by local union volunteers as part of ongoing USA-led conservation projects at the refuge.

USA, UAW Host Youth Fishing Event & Dedicate Piers at Wolftever Creek

September 26, 2018 in Conservation News, Tennessee, Work Boots On The Ground

Kids of all ages wet their lines, Saturday, at a youth fishing event at the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp on Chickamauga Lake outside Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 42, the free event celebrated a new courtesy pier and restored fishing pier at the site.

Young boy is excited to receive new fishing gear, compliments of USA’s partner Pure Fishing.

Youth received a complimentary fishing rod and reel provided by Pure Fishing, and some got the chance to catch their first fish with bait provided by Jack’s Bait & Tackle of Chattanooga.

A dedication ceremony following a picnic-style lunch recognized union volunteers from UAW Local 42, Electrical Workers Local 175, Ironworkers Local 704 and Sheet Metal Workers Local 5, who donated approximately 400 hours to improve public access to Chickamauga Lake.

“Chickamauga Lake is one of the top bass fishing lakes in the country and a major attraction for anglers and boaters. UAW Local 42 was thrilled to help a new generation enjoy this valuable resource through today’s event,” said UAW Local 42 President Steve Cochran. “The smiles on kids’ faces and the pier dedication were the perfect culmination to the hard work of the 67 union volunteers who made this project possible.”

A dedication ceremony recognized union volunteers, who donated approximately 400 hours to improve public access to Chickamauga Lake.

Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp is one of the area’s most heavily used public accesses to the lake. Through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program, union volunteers demolished a dilapidated courtesy pier and replaced it with a 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier to provide year-round public access. Volunteers also replaced damaged and unsafe decking and the top rail of a fishing pier adjacent to the boat launch, where kids fished during Saturday’s fishing event.

Materials for the project were purchased with $10,000 raised by UAW Local 42 and $22,000 from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).

“Access to Chickamauga Lake is a major draw for Harrison Bay State Park, so we are very grateful to the union volunteers who installed the new courtesy pier and refurbished the fishing pier at Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp to benefit both local residents and visitors to the area,” said Harrison Bay State Park Manager Don Campbell.

Little girl goes fishing for the first time with her dad from a pier refurbished by union volunteers.

Working with union partners and industry allies including Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the USA promotes and protects the sport of fishing nationwide through a variety of mentorship, outreach, public access, research and fisheries enhancement projects.

“The pier project and youth fishing event are a great example of a team effort to preserve America’s outdoor heritage,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “Thanks to UAW Local 42’s leadership, all the union volunteers, TWRA, Tennessee State Parks and Pure Fishing, we were able to improve public access to Chickamauga Lake and actively engage kids of all ages in the wonderful tradition of fishing.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Recognizes Madison’s Dave Branson as UA Conservation Steward of the Year

September 24, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Dave Branson (center) accepted the 2018 UA Conservation Steward of the Year Award from (left) USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede and Events Manager Kevin Grubbs.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) honored Dave Branson, executive director of the Building Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin (BTC), with the 2018 United Association (UA) Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his exemplary commitment to conservation and community service.

The award recognizes volunteers from each of the USA’s charter unions who have made exceptional contributions to the USA’s efforts to organize union volunteers to donate their time and unique trade skills in the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage.

Branson, a member of UA Local 434 from Madison, Wisconsin, has been involved in union construction trades for nearly four decades. He is a longtime supporter of USA youth outreach, conservation and fundraising efforts.

“Dave is a tireless leader who volunteers countless hours each year to support his community and the future of our outdoor traditions,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “His commitment, dedication and willingness to freely give his time and talents underscores why volunteers are our most valuable resource in achieving the USA’s mission.

“For example, Dave organizes our Take Kids Fishing Day events in Madison and Janesville, Wisconsin, which last June alone introduced more than 250 local youths to natural resources conservation and the joys of fishing,” Vance continued. “He is also a driving force behind the USA’s annual AFL-CIO, BTC Madison Area Conservation Dinner, which to date has raised more than $325,000 for conservation. 

“Dave has also spearheaded a number of conservation projects, including the recent renovation of the Vilas Park Fishing Pier on Madison’s Lake Wingra, rallying more than 50 local union volunteers to transform a structure that was literally falling apart into a safe, accessible platform that provides community members of all physical abilities with improved access to this popular fishing lake.”

Dave Branson

USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede and Events Manager Kevin Grubbs presented Branson with the award on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018 at the Madison Area Conservation Dinner.

“It’s very gratifying to receive this award,” Branson said. “But I couldn’t have done it without all of the union volunteers from the Building Trades and AFL-CIO who stepped up to make these projects and outreach events come to fruition.”

Branson explained that volunteering offers many benefits. 

“It’s rewarding to teach children about fishing, then see the smiles on their faces as they reel in their first fish,” he said. “Fundraising dinners build relationships between members of different AFL-CIO unions, while raising money to complete projects in our community. Plus, holding outreach events and completing beneficial projects improves relationships between unions and the public, by reminding people that union members are friends and neighbors who enjoy giving back to our hometowns.”

The Conservation Steward of the Year selection process begins with the nomination of potential recipients by peers or union leadership. From this pool of nominees, USA staff select individuals who have had the greatest impact on the USA’s mission, represented their unions in the most exemplary fashion, and made the biggest difference in their local community.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Dedicates Newly Renovated Vilas Park Fishing Pier 


September 19, 2018 in Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union volunteers join together to celebrate the completion of the USA’s Vilas Park Work Boots on the Ground fishing pier project, improving access to the lake for all.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), volunteers from the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin (BTC) and a crowd of union and community leaders, volunteers, park staff and youths gathered at the newly renovated Vilas Park Fishing Pier in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 14, 2018 to celebrate better public access to popular Lake Wingra.

