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USA Honors IBEW Local 322 Organizer with Conservation Steward of the Year Award

June 12, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release

Johnson spearheaded the creation of a fence-crossing structure near Etna, Wyoming, which helps wildlife managers maintain healthy herds of free-ranging elk.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored Bruce Johnson of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 322 with the 2019 IBEW 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 make 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.

Johnson, of Lander, Wyoming, is an organizer with Local 322 and has been an IBEW member since 1980.

His conservation accomplishments with USA projects include spearheading the creation of a custom fence-crossing structure near Etna, Wyoming, which helps state wildlife managers maintain healthy herds of free-ranging elk while protecting farmers’ crops from damage.

USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram (R) presented Johnson with the award at the IBEW Construction and Maintenance Conference in Washington, D.C.

Johnson was also integral in the construction of a 20×26-foot storage shed—nicknamed the “Shed Shed”–that gave Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge a central facility in which to store thousands of pounds of dropped elk antlers (sheds) each season. Through a partnership with the Jackson District Boy Scouts, the antlers are sold at auction to fund habitat enhancement and elk management on the refuge.

“I’m honored to receive this award,” said Johnson. “The IBEW members who came together and volunteered to build those projects deserve as much recognition as I do. They’re the ones who actually made it happen, so kudos to them.”

“I’m also really thankful to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for giving us the opportunity to use conservation, fishing and hunting to bring union members together, build relationships with non-union allies and remind our neighbors that we are part of the community–and we do care,” he added.

“Bruce is a dedicated conservationist and volunteer whose leadership helps us execute projects that benefit wildlife populations cherished by his local community and sportsmen across the country,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “His commitment exemplifies the spirit of union solidarity and community service that drives the USA’s mission.”

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 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, 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.”

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.

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.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Conservation Dinner Program On Record-Setting Roll

March 4, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Conservation Dinner Program is growing at a record-setting pace, thanks in part to its unique ability to unify labor union members and connect them to their local communities via conservation-related projects.

Launched in 2012, the dinners program helps fuel the USA’s conservation mission delivery by raising funds and recruiting skilled volunteer labor to complete hands-on, community-based outreach and infrastructure projects through Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program.

Dinner proceeds are dispersed into local conservation accounts and the USA’s United Outdoors Conservation Fund, which is available to participating unions, government agencies and nonprofit partners nationwide.

The dinner program recipe is simple and potent. USA staff assist local union leadership in organizing and hosting annual dinners that bring members of different unions and other attendees together for an evening of fun and camaraderie in the name of conservation.

Besides great food and fellowship, conservation dinner attendees enjoy a special program and variety of activities including raffles, auctions and more.

“Since our first event in Dallas seven years ago, dinners have provided the fuel for conservation and called volunteers to action for community service,” explained USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram, who oversees the program. “But they’re much more than that. These events provide opportunities for all of the house of labor to gather in one place in celebration of the union brotherhood.”

“Plus, every union—whether public or private sector, trade or industrial—has ever-present needs to connect with its members and their families, pass labor traditions on to the next generation and engage the local community,” he continued. “Through dinners and other fundraisers, infrastructure projects and community outreach events, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance provides opportunities to make it all happen in a powerful, long-lasting manner.”

To date, the USA’s dinner program has hosted more than 26,000 participants at 130 events and raised more than $6.9 million to protect North America’s outdoor heritage.

With four dinners already completed, 2019 is off to a fast start. “We’ve raised nearly $300,000 and hosted more than 1,100 attendees,” said Ingram. “And on February 16, the Des Moines Area USA Conservation Dinner shattered the USA’s all-time fundraising dinner record with a gross revenue of $160,444 for conservation. With a total of 36 dinners planned—our highest yearly total ever—we’re excited to see what the rest of 2019 brings.”

The Des Moines Area USA Conservation Dinner recently shattered the USA’s all-time fundraising dinner record.

Future plans include continued expansion. “Our goal is having at least one conservation dinner and project in every state,” said Ingram. “We have tremendous support from the national AFL-CIO, state federations of labor, all levels of building and construction trades councils, central labor councils and the organization’s international charter unions and affiliates. With all the interest and support from these organizations, the future is extremely promising.”

