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

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

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Black Fork Wetlands Environmental Studies Center while still under construction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Laura Tingo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kid_Fish_EauClaire_WI_2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Laura Tingo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One youth shows off his nice catch in Eau Claire.

One youth shows off his nice catch in Eau Claire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Union hands and community families volunteer to restore Bolsa Chica wetlands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Union Volunteers Refurbish Trails at Government Canyon State Natural Area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Increase in support powers expansion of conservation, youth initiatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sergio Hernandez, 17of San Antonio, TX

Sergio Hernandez,17 of San Antonio, TX

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

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

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

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

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

Josh Kelly, 9 from Garden Ridge, TX

Josh Kelly, 9 from Garden Ridge, TX

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance:

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

Union sportsmen volunteer for conservation projects

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

By Bill Knight

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

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

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

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

Tim Bindl, Work Boots on the Ground Program Manager

Tim Bindl, Work Boots on the Ground Program Manager

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

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

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

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

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

A hacking tower feeds and protects young  ospreys

A hacking tower feeds and protects young ospreys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin Union Volunteers Save Mississippi Wildlife Refuge $11,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the photos of this project.

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

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

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

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

Take Kids Fishing La Crosse (66)

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

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

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

Click Here to See More Photos from This Event

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

NJ Pheasant Program Gets a Boost from Union Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(L-R) Don Mullins and Ray MacDowell

(L-R) Don Mullins and Ray MacDowell

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

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

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

Click here to see more photos of this project.

Volunteers Wrap Up 1st Phase of Youth Shooting Facility

April 30, 2013 in Work Boots On The Ground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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