Using funds raised at the USA’s annual AFL-CIO, BTC Madison Area Conservation Dinner, more than 50 local union volunteers teamed up with the USA and the city of Madison to transform the park’s original floating fishing pier—which was languishing in disrepair in a city storage yard—into a safe structure fully accessible to residents of all physical abilities.

More than $28,000 in materials and nearly $10,000 in union volunteer labor were donated to the project, which was organized under through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program. Volunteers coordinated transportation of the pier to one of the local union shops where over the course of a cold Wisconsin winter, numerous repairs were made, including the installation of new decking and a sturdy railing system.

In preparation for installation of the renovated pier, volunteers and union contractors also designed and constructed a pier abutment as well as a new sidewalk and steps on the edge of Lake Wingra.

Four-year-old Natalie Paull of Madison caught her first fish while fishing with her father, Adam, within minutes of the dedication ceremony.

As a testament to the access the new pier provides community members to Wingra’s panfish, bass and other gamefish, the structure was in use within minutes of the dedication. As union representatives and volunteers packed up to leave, Adam Paull of Madison took his four-year-old daughter Natalie fishing on the new pier. Thanks to the abundant and hungry sunfish schooling a short cast from the dock, she quickly reeled in the first fish of her life.

Natalie was ecstatic, while her father was grateful to the union volunteers, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and other project partners for providing a place to create such priceless memories. “This is great,” he said. “The pier is in the perfect place for us to enjoy the lake together and catch fish.”

City officials were likewise grateful. “I’m deeply appreciative to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and all the trades for making this happen,” said Madison Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp. “The high quality of craftsmanship displayed by these union volunteers is a testament to their commitment to this project and to their community, and marks the continuation of a longstanding tradition of union workers giving back to the city of Madison.”

“The Building Trades Council has been working with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for six years to raise funds for conservation projects and Take Kids Fishing youth events,” said project leader BCT Executive Director Dave Branson. “We feel this fishing pier was a good project to give back to the community and make the lake accessible to everyone.”

“The Vilas Park pier project is an excellent example of how local unions are positively impacting their communities and the future of conservation through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” added USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This pier provides improved and safer public access for all residents to enjoy the fishery and beauty of Lake Wingra.”

In an outstanding display of solidarity and community service, a coalition of volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and skills to this project: Ironworkers (IW) Local 383, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Local 13, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) Local 314, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFIAW) Local 19, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 159, International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 132, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 7, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 113 and 330, Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 18, Badger Sheet Metal, Forse Consulting, Ideal Crane, Sullivan Design Build, Terra Engineering and Construction, and Wiedenbeck, Inc.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Expands Youth Events With Tennessee Dove Hunt

September 14, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Mentored hunts are one of many youth outreach events supported by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a perennial supporter of community-based efforts to introduce youths to hunting, conservation and the great outdoors, and the organization was proud to add Tennessee’s 13th Annual Maury County-Steve Brown Memorial Youth Dove Hunt to its list of sponsored events. 

Held Saturday, Sept. 8 at the Middle Tennessee Research and Education Center outside Spring Hill, the hunt was organized by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Wildlife Officers Association and a coalition of local organizations and businesses.

More than 40 boys and girls ages 9-17 were treated to a full day of outdoor fun and education capped off by exciting wingshooting over well-managed fields. The event included registration, lunch, clay target shooting, door prizes, safety orientation and the dove hunt, which concluded at sunset. The USA provided backpacks, Plano Synergy game calls and a variety of door prizes.

“Activities like this are a great way to get youths started hunting,” said event organizer TWRA Wildlife Officer Ryne Goats. “Since wildlife agencies in Tennessee and elsewhere are funded primarily by hunting and fishing license sales and taxes on the sale of related equipment, getting youth involved in hunting and fishing also promotes the conservation of all types of fish and wildlife.”

“These types of youth mentored events are critical to the future of hunting, angling and recreational shooting in our nation,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance, who was on hand at the hunt. “State agencies across the nation provide these opportunities for young people and their families to experience first-hand the fun, rewarding and unifying aspects of being outdoors with other like-minded people.   

“I encourage everyone to not only participate in these events, but also to find out how you can support and volunteer in your local area,” he added. “The USA is honored to sponsor and support events like this one in not only Tennessee, but many other states as well.”

More than 40 youths participated in the 13th Annual Maury County-Steve Brown Memorial Youth Dove Hunt Sept. 8.

“Funds and manpower for these kind of events are extremely limited,” Goats noted. “So assistance from the USA and other supporters is a tremendous help in making them a success.”

Saturday’s dove hunt was the latest in a series of USA-supported events in 2018. More than 700 youngsters were introduced to the joys of fishing in June during free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events orchestrated by the USA and teams of dedicated union volunteers.

The organization also organizes Get Youth Outdoor Day events, which educate attendees about hunting, firearms safety, recreational shooting, wildlife and conservation through hands-on activities and demonstrations. 

The USA also recently received a $30,000 grant from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to hold a series of pilot events through its Work Boots on the Ground program in which local union volunteers trained in firearms safety instruction introduce participants to shooting disciplines including trap, sporting clays, riflery and archery. The events are part of NSSF’s successful First Shots program, which teaches first-time shooters about firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports.

The first of these pilot events is set for this Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 in concert with the USA’s 7th Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day. It will be held at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays Shooting Facility in Clear Lake, Minnesota. Additional events are planned for Tennessee and Texas in 2019.

In addition, the USA and NSSF launched a reward program to thank union members who mentor newcomers to hunting, target shooting and firearms safety in 2018. Working through the USA’s national grassroots support system, international union partners and their locals, the program has already identified more than 1,500 mentors and sent each a complimentary Buck 364 Rival I knife customized with both organization’s logos.

Union Volunteers, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Aid Wyoming Elk Management

August 22, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union volunteers recently collaborated with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to create a custom fence-crossing structure near Etna, Wyoming, that helps wildlife managers maintain healthy herds of free-ranging elk while protecting farmers’ crops from damage.

Volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 322 out of Casper donated 48 hours of skilled labor to install a gate-like “elk jump” along a fence that guides Wyoming elk during migrations between their high-country summer range and lower elevation winter feeding areas.

The volunteers reconfigured the fenceline, set poles, built a retaining wall and erected fencing. Lower Valley Energy provided a boom truck to aid in setting the poles during the project, which was organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.

Derek Lemon, habitat and access coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Jackson Region, said the structure will make it easier for managers to safely drive wayward Wyoming elk back onto the right side of the fence.

“An 8-foot-high fence runs roughly 20 miles along the boundary between public and private lands to facilitate elk movement from the mountains to state-run winter feeding grounds,” he explained. “When elk get on the wrong side of the fence, they damage crops and raid haystacks. In response, state game wardens are called in to push the animals back to where they need to be.”

Wyoming Elk

Volunteers secure a retaining wall to the “elk jump” structure.

Elk jumps, which serve as one-way gates, allow wardens to avoid chasing elk all the way to the end of the fence. “An elk jump is basically an opening in the fence with a corner and small ramp on one side, and six-foot drop on the other,” said Lemon. “The animals are willing to jump down to cross the fence, but rarely pass through in the other direction.”

Completion of the new crossing earlier this month considerably shortens the distance wardens must push elk back to public land. “This reduces stress on the animals and allows wardens to focus more time on other enforcement duties,” said Lemon.

“The project was on our to-do list, but we didn’t have the manpower to make it happen,” he added. “Having union volunteers and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance step in was fantastic because it allowed us to get the job done right away. It’s a win for the state, our wildlife and the local community.”

“When we learned of the need for this project, IBEW members jumped at the chance to help,” said IBEW Local 322 member Greg Moyer, who helped lead the construction effort.

“Union members are always interested in doing projects that improve the quality of life in our communities—and are particularly passionate about work that involves hunting, fishing, conservation and mentorship,” Moyer continued. “I’m grateful the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Work Boots on the Ground exist to help us with this community involvement.”

“Wyoming’s wintertime elk feeding program dates back more than a century and is critical to avoiding winter die-offs from starvation,” added USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “The USA is proud to help union members assist the Game and Fish Department in maintaining an abundance of elk that can be enjoyed by all citizens.”

Wyoming Elk

Members of IBEW Local 322 jumped at the chance to help the local elk herd and safeguard farmers’ crops.

USA, NSSF Join Forces to Introduce Youths to the Shooting Sports

August 20, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

 

shooting sports

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) are joining forces to introduce youths and their families to the enjoyment and rewarding experiences of safe and responsible recreational shooting.

Utilizing a $30,000 NSSF grant, the USA will hold a series of three pilot events through its Work Boots on the Ground program in which union volunteers trained in firearms safety instruction provide participants hands-on introductions to shooting disciplines including trap, sporting clays, riflery and archery.

Thanks to the NSSF grant and funds raised at USA shoots, dinners and other events, all supplies including eye and hearing protection, firearms and ammunition will be provided at no charge.

The USA pilot events will be part of NSSF’s successful First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports.

The first pilot event is set for Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 in concert with the USA’s 7th Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day—a free event open to boys and girls ages 9 to 17. The event will be held at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays Shooting Facility in Clear Lake, Minnesota, just north of Minneapolis. Attendees will also learn about wildlife, conservation and other outdoor traditions.

Additional events are planned for Tennessee and Texas in 2019.

“We’re excited to launch this pilot project with NSSF,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “American union workers are as passionate about passing our shared outdoor heritage to the next generation as they are about hunting, fishing and shooting. USA Work Boots on the Ground youth projects have engaged thousands of youths, and NSSF’s support will assist us in further expanding these efforts.”

In turn, NSSF Director of Shooting Range Services Zach Snow said his organization is eager to tap union members’ love of the outdoors and spirit of volunteerism in NSSF’s quest to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports by increasing participation.

“Research has revealed a high percentage of hunters and shooters in union households,” he explained. “Working with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to help these folks create new shooters is a great fit for First Shots. We look forward to seeing this project grow and thrive.”

The USA-NSSF alliance follows USA partnerships with fishing industry powerhouse Pure Fishing and conservation champions Pheasants Forever and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The USA also recently partnered with industry leading product sales group Outtech and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic resources by increasing participation in fishing and boating.

“Like the relationships with our charter unions and other allies, these agreements help the USA maintain its record-setting growth as we harness the passion, power and skills of Labor of union volunteers to impact the future of North America’s outdoor heritage in communities across the country,” said Vance.

Union Volunteers Expand Boy Scouts’ Camp Meriwether Shooting Sports Facilities

August 14, 2018 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Camp Meriwether

Union volunteers helped construct three new ranges at Camp Meriwether.

Union volunteers recently teamed up with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to help complete an ambitious range-expansion project at Oregon’s Camp Meriwether that gives Boy Scouts from across the West Coast an enhanced shooting sports experience.

Sixteen volunteers from the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers (RWAW) Local 49 and Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 737 and 296 donated 260 hours of skilled labor to help complete the $800,000 project, which added three new ranges to the popular camp.

The project was organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.
Located in rugged coastal wilderness along the Pacific shoreline near Cloverdale, Oregon, 790-acre Camp Meriwether is considered the flagship of the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) Cascade Pacific Council and can accommodate more than 500 campers each day.

Shooting sports including archery, air rifle, rimfire, shotgun and larger caliber firearms are collectively among the Boy Scout’s most popular activities. Yet for years, Camp Meriwether’s facilities were limited to just eight rifle shooting stations, eight archery stations and two shotgun stations.

