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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 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.

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.”

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.”