One thing that won’t change, Ingram promises, is the program’s underpinnings. “We strive to exhibit the core values of labor at every USA event,” he said. “Hallmarks include respect for our flag and the importance of family and faith. We also recently launched a process of pinning all veterans and active duty personnel with a USA logo veteran’s lapel pin to honor their service.”

Ingram notes that USA dinners are open to everyone. “We welcome union members and their families, along with friends of labor and the many partners who provide valuable services for labor to come enjoy a great evening of fun, fellowship and conservation,” he said.

For more information on USA conservation dinners, visit unionsportsmen.org or contact USA regional events managers Kevin Grubbs, keving@unionsportsmen.org, or Chris Piltz, chrisp@unionsportsmen.org.

Armed Forces veterans are honored on stage at every USA conservation dinner.

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.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Names UAW, IUPAT and IUE-CWA Conservation Stewards of the Year

January 17, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to announce the recipients of the organization’s prestigious 2018 Conservation Steward of the Year Awards for the United Auto Workers (UAW), International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA).

UAW member Steve Cochran, IUPAT member Robert Gilmore and IUE-CWA member Jeanette Mauk were selected to receive the award on behalf of their unions for 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.

Steve Cochran

Cochran, of Ooltewah, Tennessee, is president of UAW Local 42 and has spearheaded the local’s USA Conservation Dinner fundraiser the past two years. Cochran also led a major overhaul of the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp on Lake Chickamauga just outside of Chattanooga, in which union volunteers donated labor and $10,000 raised at the dinner to replace a dilapidated dock with a brand-new, 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier.

“It’s an honor to receive this award and represent the entire UAW as we collectively give back to conservation and our communities,” said Cochran. “We are driven to take on projects that benefit everyone and strengthen the connection between union workers and their neighbors.”

Gilmore, of Dawson, Iowa, is a member of IUPAT Local 246 and serves as business manager and secretary-treasurer of District Council 81. He has led USA fundraising dinners in Des Moines since 2015, raising more than $500,000 in the process and organized conservation projects in the area including the large-scale restoration of a handicap-accessible fishing pier and fishing house at Lake Ahquabi State Park, and construction of a large public shelter at Fort Des Moines State Park. Gilmore also launched an annual shooting event for local union members which benefits USA conservation efforts.

Robert Gilmore

Along with this year’s conservation dinner and shoot, he is planning a public shelter/log cabin project at Yellow Banks County Park and a Get Youth Outdoors event for 2019.

“I am extremely honored to be considered for this award,” said Gilmore. “The success of our local efforts is due to a great group of building trades members working together, and reflects the commitment union members have to giving back to their community. The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance makes it easy for us to join forces for the greater cause of conservation, youth outreach and promoting outdoor recreation.”

Mauk, of Dayton, Ohio, serves as the state’s AFL-CIO Field Director. She is a vested member of the IUE-CWA, which is a USA charter union, and is also a member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 98. Mauk has shepherded and grown the USA’s Ohio State Conservation Dinner in Columbus for seven years. She has also organized multiple projects including the installation of a new public fishing pier at Dayton’s Lakeside Lake and Ohio’s first Take Kid’s Fishing Day in Marietta. She is currently planning a youth fishing event to be held in Dayton this May.

“This is awesome,” Mauk said of receiving the award. “It means a lot. But the real rewards of being involved in the labor movement and working with the USA include giving back to our communities, fostering solidarity among union members and building bridges between unions and the public. When you see what can be accomplished when everyone pulls together, it just makes you want to do more.”

Jeanette Mauk

“Steve, Robert and Jeanette are dedicated volunteers whose leadership and fundraising efforts help us execute impactful conservation projects and safeguard the future of our outdoor traditions in their local communities and across the country,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance.

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.

Previous USA Conservation Steward of the Year Award recipients include: Brent Beasley and Mark Conroy, United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers; Dave Branson and Michael Cramer, United Association; Josh Craig, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; George Hogan, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and Anthony Nicholson, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators.

USA, Union Volunteers Complete John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Improvements

January 3, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

The public will enjoy better access to the great outdoors at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge thanks to the completion of a series of refuge-enhancement projects supported by a coalition of partners including the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and local union workers.

Through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG), union volunteers with Insulators Local 14, Painters District Council 21 and Operating Engineers Local 542 donated 691 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $36,000 on a kayak launch dock, observation tower improvements and road repairs. Machinery usage valued at $20,000 pushed the total project value over $56,000.