Camp Meriwether

Sixteen volunteers representing the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers (RWAW) Local 49 and Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 737 and 296 donated their time and talents to the project.

In 2013, the council launched an effort to expand the facilities with a 24-lane rifle range, 24-lane archery range and 10-station shotgun range. After years of planning, fundraising and site prep, the project’s final phase began in 2018. This spring and summer, union volunteers assisted in the framing, sheeting and underlayment for the three new range structures—more than triple the camp’s capacity to introduce youths to the shooting sports.

“The involvement of skilled trade volunteers is so important when a BSA camp takes on a major project,” said Frank Reigelman, BSA’s team lead for outdoor programs and properties. “Volunteers from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance enabled Camp Meriwether to expand its shooting sports ranges to serve members with updated facilities. It’s a win-win as union volunteers enjoy an opportunity to help their communities and the camp receives a high-quality program area.”

“Kids from southern California to Washington get together here to learn about the outdoors and experience activities like archery, trapshooting and riflery,” added USA project leader Travis Hopkins, of RWAW Local 49. “This teaches them pastimes they can enjoy for a lifetime. But it also encourages them to expand their horizons and gives them confidence to try new things—which ultimately helps them become strong members of a healthy community.”

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is proud to help hardworking union volunteers expand Camp Meriwether’s facilities,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “The Boy Scouts of America will use these new ranges to teach thousands of youths safe and responsible firearms and archery skills each season for years to come.”

An official dedication ceremony is planned as part of a grand opening celebration at the new range later this summer.

This isn’t the first time the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance has worked with Boy Scouts of America, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Nichols Park Restoration Receives USA 2017 Conservation Project of the Year Award

August 2, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Nichols Park Restoration

Oklahoma AFL-CIO President Jim Curry and Communications Director Debra Wojtek accepted the 2017 Conservation Project of the Year Award from USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance (L) and Director of Conservation Forrest Parker (R) on behalf of the many union partners involved in the Nichols Park restoration.

Union volunteers’ restoration of historic Nichols Park in Henryetta, Oklahoma, as a community gathering place in the great outdoors has garnered the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 2017 Conservation Project of the Year Award.

Including follow-up work in 2018, more than 100 union workers from 23 union locals donated over 2,475 hours of skilled labor valued at nearly $91,000 and raised in excess of $13,000 for materials to complete a variety of critical improvements to the popular park.

Among the upgrades, volunteers replaced a pavilion roof, improved lighting, replaced picnic tables, cleared overgrown areas and replaced a dilapidated fishing dock with an ADA-compliant floating pier. Union volunteers also built and installed a new flagpole at the park entrance and constructed new camp-style barbecue grills.

Part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, the Nichols Park restoration project was a team effort by the USA, the Oklahoma AFL-CIO and Oklahoma State Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC).

“This project is a picture-perfect representation of what drives the USA’s mission and how the union community eagerly embraces the opportunity to unite for conservation and community service,” said USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker, who announced the award July 24 at the USA’s annual Conservation Gala in Washington, D.C. “Union volunteers completely transformed an aging, poorly maintained city park into a place where the community can once again come together to enjoy the outdoors.”

Nichols Park Restoration

Union volunteers donated more than $100,000 in labor and materials to restore Nichols Park as a community gathering place in the outdoors.

Henryetta Mayor Jennifer Clason hailed the project and declared a special “Union Day” in its honor. “Restoring this historic park, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1941, was fabulous for our city,” she said. “What union volunteers did would have taken months for city crews to even begin to accomplish. The fishing dock would have been years out, if even on the radar due to the dilapidated infrastructure our city faces.

“We will be forever thankful to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for making this project happen without cost to our city,” Clason added. “It was truly amazing to see our park transformed from a work in progress to a dream getaway.”

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and skills to the Nichols Park restoration project: Oklahoma State AFL-CIO; Oklahoma BCTC; OPEIU Local 381; IAHFI Locals 94 and 64; TWU Local 514; UA Locals 344 and 430; IBEW Locals 584, 1002, 1141; NALC Local 442; GMP Local 48; SMART Locals 124 and 270; IUOE Local 627; BAC Local 5; IAMAW Local 850; Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma; LIUNA Local 107; USW; Roofers Local 143; and the city of Henryetta.

“It feels good being part of something that benefits your community,” said Oklahoma BCTC Executive Director Jimmy Fish. “I’m proudest of the new pier, which gives people a place to fish in the local area. It was very rewarding to see all the kids come down here and catch fish on it during the dedication celebration.”

Nichols Park Restoration

Among the many improvements to the park, union volunteers replaced a dilapidated fishing dock with an ADA-compliant floating pier.

USA’s Take Kids Fishing Day Events Introduce Youth to Joys of Fishing

June 22, 2018 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Kids Fishing

Take Kids Fishing Day events pair local union volunteers with youths from their communities.

More than 700 youngsters were introduced to the joys of fishing in June 2018 during free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events orchestrated by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and teams of dedicated union volunteers.

A total of 738 youths participated in five USA Take Kids Fishing Days, held in Barboursville, West Virginia, and Eau Claire, Janesville, La Crosse and Madison, Wisconsin. Much to their delight, each youth received a free rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing, a game call from Plano Synergy and a chance to put his or her new fishing gear to the test against a variety of freshwater gamefish.

After fishing, the budding anglers and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch, which provided the perfect opportunity to swap fish stories with their union mentors.

One-hundred twenty volunteers representing 38 local skilled trade unions donated 472 hours of time to make the events a success. Their duties ranged from planning to cleanup, but favorite tasks invariably centered on providing fishing instruction and assistance—which included setting up and baiting the participants’ new fishing poles and offering sage advice on how to hook the big one.

Kids Fishing

USA Take Kids Fishing Day events are free of charge, and participants receive rods and reels courtesy of Pure Fishing.

