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Youth Fishing Event Celebrates Dedication of Suncoast Youth Conservation Center Pier

November 3, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Hundreds of local youth and their families gathered Saturday, Nov. 2, to celebrate the dedication of a new boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

The wheelchair-accessible pier gives thousands of youth and other local residents visiting the SYCC campus an opportunity to study coastal marine habitats and learn to fish with minimal impact to the environment.

The massive structure is the result of a multi-year community service project organized by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) through its Work Boots on the Ground conservation program.

A consortium of partners supported the effort, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Southern States Millwright Regional Council, Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, Florida AFL-CIO, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Ben Hur Construction, Pure Fishing, TECO Energy, The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Bass Pro Shops and a number of local labor unions.

All young participants received a free Shakespeare rod, reel and tackle kit courtesy of Pure Fishing.

Donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses from these partners topped $800,000. Volunteers alone donated more than 2,000 hours of skilled labor valued at over $100,000 to create the SYCC’s new boardwalk and pier.

The effort is the USA’s largest to date and marks the organization’s 200th Work Boots on the Ground project completion.

More than 500 youth signed up to participate in a free Take Kids Fishing Day event built into the day’s festivities. Volunteers from local labor unions, the FWC and members of the National Football League Players Association assisted the excited young anglers, each of whom received a free Shakespeare rod, reel and tackle kit courtesy of Pure Fishing, plus additional items including game calls from Plano Synergy. Prior to the dedication ceremony, a free picnic lunch was provided to all participants.

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 includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility and annually serves more than 11,000 youth and adults.

The boardwalk and pier flank a restored saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the educational complex. The new structure allows visitors to study coastal marine habitats. It also serves as the perfect platform to teach the joys of fishing, thereby supporting the FYCCN’s goal to create the next generation of conservationists by providing youth opportunities to participate in traditional outdoor activities that inspire lifelong stewardship for fish and wildlife conservation.

“We’re humbled by the generosity of our amazing partners and the highly skilled union workers who donated their time and talent to build this new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier,” said FYCCN director Rae Waddell. “Their dedication to FYCCN’s mission of creating the next generation of conservationists is an inspiration. Seeing these youth and families enjoying themselves here today—fishing, learning and watching wildlife—is the perfect way to celebrate the completion of a project that will benefit this community for years to come.”

Members of the NFL Players Association including pro Charles Riggins (left) volunteered their time to share their love of fishing with local youth.

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and job skills to complete the project: Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, IBEW Local 915, Insulators Local 67, Iron Workers Locals 7, 397 and 808, IUOE Local 487, LiUNA Locals 310, 517 and 1652, Machinists Local 1000, Roofers Local 123, UA Locals 123 and 915, UBC Locals 1, 283, 1000, 1809, 1905 and 4070, Ben Hur Construction and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office.

Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida President and CEO Andrew Walker shared Waddell’s enthusiasm about the new pier helping engage the next generation of conservationists. “Providing children and teens with high-quality outdoor recreation and education is increasingly important,” said Walker. “A project like this, that so many people helped make possible, is sure to inspire many others who work in youth education.”

Wayne Jennings, executive secretary treasurer of the Southern States Millwright Regional Council, said the Millwrights were proud to be part of such a broad-based project. “It was a pleasure for the SSMRC to be part of such a diverse group,” said Jennings. “Seeing everyone partnering together to accomplish this build was extraordinary. We truly had a multitude of different craft, contractors and volunteers all working harmoniously to deliver a project that will benefit the public for decades to come. It is a true sign of solidarity. I personally thank everyone involved.”

Ben Hur Construction’s Jason Brown echoed Jennings sentiments “Ben Hur would like to thank the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, FWC, as well as all the other partners and sponsors for giving us the opportunity to be part of such a great project for the community.”

“This project presented a number of challenges and obstacles,” said Florida State Building and Construction Trades Council President Theresa King. “I’m grateful for everyone’s persistence in pushing it through, particularly the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for its determination to make the new pier a reality for the community.”

“We are excited to see the Suncoast pier come to life,” added Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent. “Providing accessible educational and outdoor activities for all children is a fundamental way to help grow their interest in the outdoors. We were pleased to be able to help support the USA with this initiative and look forward to seeing the local community enjoy the pier for many years to come.”

“This is the dream team project,” added Connie Parker, a member of the USA Conservation Advisory Committee and Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida Board of Directors. “A consortium of partners came together to give the children of Florida this wonderful pier. We want to roll this out in all 50 states because we know if you put a fishing rod in a child’s hand, he or she will return to the water their entire life.”

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance said the project epitomizes the organization’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

Smiles were contagious and the fish were biting at the free youth fishing event, which included the outdoor-themed antics and fishing assistance of “Camo the Clown.”

“Our 200th Work Boots on the Ground project is a shining example of the great things that happen when hard-working union volunteers join forces to benefit their local communities,” he said. “Our projects are changing lives, changing the way the public looks at unions and changing the way union members see themselves. The beautiful new Suncoast Pier, which will provide more than 10,000 area youth a year with access to the Gulf of Mexico, is a testament to these volunteers’ willingness to donate their time and talents to give back to their communities.”

Vance was also quick to credit the support of project partners. “This is a union-led, private-public partnership that involves multiple non-profits, labor unions, union volunteers, a state agency, state wildlife foundation and numerous industry partners. We are thankful for everyone’s commitment to see this project through to completion.”

During the dedication ceremony, Vance announced the USA has received a Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund Grant totalling $25,000 to support the organization’s Get Youth Outdoors outreach events. Already, the USA Conservation department is working to apply a portion of the funds to a Take Kids Ice Fishing Day event in Minnesota next January. Five additional events will be sponsored by the grant.

The USA’s free, community-based youth outreach activities are also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

The USA also recognized a pair of volunteers with service awards. Dan Skuta received the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Conservation Steward of the Year Award, while Wayne Jennings of the Southern States Millwright Regional Council was honored with the USA’s Non-Charter Union Volunteer of the Year Award.

More than 500 youngsters, their families and volunteers gathered to celebrate the new boardwalk and fishing pier.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Kentucky American Water Host Lexington Youth Fishing Day

October 24, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Nearly 200 kids packed Jacobson Park in Lexington, Kentucky, on Oct. 19 for fishing and family fun during a Take Kids Fishing Day event hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Kentucky American Water and the American Water Charitable Foundation.