Located in Philadelphia, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is America’s first urban refuge. Given its accessibility and visibility to over 1.7 million people living within 10 miles of the refuge and more than 35 million Americans living within a two-hour drive, the refuge serves as a prominent ambassador of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Due to a shortage of staff and funding, the U.S. 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.

“It is truly heartwarming to see how volunteers from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance have mobilized to help improve the visitor experience for everyone at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. I greatly appreciate their efforts, which are symbolic of how much the refuge is part of the local community,” said Margaret Everson, Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This exemplifies the kinds of public-private partnerships that are critical for conservation in the 21st century. I look forward to seeing more volunteers back at the refuge in the spring.”

Union volunteers donated more than $56,000 in time and machinery use to complete a series of improvement projects at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

On-site refuge staff were equally appreciative. “The team from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance was a great group of professional and joyful guys that obviously love their work,” said John Heinz refuge manager Lamar Gore. “I’d love to work with them in the future, as they allowed us to improve visitor access and experience to one of the most activated public lands in the refuge system.”

USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker said the John Heinz project, like similar efforts the USA has organized across the continent, was a labor of love.

“We are honored to support 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 very proud of the many union volunteers who donate their time and skills to complete projects on refuges and elsewhere in their local communities that impact the future of conservation and our shared outdoor heritage.” 

Parker noted that earlier last fall, the USA and Department of the Interior (DOI) gathered at John Heinz NWR to celebrate Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day and commemorate the kick-off of the refuge-enhancement projects. The event recognized the importance of such efforts, along with the important role urban national wildlife refuges play in protecting wildlife habitat and providing outdoor recreational opportunities for all Americans.

A coalition of partners including fishing industry powerhouse Pure Fishing, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Plano Synergy supported the event.

 

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Applauds Farm Bill Conservation Funding

December 18, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Hunting, Press Release

Flush with funding, habitat protection measures and public access incentives, the 2018 Farm Bill is being praised as a boon to wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) hails passage of the 2018 Farm Bill as a major victory for conservation, wildlife and public access.

The $867 billion legislation, which passed the House and Senate last week with strong bipartisan support and veto-proof majorities, provides more than $5 billion for conservation efforts on private land and offers a number of provisions that bode well for the future of the nation’s fish and wildlife.

The good news includes a 3-million-acre increase for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), bringing the total to 27 million acres. The voluntary program offers landowners incentives to remove highly erodible and environmentally sensitive lands from production, benefiting upland wildlife habitat and water quality improvement.

Added CRP gains include language directing the secretary of Agriculture to conduct routinely scheduled signups with targeted state-to-state allocations—a critical step toward adding new acres into the program each year—while enrolling 30 percent of all CRP acreage for continuous protection. Plus, a new program called CLEAR 30 creates a pilot program for a 30-year contract option on the most highly sensitive lands such as buffers, wetlands and riparian areas.

Other conservation highlights include added funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), more Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds for wildlife, stronger “Sodsaver” grasslands protection and the retention of “Swampbuster” safeguards.

The Farm Bill also includes an expansion of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), which supports access to nearly 1 million acres of private land for hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits. 

USA conservation allies including Pheasants Forever and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership praised the new legislation, calling it a win for sportsmen, landowners, wildlife, water quality, and the nation’s economy. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue also commended Congress for bringing the Farm Bill “across the finish line” and has encouraged President Trump to sign it into law.

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance was likewise supportive of the legislation and optimistic about its implications. “The new Farm Bill’s funding and provisions are critical to preserving and enhancing our shared natural resources and treasured outdoor heritage,” he said. “They also offer landowners, agencies, non-profits and other partners expanded opportunities to join forces with the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, which connects union volunteers with local, hands-on conservation projects that would otherwise go undone.”

To date, the USA has organized and executed more than 150 conservation, public access, outreach, education and mentoring projects across the nation through WBG, including more than 50 projects in 2018.

Phipps Joins Union Sportsmen’s Alliance as Strategic Accounts Manager

November 21, 2018 in Articles, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has expanded its union relations department with the addition of U.S. Army combat veteran, union pipefitter and lifelong outdoorsman Sam Phipps as the organization’s new strategic accounts manager.