The events were part of Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program—and sponsored by union partners including the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin, Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Building and Construction Trades Council of Western Wisconsin, Greater West Central Area Labor Council and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“Take Kids Fishing Day events aim to educate a future generation of American anglers from diverse communities and backgrounds,” explained USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “With more than 40 million anglers generating $35 billion in retail sales and $600 million for fisheries conservation and public water access through special excise taxes each year, it’s critical to continue recruiting new anglers.”

Stroede noted additional benefits of teaching kids to fish. “Research has shown that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for children to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation,” he said.

Madison-area Take Kids Fishing Day leader Dave Branson, executive director of the South Central Wisconsin BCTC, explained the allure of volunteering at a youth fishing event. “It’s rewarding to teach children about the sport, then see the smiles on their faces as they reel in their first fish,” he said. “Plus, holding events like this helps build relationships between unions and the public, by reminding people that union members are friends and neighbors who enjoy giving back to our community.”

The nonprofit Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) organizes union volunteers to donate their time and unique trade skills to conservation, outreach, public access, mentorship and education campaigns that preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. Working with union partners and industry allies including Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the USA promotes and protects the sport of fishing nationwide through a variety of mentorship, outreach, public access, research and fisheries enhancement projects.

 

Union Volunteers Completely Transform Vilas Park Fishing Pier

May 31, 2018 in General, Wisconsin, Work Boots On The Ground

Vilas Park

Union volunteers from the South Central Wisconsin Building Trades Council (BTC) teamed up with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) to renovate and reinstall the Vilas Park fishing pier in Madison, Wisconsin, providing better access to the lake for all.

Utilizing nearly $22,000 in funds raised by the USA’s Madison Area Conservation Dinner, union volunteers teamed up with the USA and the city of Madison to take the original floating fishing pier, which was sitting in a state of disrepair in one of the city’s materials yards, and restore it for the public’s use.

“This project was a great opportunity for multiple Union trades to come together and benefit our local community,” said project leader and South Central Wisconsin BTC President/Executive Director Dave Branson. “It’s rewarding to know that this revitalized pier will provide safe and easy access for all to participate in the sport of fishing at Vilas Park.”

Volunteers coordinated transportation of the pier to one of the local union shops where over the course of the cold, harsh Wisconsin winter repairs were made, including the installation of new decking. In preparation for installation of the renovated, now handicap accessible fishing pier, volunteers and union contractors also designed and constructed a pier abutment as well as a new sidewalk and steps on the edge of Lake Wingra in Madison’s Vilas Park, which have greatly increased accessibility to the fishing pier.

“This project is an excellent example of the impact that USA’s skilled union volunteers bring to the future of conservation and preserving our outdoor heritage,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “If it weren’t for their dedication to conservation and their community, there is a very good chance that this pier would have never made its way back to the water for the public’s use.”

More than 30 union volunteers from Ironworkers (IW) Local 383, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Local 13, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) Local 314, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFIAW) Local 18, International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 132, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 7, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 113 and 330 and Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 18 donated nearly 200 hours to rebuild and install the previously dilapidated pier.

After completing restoration of the pier, it was transported and installed at its new location at Vilas Park. Volunteers will soon install a new handrailing on the pier to complete this project.

Union Led Wolftever Creek Project Enhances TN Fishing And Boating Access

May 11, 2018 in General, Work Boots On The Ground

Spanning more than 36,000 acres, Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga is a popular destination for anglers and other watersports enthusiasts from within the state and around the country.

Fishing is a prime draw. The scenic reservoir is consistently ranked among the nation’s top bass fisheries and currently holds the Tennessee state records for both largemouth and spotted bass. Recreational boating, waterskiing, kayaking, swimming and camping also attract thousands of visitors each year. Unfortunately, funds to maintain and enhance public access to this crown jewel of the Tennessee River system are chronically tight.

To help remedy the situation, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and a dedicated team of union volunteers stepped up to complete a major overhaul of one of Chickamauga’s busiest access points, the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp adjacent to Harrison Bay State Park just outside of Chattanooga.

The renovation expanded year-round public access by replacing an existing dilapidated dock with a brand-new, 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier.

Before Photos:

Union volunteers donated approximately 300 hours of labor to demolish the old dock April 7, install the new pier April 21 and align the structure on April 28. Volunteers also replaced damaged and unsafe floor boards and the top rail of a fishing pier adjacent to the boat launch.

The final phase of the project, set for completion by the end of May, includes the installation of an additional handrail on the pier abutment and transition plates between dock sections. In the meantime, the pier is open for use.

The project was part of USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, which brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and talents 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 WBG program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.

The Wolftever Creek project was conducted without the use of state game and fish funds. Materials were purchased with $10,000 raised by United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 42 and $22,000 in federal marine fuel tax revenues from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). All union labor was donated.

The project originated when UAW Local 42 expressed interest in taking on a community-based conservation project, and USA research revealed strong public support for improvements to the Wolftever Creek ramp.

Demolition & Renovation Photos:

“Unions are always looking for ways to get involved and improve their communities,” said UAW Local 42 President Steve Cochran. “The Wolftever Creek boat ramp was one of the most heavily used access points to the lake, but it was really unsafe and unusable in the winter due to low water levels. Replacing the boat ramp is a project that UAW Local 42 really wanted to get involved in to benefit the public and demonstrate that we care about our community.”

Along with UAW Local 42, participating union members also represent the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 175, Ironworkers (IW) Local 704 and Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 5.

“The Wolftever Creek project is an excellent example of how local unions are positively impacting their communities and the future of conservation through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This dock benefits thousands of fishermen and other recreational boaters who use the Wolftever Creek boat ramp. It not only improves the aesthetic value of this location but provides improved and safer access to all who utilize it.”

TWRA officials were grateful for USA and union volunteers’ assistance in making the Wolftever Creek ramp renovation a reality faster than limited state budgets and manpower could have allowed.