“The turnout was fantastic,” said Kentucky American Water External Affairs Specialist Ellen Williams. “And the kids had a wonderful time fishing on the reservoir.”

Each participant received a rod and reel courtesy of the American Water Charitable Foundation and Pure Fishing, as well as a set of game calls from Plano Synergy. Youth were coached in fishing techniques by a crew of volunteers, including members of Service Employees Local 320 in Louisville. Afterward, the children and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch.

“We’re always excited to get people, especially children, into the outdoors,” said Williams. “It’s our hope that kids exposed to nature at a young age will grow to appreciate water as a valuable natural resource, and want to take care of it throughout their lives.”

Nearly 200 youth enjoyed the Lexington event and went home with a free rod and reel.

The event was one of a series of free community outreach activities across the country that are run through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, and made possible through strong partnerships with organizations like the American Water Charitable Foundation, according to USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation and USA have collaborated on a number of conservation projects, including the construction of the handicap-accessible fishing pier the children used at Jacobson Park,” he said. “And we’re very proud that the Foundation recently decided to renew and strengthen our partnership by pledging a three-year, $300,000 grant that will be utilized to further conduct outreach activities such as the Take Kids Fishing Day in Lexington, as well as support USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program on infrastructure projects in American Water service areas.”

“Our partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is an important component of our efforts to give back and make a difference in the communities served by American Water,” said Carrie Williams, president of the American Water Charitable Foundation. “The Take Kids Fishing Day at Jacobson Park is a wonderful example of our partnership. Several years ago, USA union members and Kentucky American Water employees volunteered their time and skills to build the pier and today, our community outreach event is an opportunity to revisit this beautiful park and further enhance the outdoor experience for our customers, our employees and their families.”

The USA’s free, community-based youth outreach activities are also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

About American Water
With a history dating back to 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse U.S. publicly traded water and wastewater utility company. The company employs more than 7,100 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to more than 14 million people in 46 states. American Water provides safe, clean, affordable and reliable water services to our customers to make sure we keep their lives flowing. For more information, visit amwater.com and follow American Water on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

About the American Water Charitable Foundation
Established in 2010 with a founding contribution from American Water, the American Water Charitable Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides a formal way to demonstrate the company’s ongoing commitment to being a good neighbor, citizen, and contributor to the communities where American Water and its employees live, work and operate. The Foundation helps support American Water employee-identified nonprofit endeavors. More information can be found online at amwater.com/corporate-responsibility.

About Kentucky American Water
Kentucky American Water, a subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to more than half a million people.

Camo the Clown entertained participants with his outdoor-oriented routines.

Sheriff’s Youth Fishing Rodeo Showcases Pier Built by Union Volunteers

October 15, 2019 in General

The laughter and enthusiastic chatter of more than 200 children enjoying a day at the lake was music to the ears of labor union member Kevin Cruso.

Business manager of United Association (UA) Local 568 and a diehard member of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Cruso spearheaded construction of a brand-new, fully accessible public fishing pier at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office’s County Farm near Gulfport, Mississippi.

On Saturday, Oct. 12, the new pier was a hub of activity for hundreds of local youth and their families during the sheriff’s office’s 2019 Youth Fishing Rodeo.

“The event went great and everybody loved the new pier,” said Cruso, of Biloxi.

Designed to give community members of all ages and physical abilities improved access to the farm’s popular fishing pond—home to an abundance of catfish, panfish and bass—the new floating pier stretches 100 feet from the shoreline and features a 50-foot “T” on the end.

More than 200 youngsters eagerly wet a line during the 2019 Harrison County Sheriff’s Office 2019 Youth Fishing Rodeo.

Earlier this year, union volunteers united by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG) installed the user-friendly structure, along with a concrete sidewalk and lakeside fish-cleaning station complete with running water and electricity.

Volunteers from UA Local 568, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 6 and United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 1846 donated more than 200 hours of skilled labor valued at over $10,000 to the project.

Materials were purchased with nearly $20,000 from the Mississippi Building and Construction Trades Council’s annual USA Conservation Dinner and $2,500 from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF). Harrison County provided $5,000 to cover the cost of a dock extension at the request of the sheriff’s office.

Cruso said organizers were inspired to build the pier after seeing physically challenged park visitors watch from the sidelines as others fished from the pond’s hard-to-navigate bank.

“We thought it would make their day to be able to catch a fish or two, and really improve the facility’s fishing opportunities overall,” he said. “So we approached the sheriff’s office with the idea of building a pier everyone could use, and they loved it.”

“We can’t thank the union volunteers or Union Sportsmen’s Alliance enough for building this,” said Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson. He noted that the pier was a great addition to the annual youth fishing event, but will also benefit local residents of all ages and physical abilities year-round.

Built by union volunteers, the new pier was popular with Youth Fishing Rodeo participants and will benefit community members year-round for decades to come.

The Youth Fishing Rodeo was organized by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office with help from a number of partners, including the USA through its Work Boots on the Ground program, which in turn is supported by USA national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

Prior to the event, the pier was dedicated to Harrison County Patrolman Earl Phillips, who was killed in the line of duty February 19, 1973.

“We’re very thankful for the union volunteers and other partners who made the new fishing pier possible,” said USA Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell. “This pier will benefit Harrison County residents for decades to come, and having it dedicated to Patrolman Phillips was an honor to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and everyone involved in the project.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Partners Host Chicago Area Family Outdoor Day

October 1, 2019 in Articles, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 100 South Chicago area youth took their first steps in learning how to fish, shoot and hunt during the Family Outdoor Day held Sept. 28 at the William W. Powers State Recreation Area.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), in cooperation with New Concept Benefit Group (NCBG), Pheasants Forever, Illinois Conservation Foundation, Illinois Learn to Hunt Program, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Bowfishing Association of Illinois and the National Wild Turkey Federation hosted the event.

Participants experienced a variety of outdoor activities under the experienced supervision from local labor union members and other volunteers. Each youth also received a free rod and reel from NCBG, game calls from Plano Synergy, and enjoyed a picnic lunch with their families and mentors.