The USA is stepping up its union relations efforts to keep pace with a record-setting increase in projects and events aimed at protecting North America’s outdoor heritage by uniting union members for conservation, outreach and community service.

Under the guidance of Union Relations Director Walt Ingram, Phipps will manage the USA’s strategic endemic partnerships and help launch the organization’s new Partner Local Program—which provides local unions with greater opportunities to benefit their communities. He will also serve as the USA’s liaison with the Union Veteran’s Council and grassroots contact with United Association (UA) members.

A lifelong resident of Elsberry, Missouri, Phipps grew up hunting and fishing on the Mississippi River. He served his country as a U.S. Army Infantryman in Afghanistan 2011 and 2012. Upon returning home, he entered the UA’s Veterans in Piping (VIP) program, and is currently a 5th-year apprentice with UA Local 562 out of St. Louis, Missouri.

Phipps remains a diehard sportsman, and has dedicated himself to helping youth and U.S. Armed Forces veterans enjoy the outdoors by volunteering with the Union Veterans Council, The Fallen Outdoors, the USA and various mentorship efforts.

“Sam has exemplified leadership and service to his country, to the Union Veteran’s Council, as a fundraiser and organizer for The Fallen Outdoors, as a mentor to both youth and veterans, and he continues to demonstrate that commitment daily as he works as a UA fitter and a devoted husband and father,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “Sam has a proven track record of developing strong partnerships both inside and outside of the union community, and he’s demonstrated that he can grow those partnerships into something meaningful for the outdoor passions that he loves.”

Phipps is eager to tackle his new responsibilities. “I am extremely grateful to begin working for an organization whose mission means so much to me,” said Phipps. “To work in the name of conservation, community, youth, veterans and my union brothers and sisters is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

USA, Partners Host Veterans’ Fishing Event to Celebrate New Griffin Reservoir Fishing Pier

October 31, 2018 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release

Griffin Reservoir

Project partners gathered for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicating the new community fishing pier.

U.S. Armed Forces veterans were honored with a fishing event Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018 at Griffin Reservoir near Scranton, Pennsylvania, to celebrate the dedication of a new public fishing pier that gives community members of all ages and physical abilities improved access to the popular impoundment.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Pennsylvania American Water, American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) and a consortium of local labor unions hosted the event. Union volunteers assisted the veterans, each of whom received a free rod, reel and tackle courtesy of Pure Fishing, plus additional items courtesy of Carhartt. Prior to the dedication ceremony, a catered lunch was provided to all veterans and other participants.

Griffin Reservoir

Union volunteers helped local veterans enjoy the new public pier.

The dedication recognized USA volunteers from Pennsylvania American Water, Utility Workers Local 537, Electrical Workers Local 81 and Carpenters Local 445 who donated more than 400 hours—a labor value of nearly $15,000—to clear the site and construct the 18 ft. x 25 ft. handicap-accessible pier.

The project was one of three funded by a $60,000 grant from the AWCF to the USA and organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program.

AWCF and Pennsylvania American Water provided additional support to complete the driveway and parking lot, further improving access to Griffin Reservoir. The project also received funds allocated from the USA’s United Mine Workers of America Conservation Dinner in Fairmont, West Virginia.

Located in Lackawanna County, the 110-acre Pennsylvania American Water reservoir is flush with a variety of gamefish, including above-average populations of largemouth bass, bluegills and black crappies. The reservoir was opened to public shore-fishing 2011, but access was limited until the new pier was completed.

“This project is the culmination of a unique partnership that benefits our community,” said Pennsylvania American Water President Jeffrey McIntyre. “Working with both our Charitable Foundation and USA, we brought a team of volunteers together to create this beautiful spot that we are now able to share with every member of our community. Pennsylvania American Water is proud to continue its commitment to our communities and our neighbors.”

Griffin Reservoir

U.S. Navy veteran Clifford Davies told media members he is looking forward to returning to the pier on future fishing expeditions.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation was proud to support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance with funding for this outstanding project, which will enable greater interaction with and appreciation for our water resources among the local community served by Pennsylvania American Water,” added Aldie Warnock, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the American Water Charitable Foundation.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Richard Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder were also on hand. “We’re just so proud to be part of a movement that helps our skilled union workers give back their time, energy and talents to make everyone’s lives better by being able to come out and enjoy this beautiful reservoir,” said Bloomingdale.