“The donations and hard work of the Union Sportsmen allowed us to accomplish this project more quickly,” said Capt. Matt Clarey, who oversees boat access areas and ramps for TWRA Region III. “We’re pleased to work alongside such great citizens. This partnership will benefit Tennesseans for years to come.”

UAW Local 42 Vice President David Gleeson noted the added benefits of having union members from different trades join forces in pursuit of common goals such as conservation and community service.

“Volunteer projects like the one at Wolftever Creek build comradery and enable members of various union trades to discuss issues,” he said. “We had ironworkers, sheet metal workers and auto workers. But at the worksite, we were all just workers. Nobody had a big head. We just helped one another out with what needed to be done.”

After Photos:

USA Family Outdoors Day Celebrates Ron Schneider Boat Ramp at Minnie Ha Ha Park

April 30, 2018 in Missouri, Press Release

Ron Schneider Boat Ramp

More than 250 people gathered on Saturday, April 28 at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills, Missouri, for Family Outdoors Day, hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Missouri American Water.

The community event included fishing, lunch, live music by the Greg Haney Group and kid’s activities, and the first 150 youth received a fishing rod and reel, courtesy of Pure Fishing.

A ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. marked the official opening of the park’s new, non-motorized Ron Schneider Boat Ramp constructed by union volunteers from Missouri American Water and Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 335, through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.

The Ron Schneider Boat Ramp was funded through a $35,000 grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation to improve access to water-based recreation activities. It was named to honor a long-time UWUA Local 335 member who led the first ramp rebuild.

“City parks play a vital role in providing large populations with access to the great outdoors, yet tight budgets can make it difficult to maintain park infrastructure,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “American Water and our skilled union volunteers worked hand in hand to complete the new boat ramp despite weather-related setbacks. The project and Family Outdoors Day are a testament to their commitment to improving their community.”

The Ron Schneider Boat Ramp was completed for the second time on August 13, 2017. In early 2017, union volunteers donated approximately 250 hours to tear out and replace the original ramp, which was built in the 1940s and in poor condition. Less than a week after it was completed in May of 2017, catastrophic flooding damaged 90 percent of new structure beyond repair. Undeterred, project leaders devised a new design to stand up to flood waters from the Meramec River.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance have really done something great for the community of Sunset Hills with this boat ramp,” said Cheryl Norton, president of Missouri American Water. “I am so proud of the work of Missouri American Water’s employees in helping to get this new boat ramp built – not just once, but twice. Having the flood wash away the first boat ramp was disappointing, but to see the way all the groups came together to persevere and rebuild really shows our collective commitment to this project and this community.”

USA Celebrates Nichols Park Transformation + Hosts Family Fishing Event

March 15, 2018 in General, Oklahoma, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Nichols Park

Henryetta, Ok. — (March 10, 2018) The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Oklahoma AFL-CIO, Oklahoma State BCTC, and a crowd of more than 250 gathered at Nichols Park in Henryetta, Oklahoma, today to celebrate the park’s transformation through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program.

Prior to the dedication, volunteers completed one final project at Nichols Park, installing the new pavilion roof. The USA and local conservation partners then hosted a family fishing day full of educational activities and served a free lunch.

Nearly $13,000 was raised for the Nichols Park restoration project at the USA’s Oklahoma AFL-CIO Conservation Dinner held in Tulsa in October 2016. Using funds for materials and equipment, more than 100 volunteers from 23 Union locals and community groups donated approximately 1,325 hours to make major improvements to the park.

Projects included replacing the pavilion roof, improving lighting, replacing and fixing park benches and picnic tables, clearing overgrown areas, and replacing an unsafe fishing pier with an ADA compliant floating pier.

“What was done in a few hours by the Unions would have taken months for the city crews to complete or even begin to accomplish,” said Henryetta Mayor Jennifer Clason. “The fishing dock would have been years out, if even on the radar due to the dilapidated infrastructure our city faces.”

“The public should know that Unions unite for common goals and advocate for workers in both the public and private sector,” concluded Mayor Clason. “We will be forever thankful to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for making this project happen without cost to our city. It was truly amazing to see our park transformed from a work in progress to a fairy tale dream getaway.”

In an outstanding display of solidarity and community, more than 100 volunteers from the following Unions and groups donated their time and skills to this project: Oklahoma State AFL-CIO; Oklahoma BCTC; OPEIU Local 381; IAHFI Locals 94 and 64; TWU Local 514; UA Locals 344 and 430; IBEW Locals 584, 1002, 1141; NALC Local 442; GMP Local 48; SMART Locals 124 and 270; IUOE Local 627; BAC Local 5; IAMAW Local 850; Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma; LIUNA Local 107; USW; Roofers Local 143; and the city of Henryetta.

“Public parks are a resource that all Americans should cherish and be good stewards of,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “Parks provide a variety of benefits including creating safer neighborhoods, engaging local communities and promoting public health in the outdoors. This project is a prime example of what our community-based conservation projects should look like.”

###

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): WBG is the USA’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.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to Dedicate Newly Restored Nichols Park & Host Family Fishing Day

March 6, 2018 in Oklahoma, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Henryetta, Oklahoma — Union volunteers in the Henryetta Area will volunteer their time and trade skills through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program to complete one final project at Nichols Park in Henryetta, Oklahoma, that will increase public access to the park and lake. To celebrate the newly restored park, the USA will host a family fishing day and a formal dedication following the completion of the project.

WHAT:
Union Sportsmen’s Alliance volunteers from the Oklahoma AFL-CIO and Oklahoma State Building and Construction Trades will complete the installation of the new pavilion roof. The completion of this project will increase overall use of this resource, promote conservation and the outdoors, encourage participation in fishing, and unite the community through volunteerism. The restoration of Nichols Park will be celebrated with fishing, a free lunch and a formal dedication. View the work day flier here.