“With help from the very dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers on-site, the kids got a chance to go fishing, try bowfishing, shoot trap, learn archery skills and participate in an Illinois Learn to Hunt seminar,” said Doug Aller, NCBG president and driving force behind the Family Outdoor Day. “Our goals for the event were to give children the opportunity to engage with each other and their families, and encourage an interest in conservation and the outdoors as an alternative to smart phones and computer screens.”

Heavy rains the night before diminished during the morning hours, but still forced a slow start to the day, according to Aller. A steady stream of eager youngsters and their families began arriving as the skies cleared, however.

A little damp weather didn’t stop more than 100 participants from enjoying new outdoor activities like fishing.

“Things were a little wet and sloppy,” he said. “But it turned out to be a great day with a lot of kids enjoying fantastic outdoor experiences—some for the first time. I saw one young boy beam a wide smile at his mother when he realized a fish was nibbling the bait on his line. It was clear this was the first time he’d held a fishing rod, and for me, that excited grin made the whole day worthwhile.

“Young people growing up in urban areas don’t have the same opportunity to connect with the outdoors as do kids with rural backgrounds,” added Aller. “We hope this event sparked an interest, and showed the youth and their parents a doorway toward taking the next step.”

“The Family Outdoor Day coordinated by Doug Aller and the NCBG runs parallel to the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground outreach program, and we were proud to be part of it,” said Rob Stroede, USA conservation manager. “It’s becoming increasingly important to hold events like this one in metropolitan areas where young people don’t get as much exposure to the conservation message and outdoor lifestyle.”

The event was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized and supported by Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF).

William W. Powers State Recreation Area encompasses 580 acres of land and water on Wolf Lake in South Chicago, and offers visitors opportunities to fish, hunt, hike, ride trail bikes and more. In early 2020 it will be the site of a new, expansive USA Work Boots on the Ground conservation project that will include the construction of a new fishing pier, kayak launch and other amenities.

Union Volunteers Host Ohio Youth Fishing Day

September 23, 2019 in Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 160 young anglers learned about conserving and protecting Ohio’s natural resources while experiencing the thrill of catching fish Sept. 21 during the 2nd Annual Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Marietta Take Kids Fishing Day. 

Held at scenic Buckeye Park and sponsored by the Ohio AFL-CIO, the event was 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 was also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF).

Nine members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 972 donated 153 hours of their time to plan, organize and put on the special event in which kids from 2 to 15 years old learned how to bait a hook, cast their line and reel in feisty bluegills, bass and catfish.

“It was a perfect day,” said IBEW Local 972 event organizer Nathan Bail. “The weather was warm and sunny, and the kids had a wonderful time catching a lot of fish.”

Smiles and feisty fish were abundant during the free community event.

Each participant received a free rod-and-reel from USA partner Pure Fishing, along with a t-shirt and goody bag courtesy of the USA, Plano Synergy and RBFF. Adding to the fun, the first 25 youth that caught a fish received a $20 Kroger gift card courtesy of J & D Waterproofing. Afterward participants and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch at the park.

“The USA and IBEW teaming up to host an event like this really brings to light how much local unions and their members care about the future of the community,” said Bail. “That we want kids to have an opportunity to experience things that they might not normally have a chance to enjoy, and instill in them an appreciation for nature and the outdoors.”

While community outreach is a primary goal with Take Kids Fishing Day events across the country, of equal importance is the opportunity to open doors for youngsters to a way of life that cherishes the outdoor heritage, according to USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede.

“Research has proven that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for children to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation,” he said. “Free events such as this one help promote the importance of education a future generation of American anglers from diverse communities and communities and backgrounds; people who will one day carry the torch in the name of conservation and the outdoor lifestyle.” 

“It’s a blessing to just be a part of what the USA does for conservation and the outdoors,” Bail added. “Hopefully we can continue to work together to make a positive impact on the community of Marietta.”

Funds raised from the USA’s Ohio Conservation Dinner helped fund the event, along with support from a number of local donors. These funds also covered the cost of stocking the pond with 100 catfish and more than 700 bluegills that will continue to provide great fishing opportunities at Buckeye Park in the future.

Special thanks to Coonskin Crossing of Amesville, which donated nearly $300 in live bait for the event and to Boat House BBQ for providing burgers, hot dogs and chips. Additional fishing rod and reel combos from the event were donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Marietta.

Union Volunteers Introduce Minnesota Youth to the Great Outdoors

September 17, 2019 in General, Press Release

Smiles were contagious as labor union volunteers introduced youth to conservation, hunting and the shooting sports Sunday, Sept. 15 during the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 8th Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays in Clear Lake, Minnesota.

Organized by the USA and supported by a coalition of labor union, industry and conservation partners, the event gave 38 boys and girls ages 9 to 17 a personal introduction to wildlife conservation, dog training, archery, trap shooting, riflery and other outdoor topics through hands-on activities and demonstrations conducted by union volunteers. 

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.

All supplies including eye and hearing protection, firearms and ammunition were provided at no charge. Each youth also received a goody bag containing free Plano Synergy game calls and more. Youth and their families also enjoyed a picnic-style lunch with their mentors.

Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson offered advice on the finer points of shooting form and firearms handling.

The event was part of Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program—and sponsored by partners including Roofers International, NSSF, Roofers Local 96, BAC Local 1, Central MN BCTC and other local union groups. Fifteen volunteers from Ironworkers local 512, Roofers Local 96, Roofers International, LELS and IAMAW local 623 donated 90 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 traditions,” said Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson, who attended the event and personally coached dozens of young shooters on the sporting clays range. “Those of us who’ve been blessed to enjoy hunting, fishing and shooting our entire lives owe it to the next generation to give them the same opportunities.

“Plus, events like this build bridges between union workers and their communities, while fostering relationships and solidarity between members of different unions,” he added.

“A lot of kids went home with smiling faces and a much greater appreciation for the outdoors,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance, who was also on hand. “Interactive, hands-on events like this are critical to passing along our outdoor heritage to the next generation. We can’t thank our volunteers, charter unions and other supporters enough for making this outreach possible.”

The Clear Lake event was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities supported by USA national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

Pure Fishing Earns Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Lifetime Partner Award

September 9, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Pure Fishing has donated more than 10,000 rod-and-reel combos to the USA’s Take Kids Fishing Day events and other outreach activities.

