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Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Announce Strategic Partnership for Conservation

January 9, 2020 in Conservation News, Press Release

The USA-USACE partnership paves the way for labor union volunteers to participate in conservation and public access projects on millions of acres of public lands and waters.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to partner in conservation and public access projects on lands and waters managed by the USACE.

This partnership agreement between the nation’s fastest-growing nonprofit conservation organization and one of the top federal providers of outdoor recreation outlines plans to harness the trade skills and community spirit of the USA’s union volunteers.

Through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, volunteers will build, repair or enhance walking trails, boat launch ramps, docks, accessible fishing piers, shooting ranges and similar structures in projects on 4,000-plus recreation sites scattered across 12 million acres of public lands and waters in 43 states. Construction materials and equipment, in most cases, will be supplied by the USACE.

Volunteers have already completed archery complex (pictured) and Pollinator Trail improvements at North Marcum Recreation Area at Rend Lake, Illinois.

“This new partnership with the USA provides an excellent opportunity for USACE staff to connect with groups of highly skilled volunteers to help reduce backlog maintenance, improve public access to the outdoors, and enhance wildlife habitat at USACE lakes and rivers,” said USACE National Partnership and Volunteer Program Manager Heather Burke. “Recreation facility improvements that have already been accomplished by USA volunteers at USACE lakes have been received very favorably by the visiting public, who appreciate the high-quality work performed by the volunteers. We are excited to expand this partnership nationwide.”

Case in point: USA volunteers and a coalition of project supporters are expanding recreational opportunities at North Marcum Recreation Area on Rend Lake near Benton, Illinois. Improvements include construction of the 1,200-foot concrete Pollinator Trail, complete with four fully-accessible fishing stations around a rejuvenated pond, as well as an elevated archery shooting platform, completed in 2019. Further plans call for the building of a sheltered, fully-accessible 12-lane archery range and a 3-D target archery trail that will begin this year.

“Ninety percent of the USACE’s nearly 5,000 recreation sites are within 50 miles of a major metropolitan area,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “This new partnership with the USACE puts the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and our Work Boots on the Ground volunteers in perfect position to execute projects that expand recreation and improve wildlife habitat on public lands and waters within a short drive of millions of Americans.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Honors Jim Hobbie as LiUNA Conservation Steward of the Year

October 8, 2019 in General, Press Release

Jim Hobbie was honored with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance 2019 LiUNA Conservation Steward of the Year Award.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored Jim Hobbie of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 773 with the 2019 LiUNA Conservation Steward of the Year Award. 

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 to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

Hobbie, of Benton, Illinois, has been instrumental in efforts to expand public access and recreational opportunities at Rend Lake’s North Marcum Recreation Area (NMRA), a 420-acre public use property managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

“He’s played a major part in leading multiple conservation projects at North Marcum,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede, “including completion of the new Pollinator Trail.”

The Pollinator Trail project features a 1,200-foot walkway surrounded by five acres of native vegetation that attracts insects, birds and other wildlife. As a bonus to visitors, the trail encircles a rejuvenated pond—complete with four fully-accessible fishing stations—that was dredged and expanded to improve habitat for gamefish and other aquatic species.

The Pollinator Trail project includes a series of fully accessible fishing and wildlife viewing stations.

Hobbie is involved in another ambitious project, currently underway at North Marcum, that will create a state-of-the-art archery complex and mountain bike trail.

Plans call for a half-mile 3-D archery trail with 20-plus shooting lanes, as well as an accessible target range complete with a 10×80-foot shooting shelter, concrete floor, target lanes and permanent covered targets. An elevated shooting platform, with targets, is also being erected on-site. The mountain bike trail will span 12 miles and include a bike maintenance station and directional signage. 

A coalition of partners including the USA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), local labor unions, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Rend Lake College, Rend Lake Bike Club, Scholastic 3-D Archery and Rend Lake Conservancy District have joined forces to complete these projects.

“Jim has been a wonderful partner to work with and the key player in bringing these visions to life,” said USACE Natural Resources Specialist Cassie Magsig. “With his help, our partners continue to work toward improving outdoor recreation for everyone.”

“Volunteers from LiUNA and several other trades are working closely with one another to preserve the area’s outdoor heritage by providing greater recreational opportunities for their neighbors,” added Stroede. “A large part of that is due to Jim’s dedication to labor and his strong desire to give back to his community.”

Hobbie was quick to share credit for these successes. “I’m extremely proud and honored by this award,” he said. “I see it as well-deserved recognition of our entire group. If it weren’t for the Local 773 members and the fantastic volunteers from the other trades, none of this could have been done. That also goes for my business manager and executive board who’ve allowed me the time to devote to these projects.” 

Along with LIUNA Local 773, volunteers from the Carpenters Regional Council, Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 318, Lake Contracting, Erb Equipment and Ryterski Trucking have donated their time and talents to planning and executing the North Marcum projects.

The North Marcum archery complex includes an elevated shooting platform.