WHEN:
Saturday, March 10
Work begins: 9:00 a.m.
Fishing begins: 10:30 a.m.
Lunch served: 11:30 a.m.
Project dedication: 12:00 p.m.

WHERE:
Nichols Park
New Lake Road
Henryetta, OK 74437

DEDICATION SPEAKERS:
Jennifer Clason, Mayor of Henryetta, OK
Jimmy Fish, Project Leader
Jimmy Curry, OK AFL-CIO President
Forrest Parker, USA Director of Conservation & Community Outreach

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Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: 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 is the USA’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 habitats, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. WBG 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.

USA Dedicates Pier at Jones Point Park: Hosts Youth Fishing Event

November 9, 2017 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release, Virginia, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) and a crowd of more than 200 union and community leaders, volunteers, park staff and youth gathered at a newly restored fishing pier at historic Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia, on November 3, 2017 to celebrate the USA’s 100th conservation project.

Prior to the dedication, the USA and local conservation partners hosted 75 students from Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy for a morning of educational activities and fishing from the new pier as part of the National Park Service’s Every Kid in a Park initiative.

“Ten years ago, I said that the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance would bring more muscle to the conservation movement,” said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president and USA chairman of the board. “As we celebrate the USA’s 100th conservation project, I’m proud to say the USA has become a conservation powerhouse with union volunteers around the country rallying together to benefit our communities and protect, preserve and pass on America’s outdoor heritage while demonstrating what it truly means to be union.”

The restoration project was funded by an AWCF grant of $22,500 along with contributions from the USA Capital Area Conservation Dinner. The pier restoration would not have been possible without the support of many other organizations including: Smoot’s Lumber, Culpeper Wood Preserves, Simpson Strong-Tie, Guest Services Inc., Ullico, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation.Jones_Point_Park

More than 100 volunteers from Electrical Workers Local 26, Elevator Constructors Local 10, Iron Workers Local 5, Bricklayers Local 1, Roofers Local 30, Virginia American Water (employees are part of SEIU Local 32BJ), Ullico, Calibre and the Student Conservation Association donated 864 hours to restore the pier. The pier, built in the 1950s, is located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway and managed by the National Park Service. The value of materials and labor for the project topped $50,000.

“Because of rotten wood, loose railings, mismatched boards, uneven surfaces and other hazards, Jones Point Park was in dire need of work to repair the pier and bring it into ADA compliance,” said Allison Silberberg, City of Alexandria mayor, who spoke at the dedication. “Thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the American Water Charitable Foundation and all the dedicated volunteers, the pier will once again provide safe fishing and viewing access to the Potomac River for generations to come.”

To retain the pier’s historic feel, the joists and deck boards were specially milled for the project. The pier’s new handrails contain several specialized locations to accommodate fishing from wheelchairs.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation is proud to have supported the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s 100th conversation project with the $22,500 grant,” said Barry Suits, president, Virginia American Water. “Built with the help of Virginia American Water employees, the new pier will encourage greater interaction with, and appreciation for, the Potomac River—one of the sources of Alexandria’s drinking water supply—and an important water resource for our nation.”

This conservation project is the USA’s 100th since it launched its Work Boots on the Ground program in 2010. The program brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle hands-on, community-based conservation projects.

“Our public lands are a treasure for all Americans, but they’re at risk of falling into disrepair with budget cuts and a $12 billion maintenance backlog,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “Our 100th Work Boots on the Ground project is a shining example of public and private partners and dedicated volunteers coming together to restore, conserve and protect our parks, their legacy and critical infrastructure for all Americans to enjoy for generations to come.”

Union Volunteers Revitalize Dayton, Ohio’s Lakeside Lake

October 15, 2017 in Conservation News, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley joined the Ohio AFL-CIO, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and local volunteers and community leaders on the shore of West Dayton’s Lakeside Lake on October 11, to celebrate recent improvements and amenities.

USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, PineView Neighborhood President Lisa Rucker and Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga dedicate the new floating fishing pier at Lakeside Lake.

As part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, members of the Ohio AFL-CIO partnered with the City of Dayton and CityWide, the City of Dayton’s development partner, to restore and improve Lakeside Lake as one phase of a broad redevelopment plan for West Dayton.

“Lakeside Park historically was a popular amusement park for Dayton. Local citizens are working to bring Lakeside back,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and its coordination with the Ohio AFL-CIO have made the restoration of Lakeside Lake possible. Our community is honored to have support from the Ohio AFL-CIO and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance in this effort to revitalize West Dayton.”

Over the past six months, more than 100 volunteers from local unions and the community participated in four cleanups to clear out invasive honeysuckle and trash along the water’s edge to restore the beautiful vista. In September, volunteers from Ironworkers local 290 constructed two custom park benches, which were painted by IUPAT Local 249 members. Volunteers from OPCMIA local 132 and LIUNA Local 1410 poured concrete pads for the two benches and a pier abutment for the new fishing pier. Union volunteers then assembled and installed a floating fishing pier on Oct. 11, before a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of this phase of the lake’s restoration.

More work is scheduled to take place at the site over the coming months including improved pathways, lighting, parking and signage. In addition to volunteering their time and skills, local union members raised more than $25,000 through the USA’s Ohio State Conservation Dinner to contribute to the restoration project.

“The Ohio AFL-CIO is pleased to advance the mission of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance that celebrates the great outdoors and supports local communities in the city of Dayton,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga. “We are grateful to Mayor Whaley, the local building and construction trades, the local labor council, union volunteers and city employees that made this project a reality for all to enjoy.”
The Lakeside Lake project was made possible by the following unions: Dayton MV Regional Labor Council, AFSCME Council 8, IBEW Local 82, Laborers’ Local 1410, Ironworkers Local 290, IUPAT Local 249, OPCMIA Local 132, USW Local 5541, UA Local 189, Dayton Newspaper Guild.