Pure Fishing’s unwavering support of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) mission to improve the future of angling and conservation has earned the legendary tackle maker the organization’s prestigious $250,000 Lifetime Partner Award.

The award recognizes the South Carolina-based sportfishing powerhouse—a leading worldwide producer of fishing line, lures, rods and reels—for surpassing the $250,000 donor mark.

Known for iconic brands including Abu Garcia, Berkley, Shakespeare and more, Pure Fishing in 2017 signed a memorandum of understanding with the USA to collaborate on angler recruitment and retention programs that connect union and non-union families to the joys of fishing and spirit of conservation.

Pure Fishing has since donated more than 10,000 rod-and-reel combos to the USA’s Take Kids Fishing Day events and other outreach activities under the umbrella of the organization’s Get Youth Outdoors and Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) programs.

In addition, Pure Fishing donated time and product to a multi-partner undertaking to build a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida. Finished in August 2019, the SYCC pier was the 200th WBG project completed since the program’s inception in 2010.

The SYCC project exemplifies the WBG program, which unites labor union workers to volunteer their time and talents to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone. The program has touched communities in 31 states and is currently enjoying a surge in growth. The value of donated volunteer labor topped the $1,000,000 mark in early 2019 and the USA’s youth programs will soon reach the milestone of taking more than 10,000 kids fishing.

Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent

“We are truly honored to receive the Lifetime Partner Award from the USA,” said Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent. “Over the years our partnership with the USA has offered families the opportunity to enjoy learning about conservation and fishing through projects like the SYCC boardwalk and fishing pier, which we were thrilled to be able to support. As a partner of the USA, we applaud their commitment to preserving fishing and the outdoors for our local communities.”

“Thanks to the generosity of Pure Fishing, the number, scope and impact of youth outreach and conservation projects orchestrated by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program has increased dramatically since 2017, when we completed our 100th project,” said USA Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications Brian Dowler.

“We’re honored to have Pure Fishing as a partner,” Dowler continued. “The company’s donations of fishing rods, reels and tackle allow participants to begin their fishing careers and strengthen their bond with nature long after attending one of our outreach events.”

John Heinz NWR Enhancements Earn Union Sportsmen’s Alliance 2019 Project of the Year Award

August 21, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

 

Union volunteers’ efforts to enhance visitors’ experiences at the nation’s first Urban National Wildlife Refuge earned the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 2019 Project of the Year Award.

Located just six miles from downtown Philadelphia, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge conserves critical wildlife habitat of the Tinicum Tidal Marsh. With 35 million people living within a two-hour drive, the refuge also offers tremendous opportunities for connecting community residents with the outdoors.

John Heinz NWR welcomes 260,000 visitors annually with a wide variety of interpretive programs and recreational activities including fishing, kayaking, hunting and wildlife watching. It also serves as a living classroom, offering environmental education and outreach programs that touch the lives of 17,000 area youth each season.

Unfortunately, funding and staff shortages left a number of maintenance projects at this urban treasure undone. When USA Conservation Advisory Committee member Connie Parker learned that parts of the refuge infrastructure were in dire need of attention, she connected the USA with Department of the Interior (DOI) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Aurelia Skipwith. 

In turn, Skipwith was instrumental in connecting the USA with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, who administer the National Wildlife Refuge System, and getting the project started. Organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, these efforts have completed a series of improvements.

Union volunteers spent nearly 700 hours completing a series of projects to improve visitor experiences at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

In 2018, union volunteers from four Philadelphia-area locals donated nearly 700 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $36,000 to make critical road repairs, install a new non-motorized boat launch and restore a popular wildlife observation tower. Machinery usage valued at $20,000 pushed the total project value over $56,000. With work continuing in 2019, the value of refuge enhancements that benefit local residents continues to climb.

Volunteers from the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 14, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 21, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542 and United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local 30 donated their time and varied trade skills to the project.

“Our engineers came in to stabilize and resurface the refuge’s wetland loop road while the construction and painting crews worked on the kayak/canoe launch and tower,” said John Stahl, volunteer project leader and apprenticeship training director for Insulators Local 14.

Volunteers scraped and repainted the double-deck observation tower, one of the refuge’s oldest and most-used features, and rebuilt its deteriorating access walkway. They also installed a support foundation for a new floating boat launch and constructed a hinged walkway that allows the platform to rise and fall with tidal fluctuations. 

Such improvements were godsends to refuge staff and will enhance the experience of all visitors. “What these volunteers did here really benefits the public by making sure we have safe and equal access for everyone who comes to visit,” said John Heinz Refuge Manager Lamar Gore. “If we didn’t have these skilled volunteers through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, we would have to close some things down for longer periods of time. These guys help us keep things moving, which means people can continue to fully appreciate this space.”

“We’re very honored to support the National Wildlife Refuge System’s efforts to protect our precious natural areas for current and future generations of Americans to enjoy,” said USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “And we are proud of the many union volunteers and their selfless dedication to restoring these features that are so important to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Their accomplishments truly deserve the recognition the Project of the Year Award brings. 

“Every one of the people who donated their free time to work on this great project deserves credit,” Stahl said during the award presentation at the USA’s recent Fundraising Gala in Washington, D.C. “Because coming together as union brothers and sisters to support our communities is what it’s all about. And I think that’s what the presentation of this award really shows. I’m very proud to be part of a brotherhood that cares enough to give back.”

The DOI has also acknowledged the importance of such public-private partnerships. On September 29, 2018, the USA joined DOI officials at John Heinz NWR to celebrate the first Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day and kickoff of refuge-enhancement projects. A coalition of partners including Pure Fishing, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Plano Synergy supported the event.

Refuge improvements included the creation of a launching dock for kayaks and canoes.

Suncoast Pier Completion Marks Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s 200th Work Boots on the Ground Project

August 14, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) celebrated the completion of its 200th Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) project this week as union volunteers put the final touches on a new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

The multi-year, collaborative effort gives thousands of youth and their families opportunities to study, enjoy and appreciate the Gulf of Mexico’s inshore fish and wildlife resources.