“We are honored to work with Pennsylvania American Water, American Water Charitable Foundation and our many hardworking union volunteers, who joined forces through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program to complete the new fishing pier,” added USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “This project will benefit the local community for many years to come.”

While the veterans enjoyed their lakeside meal and fall fishing trip, they were also eager to return to the new pier on future fishing adventures. “This is great,” said Clifford Davies, a retired Navy veteran with 20 years of service. “I look forward to coming back here again next summer.”

USA Honors Brent Beasley and Mark Conroy as Roofers and Waterproofers Conservation Stewards of the Year

October 26, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

Brent Beasley (center) was one of two recipients of 2018 Roofers Conservation Steward of the Year Awards. Beasley accepted the award from United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers International President Kinsey Robinson (left) and USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance (right).

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) honored Brent Beasley and Mark Conroy with 2018 United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers (RWAW) Conservation Steward of the Year Awards for their exemplary commitment to conservation and community service.

The awards recognize 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.

Beasley, of Orange, California, serves as business manager of RWAW Local 220, president of the union’s Western Regional District Council and RWAW International 9th vice president. He is a tireless, longtime supporter of USA conservation projects and events.

“Brent has been an integral volunteer on the USA team since our organization’s inception,” said USA Director of Special Events Heather Tazelaar. “For example, he was essential in finding nearly 100 volunteers for our 2014 Bolsa Chica Wetlands restoration project that brought local families and skilled tradespersons together to restore a one-mile stretch of trail.

“The USA has never executed a project or fundraising event in southern California without Brent’s assistance,” Tazelaar continued. “He has also donated his time to communities far from his home. For example, he has volunteered for the USA’s annual Get Youth Outdoors Day outreach event in Minnesota since 2012.”

“I am humbled and honored to receive an award from such a distinguished conservation organization as the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance,” Beasley said.

Mark Conroy (center) accepted the 2018 Roofers Conservation Steward of the Year Awards from United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers International President Kinsey Robinson (left) and USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance (right).

Conroy, of Clearwater, Minnesota, is likewise a longtime proponent of the USA’s mission. Business manager of RWAW Local 96, he has been involved in USA conservation efforts across the board—most recently lending a hand at the USA’s 8th Annual Roofers Twin Cities Sporting Clays Shoot, where he handled local market facilitation, promoted the event within the trades, recruited volunteers and oversaw the funding for Local 96 donations.

“Mark Conroy has served as USA’s main liaison on the USA’s Roofers & Waterproofers Twin Cities Sporting Clays Shoot and our Minnesota Get Youth Outdoors Day event since 2017,” said Tazelaar. “He engages local unions in our events and personally volunteers his time to assist. Although Mark was newly elected as business manager of Local 96, he continued to support and engage the community to help build what now holds the record as USA’s largest shooting event.”

“We were very honored and surprised to receive this award,” said Conroy, who was quick to highlight the many benefits of volunteering for USA’s conservation efforts.

“Promoting the events is extremely easy when everyone believes in their cause,” he said. “To see projects completed in our local communities and introduce young people to outdoor activities is definitely a bonus. Seeing the youths return to these events year after year—and their smiles as they participate—is priceless. To watch these events expand is a testament to our belief in the mission of the USA.”

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance presented Conroy and Beasley with the awards on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 at the 29th International Convention of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers & Allied Workers.

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 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 Holds Get Youth Outdoors Day

September 19, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

More than 60 youths learned about conservation and hunting while experiencing the thrill of the shooting sports firsthand Sunday, Sept. 16 during the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 7th Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays in Clear Lake, Minnesota.

Organized by the USA and supported by a coalition of union, industry and conservation partners, the event educated boys and girls ages 9 to 17 about wildlife conservation, dog training and other outdoor topics through hands-on activities and demonstrations. 

Local organizer Mike Ganz welcomed participants with a talk on wildlife and conservation.

The event was also part of the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports. NSSF recently awarded the USA a $30,000 grant to host a series of events in which union volunteers trained in firearms safety and instruction provide hands-on introductions to trap shooting, riflery and archery.

Young shooters learned the basics of safe and responsible riflery on the .22 range.

“The success of this event showcases the great potential for harnessing union members’ love of the outdoors and spirit of volunteerism to help NSSF promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports by increasing participation through First Shots and other programs,” said NSSF Director of Shooting Range Services Zach Snow.”

