Most sportsmen and women know, and even appreciate, that their hunting and fishing licenses and permits support the management of fish and wildlife. In other words, their favorite activities fund fish and wildlife agencies, which then work to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations, bringing their hard earned money full circle.
In New Jersey, some of those funds are used to operate the Rockport Pheasant Farm and the associated statewide stocking program. The first pheasants raised at Rockport were released in 1923, and since then, the hatchery has raised more than two million birds. For the 12,000 New Jersey residents who hunt pheasants each year, the program is invaluable.
Thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program and a group of dedicated union volunteers, New Jersey sportsmen’s dollars are now stretching a little further.
Following the USA’s 1st Annual Tri-State Area Conservation Dinner in 2013, Tom Mattingley, a member of IBEW Local 351 and the Tri-State dinner committee, contacted the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife to determine how union volunteers could be of service. Using $5,000 of the money raised at the dinner to purchase planked cedar and other construction materials, a group of union volunteers then built 50 pheasant transport boxes in a woodshop owned by Don Mullins, a retired member of Insulators Local 14.
Armed with table saws, planers and Mattingley’s best drafting sketches, the volunteers constructed and painted stackable boxes that fit into the bed of a truck. According to Mattingley, “they’re a work of art, like bird condominiums.”
“We had been accumulating boxes over the years, but it had been awhile since we had any new boxes due to lack of funding,” said Dave Golden, Chief of the New Jersey Bureau of Wildlife Management. “So when the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance stepped in and offered to build the boxes, it was a big help. Some of our boxes are up to 20-years-old and still in operation.”
After the success of the project in 2013, the USA’s 2nd Annual Tri-State Area Conservation Dinner committee decided to replicate it. Using $5,100 worth of building supplies purchased with 2014 dinner funds, Mullins and his 88-year-old father, Larry, built 52 pheasant and 10 quail transport boxes, which Ray MacDowell of UA Local 322 delivered to IUPAT DC 711, where they were painted by IUPAT DC 711 3rd year apprentices Steve Atkinson, Rocco DiSipio and Herminio Luciano.
According to Edward Flanagan, IUPAT DC 711 Apprenticeship Coordinator, the apprentices gain valuable experience by working on a variety of local outreach programs that, in turn, support the community.
“Federal grants can be applied to other things, but the pheasant program is paid for with hunter and angler license fees,” said Golden. “So every dollar that is donated through the pheasant boxes saves license sales money, so those funds can be used for other things.”
“I think projects like this show what we’re all about,” Mullins said. “We’re not just individuals. We’re a brotherhood that works together to get things done.”
The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife stocked 63,000 ring-necked pheasants in 2014 and approximately 11,000 quail in wildlife management areas throughout the state. The USA was happy to support the release efforts thanks to these Tri-State Area Conservation Dinner committee members and volunteers: Rob Walsh and Ken Cockerill (IUOE Local 542); Gerald Taggart, Edward Flanagan, Mike Rocha, Steve Atkinson, Rocco DiSipio, Herminio Luciano (IUPAT DC 711); Tom Mattingley, Dan Cosner and Ken Lowry, Jr. (IBEW Local 351); Roger Giberson and Domenic Gazzara (SMART Local 27); Ray MacDowell (UA Local 322); Mike Conry (IBEW Local 164); John Stahl III and Don Mullins (Insulators Local 14); and Larry Mullins.
“We need to get involved in conservation efforts because it’s our heritage, and we need to preserve our hunting privileges and lands,” Mattingley said. “The state fish and wildlife needs not only financial help but they need ‘hands on tools,’ and we have the skills.”