The project is the USA’s largest to date and has drawn support from a coalition of public, private and union partners including the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Southern States Millwright Regional Council, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Ben Hur Construction, Pure Fishing, TECO Energy and a number of local labor unions. 

Collectively, donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses topped $800,000. Volunteers alone donated more than 2,000 hours of skilled labor valued at over $100,000 to create the SYCC’S new boardwalk and pier.

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 includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility and annually serves more than 11,000 youth and adults. 

The boardwalk and pier flank a restored saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the educational complex. The new structure allows visitors to study coastal marine habitats. It also serves as the perfect platform to teach the joys of fishing, thereby supporting the FYCCN’s goal to create the next generation of conservationists by providing youth opportunities to participate in traditional outdoor activities that inspire lifelong stewardship for fish and wildlife conservation.

“We owe our deepest gratitude to all the skilled professionals who volunteered their time and talents at the FWC’s Suncoast Youth Conservation Center,” said FYCCN Director Rae Waddell. “The outstanding workmanship on this project will provide greater access to fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities for years to come. The generosity of our volunteers and partners in support of FYCCN’s mission means we’ll be able to engage more youth and families in the outdoors and conservation.”

Union volunteers completed work on a new boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center.

Wayne Jennings, Southern States Millwright Regional Council executive secretary treasurer, said the Millwrights were quick to support the project. “We were honored to partner with USA to assist with the construction of the Suncoast boardwalk,” he said. “The SSMRC is excited to give back to the community and we hope everyone enjoys the boardwalk for years to come. Together we can accomplish anything imaginable.”

Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida President and CEO Andrew Walker shared Jennings’ enthusiasm. “We were thrilled to be a partner on this project,” he said. “We are deeply committed to ensuring that nature and outdoor recreation are accessible to all, and this boardwalk does exactly that.”

Ben Hur Construction’s Jason Brown echoed those sentiments. “Ben Hur Construction would like to thank the USA for the opportunity to be a partner in such a rewarding project,” he said. “It was great to see so many organizations and individual people come together to deliver such a great project for the community. We look forward to working together in the future with the USA on other great projects.”

“We are excited to see the Suncoast pier come to life,” added Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent. “Providing accessible educational and outdoor activities for all children is a fundamental way to help grow their interest in the outdoors. We were pleased to be able to help support the USA with this initiative and look forward to seeing the local community enjoy the pier for many years to come.”       

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and talents to complete the project: Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, IBEW Local 915, Insulators Local 67, Iron Workers Locals 7, 397 and 808, IUOE Local 487, LiUNA Locals 310, 517 and 1652, Machinists Local 1000, Roofers and Waterproofers Local 123, UA Locals 123 and 915, UBC Locals 1, 283, 1000, 1809, 1905 and 4070, Ben Hur Construction and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office.

The SYCC project exemplifies the WBG program, which unites labor union workers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects which would otherwise go undone.

Launched in 2010, the WBG program has since touched communities in 31 states. The value of volunteer labor donated through WBG topped the $1,000,000 mark in early 2019 and will soon surpass $1.5 million.

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance is proud of these achievements, and is quick to note how the organization’s surge in growth is allowing the USA and its allies to complete a rising number of projects aimed at enriching the lives of community residents while protecting the nation’s outdoor heritage.

“We celebrated the completion of our 100th project in 2017 after seven years of doing the WBG program,” said Vance. “Now we are celebrating the completion of our 200th project just 20 months later. Not only has our number of WBG projects expanded rapidly, their scope and impact on conservation and local communities has increased dramatically as well.”

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 SYCC wrap-up comes on the heels of a number of other 2019 project completions, including public piers at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge just outside Liberty, Texas, and Harrison County Sheriff’s Office’s County Farm near Gulfport, Mississippi.

Union volunteers also recently completed shooting range improvements at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland, donated a pair of track chair-accessible ground blinds to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and repaired hurricane damage at Goose Island State Park near Corpus Christi, Texas. 

The USA has also orchestrated a flurry of youth outreach events in 2019. These include Get Youth Outdoors Day events—held in concert with the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) First Shots program—in Tennessee and Texas, along with Take Kids Fishing Day events in Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. “Additional events in 2019 will propel the USA’s youth programs to the incredible milestone of taking more than 10,000 kids fishing,” Vance noted. 

The USA has plenty of other WBG projects and events in the works for 2019 and beyond, including ongoing improvements at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia. 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 efforts range from the construction of a weigh station-pavilion on the shores of Smith Lake near Jasper, Alabama, to an archery range at North Marcum Recreation Area on Illinois’ Rend Lake and a pedestrian walkway in Prineville, Oregon.

“Our projects are changing lives, changing the way the public looks at unions and changing the way union members see themselves as local heroes and volunteers,” Vance said. “All of this is driven by an amazing team effort that includes the contributions of our founding partners, charter unions, corporate supporters, agency allies, staff and the hardworking union members who give up their weekends to offer their skills to give back to their communities.”

USA, Union Volunteers Host Kentucky Youth Fishing Events

June 25, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 70 Kentucky youth went fishing last Saturday, June 22, at Take Kids Fishing Day events hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 110 and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Held in Lexington, Louisville and Paducah, the events were part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized under Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program, and were supported by national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing, Plano Synergy and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

More than 70 Kentucky youth experienced the joys of fishing last Saturday during free, union-organized Take Kids Fishing Day events.

The budding anglers had fun despite wet weather and, in one case, a storm that threatened to end things before they started. “In Paducah, an overnight storm dropped trees and limbs in Bob Noble Park,” said SMART Local 110 Manager Mark Adams. “But park employees managed to get them cleared in time for the event. It was a bit rainy during activities at every location, too, but all the children had a great time and a wonderful experience catching fish—mostly bluegills and crappies.”

Each youth who participated in one of the events received a free rod and reel from Pure Fishing and a pair of game calls from Plano Synergy. Volunteers from Local 110 then helped the youngsters bait hooks, and coached them in casting and landing the fish.

Overall, 74 young anglers participated, mentored by 36 union volunteers who donated more 150 hours of their time to plan and hold the events.

“We believe hosting activities like these is an important part of our function in the community,” explained Adams. “Not only to offer children a chance to go fishing, experience the outdoors and learn about conservation, but also to show our neighbors who we are and what our union is all about—supporting our neighbors while providing people with an opportunity for solid employment and a secure way of life.”