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

To cap off the free event, attendees were treated to gift bags and a picnic-style lunch.

The event was part of Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program—and sponsored by partners including Roofers International, NSSF, Savage Arms, Roofers Local 96, BAC Local 1, Central MN BCTC and other local union groups. Sixteen volunteers donated 84 hours to make the day a success. The NSSF grant and funds raised at the annual Roofers Twin Cities Sporting Clays Shoot allowed the event to be held at no cost to participants.

“These kids are the future of conservation and our outdoor heritage,” said Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson, who attended the event and personally coached dozens of youth shooters on the sporting clays range. “Plus, events like this foster relationships among union members from all AFL-CIO unions, and between unions and their communities.”

Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson advises a fledgling sporting clays enthusiast on gun handling and aiming.

“These types of hands-on, interactive youth events are critical to the future of hunting and recreational shooting,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance, who was also on hand mentoring shooters on the firing line. “This event in particular is a shining example of the great things that happen when unions and groups like the USA and NSSF join forces to assist American union workers in sharing their passion for the outdoors with the next generation of hunters and recreational shooters.”

“The USA and its union, industry and conservation allies support a variety of youth mentorship programs and outreach events across the nation,” Vance noted. “We are proud to provide opportunities for young people and their families to experience the fun and rewards of recreational shooting, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.”

 

 

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.

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.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance & Union Veterans Council Collaborate To Service Union Veterans

July 3, 2018 in General, Press Release

Union Veterans

The USA’s Capital Area shoot celebrated the newly announced collaboration between the USA and UVC, along with the event’s 10th anniversary where more than 250 participants raised over $125,000 for conservation over the course of two days.

The Union Veterans Council (UVC), AFL-CIO and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), an affiliate organization of the AFL-CIO, recently committed to working together to support each organization’s mission and have identified a liaison who will help keep the partnership running at peak efficiency.

The announcement was made during the USA’s Capital Area Sporting Clays Shoot at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland.

“The UVC is proud to have forged a working partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance that will allow the two organizations to support each other’s mission by connecting our memberships with two very important parts of the labor community, Veterans and Conservation/Sportsmen,” said William Attig, UVC Executive Director. “Sam Phipps, who is both a veteran and a strong union member, has stepped up to become our volunteer Liaison.”

The volunteer liaison position will allow each organization to expand capacity, to engage members and build a strategy to connect our union veterans with the outdoors.

“The USA reaches a lot of union members annually through our shoot tour and conservation dinners,” said Scott Vance, USA CEO & Executive Director. “We are taking steps to engage our veterans and say thanks for their service. Working with UVC, we’ll be able to reach out to a lot more of the veterans and give them a chance to come and fellowship with their brothers and sisters across the United States.”

Phipps is a UA member of local 562 in Saint Louis, Missouri, and is a combat infantry veteran and an avid outdoorsman. Upon returning home from his military service he entered the UA’s Veterans in Piping program and now works as a heating & air technician.

His unwavering support for his fellow veterans has driven him to work with his local to support programs that give veterans an opportunity to enjoy and use the outdoors as a way to better transition back to civilian life and build comradery on the home front. That is why the UVC is pleased to announce that Phipps will be the first Union Veterans Council-Union Sportsmen’s Alliance liaison.

Within this roll, Phipps will work to forge a working partnership with the USA in a variety of ways. “I am eager to take on this role with the Union Veterans Council and look forward to connecting with my fellow veterans through conservation and the outdoors,” said Phipps.

Photos courtesy of Pepper Ailor at Freedom Alliance

 

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, National Wild Turkey Federation Join Forces For Conservation

June 26, 2018 in Conservation News, Press Release

NWTF

(L-R) USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker and NWTF VP of Conservation Ross Melinchuk signed the agreement pledging the organizations’ cooperation on conservation and the protection of North America’s outdoor heritage.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding pledging cooperation on a variety of efforts benefiting conservation and the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage.

Finalized June 26, 2018 at the 85th Annual Midwest Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Directors’ Meeting in Bismarck, North Dakota, the agreement outlines strategies to collaborate on campaigns targeting wildlife habitat protection and enhancement, public access, mentorship, outreach and education.

