USA Member John Sferazo Honored as Field & Stream Conservation Hero
In June 2012, retired Local 361 Ironworker and 9/11 volunteer John Sferazo was honored as a Field & Stream Conservation Hero. An active member of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, he’s also the founder of American Greenlands Restoration, Inc. (AGRI).
Nominated by the USA, Sferazo was a natural fit for Field & Stream’s Heroes of Conservation program, which honors individuals involved in grassroots projects to preserve the land, water and wildlife vital to sportsman’s pursuits with a profile in the magazine and a $500 conservation grant.
Working amidst the devastation of 9/11 alongside fire fighters, police officers, reservists, national guardsmen and fellow union members, Sferazo suffered psychological and physical afflictions, including the loss of much of his breathing.
But adversity has spurred his personal mission to create the number one rated wildlife improvement program in Maine, which he has opened to disabled veterans and responders for hunting.
Focused on restoring native flora and fauna in forest ecosystems, Sferazo encourages species diversity and habitat creation and enhancement, which supports wildlife.
“We were honored to nominate John as a Field & Stream Conservation Hero,” said USA Executive Director Fred Myers. “This award helps showcase union members’ commitment to conservation on a national platform and inspires others to get involved in the fight to preserve and protect America’s outdoor heritage.”
The year before the twin towers fell, Sferazo purchased a parcel of land in Maine known as Owen’s Marsh. The site had gone through reclamation that included the construction of a dam, which created a deep water marsh. Just five weeks after Sferazo purchased the property, the dam breached, releasing 73 acres of water.
“I can’t explain the amount of waterfowl—ducks, herons, egrets—that were utilizing this body of water,” Sferazo said. “So the breach ripped my heart out. The reason I purchased the property went down the highway, more or less.”
Thus began Sferazo’s work reclaiming the site to create prime wildlife habitat. After securing organic matter to replace the topsoil that was washed away, Sferazo began planting fauna that only exists today in small pockets of Maine, such as Swamp White Oak and the American Chestnut—a good food source for deer and other wildlife. Sferazo got youth involved in the tree plantings to actively engage them in conservation efforts.
When Sferazo began his reclamation work, the land across the highway was being harvested for hardwoods, a mass food source for the local deer herd. Sferazo saw an opportunity to establish a feed area on his land by planting wintergreens, purple top turnips and other winter food sources for the deer and other browsers. By providing quality forage for prey species, Sferazo also benefited bobcat, the Canada lynx and other predators.
Quality habitat led to better opportunities to harvest game. In conjunction with the Pine Grove Program, which aids American heroes and their families that have survived man-made or natural disasters through nature therapy, Sferazo opened his property to disabled veterans and first responders.
In less than a decade, Sferazo brought together diverse groups of people to establish a Memorial Forest that honors America’s heroes and serves as an outstanding model of conservation practices at work, yet the work of this tireless, conservation hero is far from finished.