With help from the USA, union locals across the country hold Take Kids Fishing Day events that are free to children and their families. While they help strengthen ties between union workers and the people in their neighborhoods, the primary goal is to encourage young people to enjoy the outdoors and teach them about conserving and preserving natural resources.

“Many children these days don’t get a chance to go fishing or participate in outdoor activities in general,” said Robert Stroede, USA conservation manager. “We know that involving kids in outdoor pursuits early on helps them develop a lasting interest in environmental conservation. It passes on a love and respect for the outdoors to the next generation.”

Union Volunteers Make Salt Lake City Area Take Kids Fishing Event A Success

June 11, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The waters of Fairmont Park Pond were the backdrop for more than 80 young anglers and their families who gathered on June 8, 2019, for the inaugural Salt Lake City Area Take Kids Fishing Day event, a cooperative effort between the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Utah Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) and Salt Lake City Trails and Natural Lands.

Union volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 354 and International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 3 donated their time and expertise to introduce both kids and adults to fishing and make their time on the water a success. Each youth received a free rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing, as well as a gift bag with other items including game calls donated by Plano Synergy.

The Salt Lake City-area event was 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 was also supported by national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing, Plano Synergy and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

The USA supplied all bait and tackle needed for the budding anglers to bring in plenty of rainbow trout and catfish, which are stocked in Fairmont Park’s pond by the Utah Division of Wildlife as part of its community fishing program. After the fishing, all participants and their families enjoyed a picnic lunch at no cost.

Smiles were catchy when more than 80 youth and their families enjoyed the Salt Lake City Area Take Kids Fishing Day June 8.

Local event coordinator, union organizer and IBEW member Brad Baugh said the inaugural Salt Lake City-area event was a resounding success.

“It went very smooth and was well attended,” he said. “We had a whole bunch of people who’d never fished or were coming back to fishing after a long absence, so they were really excited about it—especially about being able to take home a new rod and reel. It was great to see grandparents fishing with their grandkids and taking trout home to eat for dinner.”

According to Baugh, events like this do far more than make memories in terms of shaping attitudes.

“A lot of times we talk to people who have negative opinions about unions,” he said. “When people have such a positive experience with a union-organized event, it helps them realize we’re all the same, and that we’re good people trying to make a living.”

Baugh also said the positive results of this year’s event and the smiling faces of all those who participated laid the groundwork for more Take Kids Fishing Days in years to come. “It was our first time, but we’re looking forward to doing a lot more,” he said.

USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the participants had never fished before. “Reaching these children is one of the reasons Take Kids Fishing Day events are so important to us,” he said. “Because research shows that youth who are introduced to fishing before the age of 14 are more likely to adopt it as a lifelong pastime.

“This is also a great example of what can be accomplished when local labor unions, union volunteers and partners like Salt Lake City Trails and Natural Lands and the Utah Division of Wildlife join forces with the USA and our national supporters to make a difference in the lives of children and their communities,” he added.

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.”

Union Volunteers, Partners Propel Suncoast Youth Conservation Center Project Forward

April 17, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

A concerted effort by 65 skilled union volunteers on Saturday, April 13 pushed construction of a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Fla., closer to completion.

Collectively, donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses from project partners are expected to top $800,000. The project will be the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) largest undertaking to date and is expected to be completed in May of 2019.

Organized by the USA with support from a wide range of partners, the project aims to give thousands of Florida youth and their families better firsthand access to the Gulf of Mexico’s inshore ecosystem.

Union volunteers donated 622 hours of skilled labor valued at nearly $33,000 during Saturday’s workday event, focusing much of their efforts on installing the new pier’s decking.

The wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier project is being organized as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. Project partners include the USA, Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Southern States Millwright Council, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Ben Hur Construction, Pure Fishing and a number of local labor unions. 

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. 

Nearly 70 union volunteers rolled up their sleeves to work on the new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center in Apollo Beach, Florida.

The new boardwalk and fishing pier will flank a recently restored, 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.

“We’re grateful to all the volunteers who have donated their time, talent and other resources to make this new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier a reality. Thanks to them, there will be greater access to fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities, which supports our mission to engage youth and families in the outdoors and conservation,” said Rae Waddell, director of FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network. “Providing access to the pond and saltwater marsh at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center is important for creating the next generation of conservationists. Time spent outdoors also provides youth, families, school groups and others with numerous benefits–ranging from health improvements to better academic performance.”

USA national partner Pure Fishing, the country’s largest manufacturer of fishing gear, has been a driving force in the project’s development. “While this project satisfies all of the conservation criteria—people, outdoors, on the water, learning to appreciate our great stewardship of natural abundance—it also speaks volumes of what can be done when it is for the right reason,” said Pure Fishing Stewardship and Government Relations Director Connie Parker, who also serves on the FWFF board of directors. 

“Multiple non-profits, labor unions, a state agency, state wildlife foundation and industry partners–all organizations with different business models–put down their ideology, joined talent, skill and dedication, dropped their return on investment rubicon and did what was right for land, water and people,” she continued. “We were in this moment united not in doing well but in doing good for the right reason at the right time of need for land, water and people. It is the epitome of a blueprint of success for conservation.”

“There is not enough room to say everything I would like to say about this project and the partners involved,” said USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “Our volunteers continue to amaze me with their skill and dedication to their communities and the future of conservation. 

“This project has been a journey and there were times that we hit a few walls,” he continued. “During these times, every player stepped up and pushed through, gaining a little more ground than we had before. I feel honored to work amongst and with such warriors. To see a public/private partnership such as this unfold is inspiring and should motivate us all to dig deeper and think outside the box. Rest assured, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is ready to partner anywhere we can unite the union community through conservation and make a difference in someone’s life.”

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and skills to Saturday’s workday: Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, IBEW International, IBEW Local 915, Insulators Local 67, Iron Workers Locals 7, 397 and 808, IUOE Local 487, Millwright Local 1000, Roofers International, UA Local 123, Ben Hur Construction and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office.