“This partnership is a perfect example of how two very different organizations can unite to influence the future of conservation while increasing mission delivery for both,” said Forrest Parker, USA director of conservation and community outreach.

“We are blessed with highly skilled union volunteers, who each year donate thousands of hours to conservation projects and outreach events across the nation,” he continued. “Our friends at NWTF are also doing amazing things in communities around the country. We are honored to help increase the impact of these efforts, while showcasing the dedication and unwavering commitment of the American union worker.”

The two groups are already joining forces in Michigan, where USA volunteers from the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) Ford Michigan Ramp Team are building NWTF Turkey Tract Kiosks for placement on game management areas around the state. The kiosks, created as part of the USA’s flagship conservation program—Work Boots on the Ground (WBG)—promote public access to quality turkey hunting, educate the public on the benefits of habitat management and conservation, and help build a connection between hunters and the local community.“

We are excited about formalizing our partnership with USA through this MOU and look forward to accomplishing great things together across the landscape via conservation delivery and in support of our hunting heritage,” said Brian Zielinski, senior director of conservation operations for NWTF’s Eastern Region.

Zielinski added, “This is a unique opportunity to combine resources as both organizations have a dedicated base of members and volunteers who are passionate about leaving a legacy and ensuring that both conservation and hunting traditions remain intact for future generations.”

The USA-NWTF alliance comes on the heels of similar agreements between the USA and other conservation partners including fishing industry powerhouse Pure Fishing and upland conservation champion Pheasants Forever. The USA also recently forged partnerships 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.

“We are excited to see where these partnerships lead,” said Parker. “Thanks to the dedication of our skilled union volunteers, the USA is uniquely positioned to be a ‘power’ partner for our allies. There is no doubt that a decade from now, these American union workers will be recognized as a driving force for conservation, who played a profound role in preserving our outdoor heritage.”

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 And Pheasants Forever Complete First Collective Conservation Project

April 30, 2018 in Press Release

Forever Fields

“Forever Fields” Observation Platform Helps Public Enjoy Wildlife

A team effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Pheasants Forever (PF) and local union volunteers created a new viewing platform and observation deck on PF’s “Forever Fields” property in Knox County, Illinois, that will help visitors enjoy and better understand wildlife that relies on grassland and wetland ecosystems.

“This new structure will increase public awareness about conservation and educate visitors about a variety of wildlife species and their habitat needs,” said local Pheasants Forever biologist Scott James. “It will also provide users a higher quality experience for observing nature. Visitors can listen for singing birds and croaking frogs, watch wildlife, observe prairie grasses swaying in the wind, and overlook the peaceful landscape.”

The USA and Pheasants Forever signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in March 2017 allowing the two organizations to team up on conservation and habitat projects, mentored hunts, volunteer training and education. The first joint project to be completed since the MOU was signed, the new tower includes an ADA-compliant, handicap-accessible ramp, 4-foot-high wildlife viewing deck, and stairway leading to an observation platform that rises 11 feet above the surrounding landscape.

“The property is open to the public and we encourage everyone to visit,” James added. “We also plan to accommodate schools, groups of people with disabilities, scout groups, and other community organizations, specifically by hosting events on and next to this new platform.”

PF began construction of the project and purchased the materials with funding support from the USA. The USA brought together volunteers from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) Local 237 and International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 649, who were instrumental in helping complete the project in time to qualify for Illinois Clean Energy grant funding. Union volunteers donated 16 hours of labor while building a stairway to the observation deck and railing along the deck.

“It’s a blessing to share our God-given skills and time with our community,” said Matt Bender, a carpenter and business representative with UBC Local 237 who took the lead to recruit volunteers and complete the project. “This is a beautiful area. We’re glad to be part of making it accessible for everyone to enjoy.”

James said his organization is thankful for such support. “The time volunteers spent on this project is greatly appreciated,” he said. “The support from USA allows the construction expertise of its union members to supplement the biological and conservation expertise of Pheasants Forever so that higher-quality projects can be achieved. Pheasants Forever is very grateful for the support of USA and union volunteers on this project, and we are excited to work together on future projects. This partnership can only strengthen conservation and our hunting heritage.”