“The USA’s Ohio State Conservation Dinner is the perfect example of how USA dinners rally local unions in solidarity for community service,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “We couldn’t be more proud of all the unions and union members that have contributed to the success of the Ohio State dinner and the many conservation efforts they have supported.”

Many Dayton residents have fond memories of visits to Lakeside Lake, which offered fishing and scenic views before it became overgrown. CityWide made the restoration of the lake part of its community development strategy, believing its beautification is essential to community confidence and the ability to attract additional investment to West Dayton.

American Water Charitable Foundation Awards $22,500 Grant for USA’s 100th Conservation Project

August 25, 2017 in Conservation News, Virginia

The American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) has provided a grant of $22,500 to support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) 100th Work Boots on the Ground project at the historic Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Va.

Jones Point Park fishing pier

The USA will support the National Park Service by replacing a fishing pier at the park originally constructed in 1950 that is in critical need of repair.

The AWCF grant helps cover expenses to rebuild the fishing pier. Virginia American Water provides drinking water service to the City of Alexandria, and the company’s Alexandria District employees will help rebuild the pier by supplying some of the skilled union workers to complete a portion of the project. SEIU Local 32BJ covers Virginia American Water field operations employees in Alexandria.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation is proud to again support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance with this grant, which is vital to rebuilding the fishing pier at Alexandria’s Jones Point Park,” said Laura Martin, AWCF president.

Located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Jones Point Park is just a few miles from Washington, DC, and is an important urban park with fishing and boating access to the Potomac River.

“Built with the help of Virginia American Water employees, the new pier will encourage greater interaction with, and appreciation for, the Potomac River—one of the sources of Alexandria’s drinking water supply—and an important water resource for our nation,” said Barry Suits, president, Virginia American Water.

This conservation project is the USA’s 100th since it launched its Work Boots on the Ground program in 2010. The program brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle hands-on, community-based conservation projects.

“Our public lands are a treasure for all Americans, but they’re at risk of falling into disrepair with budget cuts and a $12 billion maintenance backlog,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “Our 100th Work Boots on the Ground project is a shining example of public and private partners and dedicated volunteers coming together to restore, conserve and protect our parks, their legacy and critical infrastructure for all Americans to enjoy for generations to come.”

National parks are funded through multiple sources in congressional appropriations, but in recent years have been insufficient to keep up with the deferred maintenance on park roads, bridges, trails, historic structures, campgrounds and other facilities. As recently as 2015, the National Park Service received just 58 cents of every dollar it needed just to keep the repairs backlog from growing.

The Jones Point Park project marks the seventh joint conservation project between the USA and AWCF since 2015. In total, the USA has received $175,500 in AWCF grants for projects that improve public access to water-based recreational opportunities or enhance the environmental sustainability of existing recreational areas in Tennessee, Illinois, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

A formal pier dedication is planned for November 2017.

USA and UAW-Ford Michigan Ramp Team Construct Accessible Hunting Blinds

August 15, 2017 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) volunteers from United Auto Workers (UAW) Ford Michigan Ramp Team in Michigan began construction to build accessible hunting/wildlife viewing blinds for the Sharonville State Game Area in Grass Lake, Michigan.

The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle community-based conservation projects. This project was developed in partnership with Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It will utilize funds raised at the USA’s Greater Lansing Labor Council Conservation Dinner along with materials and labor donated by UAW-Ford under the direction of Vice President Jimmy Settles and Bill Dirksen.

Materials for the project will top $3,000 and take more than 45 hours of skilled labor to complete. After the blinds are constructed, three 8 ft. x 8 ft. box blinds with custom features, including window ledges at wheelchair height and a 4-foot door for track chair entry, will be delivered and used by guests recreating through MiOFO events on the state game area this fall.

A dedication for the project will take place on August 24, 2017 at 11 a.m. near the shooting range at the Sharonville State Game Area. Action track wheelchairs will be available for use, courtesy of Brian Reno of Michigan Outdoor Mobility, who has donated use of the chairs for other MiOFO events for the past three years. Following the dedication ceremony, attendees are invited to stay for a BBQ style lunch and trap shoot.

Conceptualized in 2013, MiOFO improves outdoor recreation opportunities for wounded veterans and individuals with health challenges and coordinates a support network that facilitates their recovery through connecting with nature.

“The work of Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors to provide the public – including those with special needs—with the opportunity to enjoy nature compliments the USA’s efforts to improve public access to the outdoors,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “We are thankful to all the groups involved, especially the Lansing Area AFL-CIO and UAW- Ford Michigan Ramp Team, for working with us to support MiOFO’s mission.”

MiOFO President and Founder Thomas Jones planted the seed of a joint project after learning about the USA through the Michigan BCTC. Glenn Freeman, president of the Lansing Area AFL-CIO, connected the USA with Sheila Pedersen, UAW-Ford community service liaison at the United Way of Washtenaw County, and she secured UAW volunteers to get the project underway. As a result of the project, Defender Mobility, a veteran charity, has agreed to donate a brand-new Track Fab chair to MiOFO, and Garmin International is working with MiOFO to introduce new technologies on the track chairs and blinds this year.

“It’s really awesome how so many groups have come together on a project that will benefit the entire community,” Pedersen said.

“The work these volunteers are doing is a great service to their country,” said Thomas Jones. “By reintegrating those we serve to the outdoors, we are reintegrating them to a quality of life they may have lost. Disabled veterans and individuals with health challenges deserve access to the same areas as the general public. These blinds are in the three best areas to harvest a sunrise or a trophy buck. We are giving them community, comradery and the independence to enjoy freedom outdoors.”

As the USA celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, it is nearing its 100th Work Boots on the Ground (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.

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.”

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.”