Union Fire Fighters Team with USA, Ohio AFL-CIO to Host Chillicothe Youth Fishing Event

April 16, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 300 held their annual Fish With A Fire Fighter Day April 13, hosting 187 young anglers at Yoctangee Park in Chillicothe, Ohio.

The free event, designed to introduce local youngsters ages 2 to 15 to conservation and the joys of fishing, has a rich history in Chillicothe, according to Local 300 President Jason Ferryman. “Our Fish With A Fire Fighter Day is a long-standing tradition that the kids and their families look forward to every year,” he said. “The kids get the chance to fish for rainbow trout in the park’s manmade lake and enjoy a picnic-style lunch with their families, while our fire fighters get the opportunity to interact with members of our community.”

This year, for the first time, Local 300 teamed up with the Ohio AFL-CIO and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Ferryman added, “to help make the event bigger and better than ever before. We can’t thank them enough for their assistance in making our day a huge success.”

The USA helped organize the Chillicothe event as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the organization’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.

Union volunteers hosted 187 kids during Fish With A Fire Fighter Day April 13 at Yoctangee Park in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Twenty-two IAFF volunteers and three Ohio AFL-CIO volunteers donated well over 100 hours in planning, preparation and during the event itself, helping youngsters rig equipment, hone casting skills and play feisty fish.

“Organized labor has a strong tradition of lifting up our local communities, and we are pleased to participate in the Fish With A Fire Fighter Day in Chillicothe,” said Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, based in Columbus. “IAFF Local 300 does an outstanding job of putting this event together and we’re happy to be part of it–especially when it involves fostering a love of the outdoors in the younger generation.”

During the registration/check-in process, the young anglers received a free rod-and-reel combo, courtesy of Pure Fishing. Then, with help from family members and fire fighter volunteers, they spent several hours catching hungry trout that had been stocked the previous day by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“They had a fantastic time,” said AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk, who was on hand to help register and organize the eager anglers. “For a lot of kids, it was their first experience fishing, and they were overjoyed that they got to take the rod and reel home with them.

“Afterward, close to 300 kids, family members and volunteers enjoyed a delicious picnic meal of hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, potato salad and fruit,” she added. “It was a wonderful and very busy day.”

Union Volunteers Introduce 200 Spring Hill Youth to Fishing

April 15, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

UAW Local 1853 President Tim Stannard was among the 32 UAW volunteers introducing kids to fishing at the Spring Hill Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

Despite early morning rains, 200 young anglers and their families lined the pond at the Tennessee Children’s Home Spring Hill Campus Saturday, April 13 for the Spring Hill Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 1853 and UAW Region 8, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and other supporters, the free event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of fishing.

The Spring Hill-area event was the latest in 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.

Many youngsters reeled in fish, which were plentiful and in a biting mood after the TWRA donated and stocked 400 pounds of catfish into the pond earlier in the week.

Each of the young anglers received a free fishing rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing, to ensure everyone had the chance to participate and hopefully continue fishing for years to come. Along with the rods and reels, prizes were given out at the end of the day for the largest fish–including three tackle boxes and a bait bucket.

UAW Local 1853 President Tim Stannard reported 32 volunteers—all from Local 1853–donated 150 hours toward planning and holding the event at no cost to the participants or their families. Volunteers provided instruction and assistance, including rigging the participants’ new fishing poles and offering sage advice on how to hook the big one.

Stannard said volunteers enjoyed sharing their love of fishing with those in attendance. “They had a blast getting to see how much fun the kids were having,” he said.

He also noted that holding such events helps non-union residents see the many ways unions and their members benefit the community. “These events help build bridges by showing people that union members are friends and neighbors who enjoy giving back to their communities,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t know much about unions or have heard bad stuff about them,” Stannard continued. “This shows that union members are normal, next-door neighbors who work together to provide living wages and benefits for our families—and we also care about getting kids out in nature, away from the video games.”

USA Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell was elated at how many families tried fishing for the first time. “The event was phenomenal, especially given the cool, rainy weather,” said Campbell. “Everyone had a great time. A lot of kids who never held a fishing pole prior to Saturday got to experience the thrill of fishing. The parents loved it, too. There were just as many excited moms and dads as there were kids.”

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.

USA, NSSF Hold Nashville Area Get Youth Outdoors Day

April 1, 2019 in Articles, General, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 30 youths learned about conservation and hunting while experiencing the thrill of the shooting sports firsthand Sunday, March 31 during the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Nashville Area Get Youth Outdoors Day.

The nonprofit USA teamed 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 on the banks of the Cumberland River in West Nashville.

Open to boys and girls ages 9 to 15, the event was part of NSSF’s First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports. Union volunteers from Roofers International and Insulators Local 86 provided hands-on introductions to sporting clays and archery, along with wildlife conservation, dog training and other outdoor topics. 

Hands-on instruction helped first-time shooters experience the thrill of the shooting sports.

“Unions and union workers are honored to give back to our communities by helping introduce kids to conservation and outdoor activities they can enjoy for a lifetime,” said Billy Dycus, president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council. “With fewer kids being raised in rural areas, this kind of outreach is more important than ever.”

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

The Nashville-area event was 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 was sponsored by NSSF and Savage Arms with support from national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

“Hands-on, interactive youth events are critical to the future of fishing, hunting and recreational shooting,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “The USA and its union, industry and conservation partners are proud to support a variety of mentorship and outreach programs across the nation that provide opportunities for union workers to share their passion for the outdoors with young people and their families.”

 

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.

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.

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.”

Ohio AFL-CIO, Union Volunteers Introduce Marietta Youths to Fishing

October 17, 2018 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 100 local youngsters and their families participated in the Marietta Area Take Kids Fishing Day at scenic Buckeye Park in Marietta, Ohio, on Saturday, October 13. A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Division of Wildlife and a consortium of other partners, the free community event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of fishing.

Much to their delight, the youngsters received a free rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing and game calls from Plano Synergy. 

Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk reported that union volunteers representing IBEW Local 968 and Local 972, SMART Local 33, Southeastern Ohio CLC Laborers and Ohio AFL-CIO provided instruction and assistance, which included setting up and baiting the participants’ new fishing poles, plus offering sage advice on how to hook the big one.

After fishing, the budding anglers and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch, which provided the perfect opportunity to swap fish stories with their mentors.