“The Forever Fields project is a great example of how partnerships, like the one formed between the USA and Pheasants Forever, result in more on-the-ground impact for conservation while opening up new opportunities for unions to improve their communities,” said Forrest Parker, USA director of conservation and community outreach. “We are grateful for our partnership with Pheasants Forever and for the members of Carpenters Local 237 and Operating Engineers Local 649, who volunteered their time and skills to complete this first joint project.”

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.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Celebrates Milestone Conservation Achievements

April 12, 2018 in General, Press Release

conservation

Franklin, Tenn. — In 2017, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) eclipsed every mission-delivery and fundraising record ever set in the history of the conservation organization.

Throughout the year, the USA’s staff of 18 dedicated professionals joined forces with union volunteers to complete 27 conservation infrastructure projects in 15 states through its Work Boots on the Ground conservation initiative. These projects provided a value of more than $240,000 in skilled labor and a total project value of nearly $500,000.

“This past year has been nothing short of amazing for the USA, and we owe it all to our dedicated members, skilled union workers and extremely hard working staff,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “We celebrated numerous organizational milestones, including our 10-year anniversary, but we also set records in the areas that are most important for a nonprofit— we put a ton of resources on the ground and saw our mission delivery work truly make a difference.”

The USA was created in 2007 with a mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. Over the past 11 years, the organization has rapidly put that mission and powerful workforce into action.

With volunteers that both raise funds to improve access to the outdoors, conserve natural resources and pass on our outdoor heritage and put their union trade skills to work on the ground, the dollars raised become substantially more impactful. This unique skill set and the ability to access millions of skilled union workers across the nation makes the USA’s potential impact unmatched in this arena.

“The USA is in a unique position in that our volunteers are skilled workers who can take a pile of materials and turn them into something meaningful for other hunters and anglers,” said USA’s Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “This year we had 646 volunteers who provided 7,445 hours of volunteer service— 5,400 of which were skilled work hours.”

One USA milestone came to fruition in November when the organization finished its 100th Work Boots on the Ground project. Volunteers from the Washington DC area spent six weekends tearing off 60-year-old boards, carrying 200 pound timbers and reconstructing a dilapidated fishing pier at the National Park Service’s Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia. The value of this project alone was worth more than $100,000 of skilled labor, materials and volunteer time that the National Park Service did not have available until they teamed up with the USA.

In addition to growth in its mission delivery, the USA took on several strategic partnerships in 2017 that will allow the organization to be even more impactful in 2018. The USA’s new partners include Realtree, Worldwide Trophy Adventures, Pure Fishing, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, OUTTECH and Milwaukee Tool. Even though the USA experienced a record breaking year of fundraising and mission delivery, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

“The USA is in a strategic growth period,” said Vance. “We will remain a lean organization in regard to staff size, but we are executing a plan to significantly grow our mission delivery efforts. Fueling our hardworking union members’ efforts through partnerships with like-minded conservation powerhouses allows us to focus on, and increase, the great work that’s being done every day by union men and women across the United States.”

USA Hosts Get Youth Outdoors Day in Pine Bluff, AR

October 29, 2017 in Conservation News, Press Release

Nearly 200 youth, plus guardians, participated in a day filled with outdoor activities at the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Get Youth Outdoors Day at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park Pond in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on October 21.

The USA’s Get Youth Outdoors Day engaged both youth and adults in hands-on activities including learning how to fish and shooting archery and air guns. Volunteers from USA, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas AFL-CIO provided fishing instruction and conservation education. Participants also enjoyed lunch provided by Arkansas AFL-CIO, and youth received free fishing gear courtesy of Pure Fishing.

“Get Youth Outdoors Day is a great example of the efforts needed to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage through hands-on events that instill a love for the outdoors in today’s youth,” said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Family and Community Fishing Program Coordinator Maurice Jackson. “We are proud to say we played a part in introducing so many kids to those opportunities.”

“The USA seeks to promote our outdoor heritage through mentoring the next generation of sportsmen and women,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This event provided the perfect opportunity to interact with youth in the community who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience all that the outdoors have to offer.”

According to a recent survey conducted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, released in September, the U.S. has experienced a net loss of 2 million hunters in just the last five years. Since 1980, hunter numbers have fallen from nearly 18 million to the current estimate of 11.5 million. Youth are growing more and more disconnected from the outdoors, America is losing wildlife habitat at an alarming rate, and access to quality outdoor experiences are becoming more difficult to find. Reconnecting youth with the outdoors is critical to preserving our heritage.