“Union members are quick to give back to their communities, especially when it involves conservation and youths,” Mauk said. “We were surprised how many local youngsters had never held a fishing pole. Hopefully now that they’ve experienced the sport and have their own fishing equipment, they’ll continue to enjoy the sport for years to come.”

Participants were eager to wet a line with their new rod-and-reel combos, donated by Pure Fishing.

“It was wonderful to have the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Ohio AFL-CIO and union volunteers come together with our local civic team and other partners to make this event a success,” added Susan Joyce, office manager for Marietta’s Public Facilities Department. “The kids loved it and a great time was had by all.”

Event sponsors included the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife, JD Waterproofing, Ohio AFL-CIO, Marietta Building Trades, Southeast Ohio Labor Council, the city of Marietta, Pure Fishing, Take Me Fishing and Plano-Synergy.

In preparation for the event, the USA leveraged an ODNR grant to stock the pond at Buckeye Park with trout to bolster already abundant populations of gamefish, including catfish, bluegills and bass. The USA also contracted aquatic vegetation-control services to combat excessive weedgrowth that made the water body difficult to fish.

“Take Kids Fishing Day events aim to educate a future generation of American anglers from diverse communities and backgrounds,” explained USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “As a bonus, Marietta residents will enjoy lasting benefits from the fish stocking and vegetation control efforts at Buckeye Park.”

The Marietta event was one of six free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day activities held in 2018 as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. The other events were held in Barboursville, West Virginia, and Eau Claire, Janesville, La Crosse and Madison, Wisconsin. In all, a total of 838 youths participated.

“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,” he said.

USA, Pure Fishing and Allies Rally to Benefit John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

October 3, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

From left: Joined by refuge mascots, USA Conservation and Community Outreach Director Forrest Parker; Jaclyn Rhoads, Friends of Heinz Refuge; DOI Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Aurelia Skipwith; DOI Senior Deputy Director, Intergovernmental and External Affairs Ben Cassidy; and John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Manager Lamar Gore.

Representatives of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Department of the Interior (DOI) gathered at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge outside Philadelphia Saturday, Sept. 29 to celebrate Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day and commemorate refuge-enhancement projects supported by a coalition of partners including the USA, fishing industry powerhouse Pure Fishing and local union workers.

The event recognized the importance of such projects, along with the important role urban national wildlife refuges play in protecting wildlife habitat and providing outdoor recreational opportunities for all Americans.

“By celebrating Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day, we highlight the outdoor opportunities available on the doorstep of many of the nation’s urban and suburban residents,” said Interior’s Deputy Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Jim Kurth. “Urban refuges are places for families to gather and enjoy the outdoors, and places to reach out to the next generation of anglers and hunters, while providing safe access.”

Unfortunately, due to a shortage of staff and funding, the US 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.

DOI Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Aurelia Skipwith noted the importance of urban wildlife refuges for conservation and public use, and thanked refuge supporters for donating their time, talents and financial contributions.

Through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG), union volunteers with IAHFIAW Local 14, IUPAT DC 21 and Operating Engineers Local 542 have to date donated more than 200 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $7,100 on a kayak launch dock and observation tower improvements at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, with a variety of additional projects planned.

Donations from Pure Fishing, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation pushed total conservation partner contributions to more than $21,000. The figure will grow as additional projects are completed.

USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker attended the event and presented a check to Jaclyn Rhoads of the Friends of Heinz Refuge on behalf of the partnership.

“We are honored to join forces with these partners in support of 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 extremely proud of the many union volunteers who donate their time and skills to complete projects on refuges and elsewhere in their local communities to help everyone enjoy the outdoors.”   

In honor of Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge hosted a series of outdoor recreation activities for the public including its first-ever 5K race, archery, fishing and kayaking. As part of the fishing component, Pure Fishing donated free fishing rods and reels for union volunteers to distribute to all youths in attendance. Plano Synergy provided game calls as an extra treat for the youngsters.

Attendees of all ages enjoyed the new floating kayak launch, installed by local union volunteers as part of ongoing USA-led conservation projects at the refuge.

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’s Take Kids Fishing Day Events Introduce Youth to Joys of Fishing

June 22, 2018 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Kids Fishing

Take Kids Fishing Day events pair local union volunteers with youths from their communities.

More than 700 youngsters were introduced to the joys of fishing in June 2018 during free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events orchestrated by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and teams of dedicated union volunteers.

A total of 738 youths participated in five USA Take Kids Fishing Days, held in Barboursville, West Virginia, and Eau Claire, Janesville, La Crosse and Madison, Wisconsin. Much to their delight, each youth received a free rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing, a game call from Plano Synergy and a chance to put his or her new fishing gear to the test against a variety of freshwater gamefish.

After fishing, the budding anglers and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch, which provided the perfect opportunity to swap fish stories with their union mentors.

One-hundred twenty volunteers representing 38 local skilled trade unions donated 472 hours of time to make the events a success. Their duties ranged from planning to cleanup, but favorite tasks invariably centered on providing fishing instruction and assistance—which included setting up and baiting the participants’ new fishing poles and offering sage advice on how to hook the big one.

Kids Fishing

USA Take Kids Fishing Day events are free of charge, and participants receive rods and reels courtesy of Pure Fishing.

The events were part of Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program—and sponsored by union partners including the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin, Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Building and Construction Trades Council of Western Wisconsin, Greater West Central Area Labor Council and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“Take Kids Fishing Day events aim to educate a future generation of American anglers from diverse communities and backgrounds,” explained USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “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 noted additional benefits of teaching kids to fish. “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,” he said.

Madison-area Take Kids Fishing Day leader Dave Branson, executive director of the South Central Wisconsin BCTC, explained the allure of volunteering at a youth fishing event. “It’s rewarding to teach children about the sport, then see the smiles on their faces as they reel in their first fish,” he said. “Plus, holding events like this helps build relationships between unions and the public, by reminding people that union members are friends and neighbors who enjoy giving back to our community.”

The nonprofit Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) organizes union volunteers to donate their time and unique trade skills to conservation, outreach, public access, mentorship and education campaigns that preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. Working with union partners and industry allies including Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the USA promotes and protects the sport of fishing nationwide through a variety of mentorship, outreach, public access, research and fisheries enhancement projects.