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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.

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

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

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

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

The awards recognize volunteers from each of the USA’s charter unions who have made exceptional contributions to the USA’s efforts to organize union volunteers to donate their time and unique trade skills in the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Conservation Steward of the Year selection process begins with the nomination of potential recipients by peers or union leadership. From this pool of nominees, USA staff select individuals who have had the greatest impact on the USA’s mission, represented their unions in the most exemplary fashion, and made the biggest difference in their local community.

Collingdale Roofer, Community Volunteer Savors Saltwater Fishing Adventure On USA Brotherhood Outdoors TV Series

October 13, 2018 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Fishing, Press Release

Union roofer and tireless community volunteer George Matteson of Collingdale, Pennsylvania, sets his sights on saltwater fly-fishing adventure when he appears in an episode of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Brotherhood Outdoors television series airing the week of Oct. 14 on Sportsman Channel.

Matteson, a 38-year union roofer and member of Roofers and Waterproofers Local 30 of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, was chosen to appear on the show based on his lifelong commitment to his profession, the union brotherhood and community service.

Matteson is an active member of Tobyhanna Conservation Association, which promotes hunting, fishing, and improving community members’ access to the outdoors. He has also coached and mentored local youths in a variety of activities including fishing, shooting sports, football, baseball and basketball, and regularly umpires for the local Special Olympics.

An accomplished freshwater fly angler, Matteson has long dreamed of pursuing saltwater species. During this episode of Brotherhood Outdoors, these dreams are realized as Matteson travels to the legendary fishing grounds of Ascension Bay, Mexico, to tackle bonefish, permit and other gamefish out of the luxurious Palometa Club.

Matteson’s Ascension Bay adventure fulfilled his lifelong dream of pursuing saltwater gamefish on the fly.

Catch all the exciting action on the brine when Matteson’s episode airs Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. Eastern, or when it re-airs Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Award-winning Brotherhood Outdoors is currently in its 10th season of whisking hardworking union members away on action-packed hunting and fishing adventures. Produced by creative powerhouse Rusted Rooster Media, the series puts the spotlight on union members who are as passionate about the outdoors as they are on keeping the country running. Each episode takes viewers to the homes, communities and jobsites of these tireless American workers for an inspirational glimpse at their backstories before heading onto the water or into the field.

The 2018 Brotherhood Outdoors season also features union members in pursuit of New Mexico elk, Wyoming pronghorns, Mexican permit and bonefish, Saskatchewan waterfowl and black bears, Louisiana redfish and trophy whitetails in Illinois and Ohio. Along the way, the show also offers snapshots of the USA’s community-based conservation, public access, outreach and mentorship efforts, which are executed by an all-volunteer union labor force.

For a complete listing of upcoming episodes, CLICK HERE. To watch episodes online, visit

Presented by Bank of Labor, Brotherhood Outdoors is also sponsored by the following unions, contractors and corporate partners: Buck Knives, Burris, Carhartt, Flambeau, Steiner, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Electrical Contractors Association, and United Association/International Training Fund’s Veterans in Piping Program.

Union Volunteers Expand Boy Scouts’ Camp Meriwether Shooting Sports Facilities

August 14, 2018 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Camp Meriwether

Union volunteers helped construct three new ranges at Camp Meriwether.

Union volunteers recently teamed up with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to help complete an ambitious range-expansion project at Oregon’s Camp Meriwether that gives Boy Scouts from across the West Coast an enhanced shooting sports experience.

Sixteen volunteers from the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers (RWAW) Local 49 and Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 737 and 296 donated 260 hours of skilled labor to help complete the $800,000 project, which added three new ranges to the popular camp.

The project was organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.
Located in rugged coastal wilderness along the Pacific shoreline near Cloverdale, Oregon, 790-acre Camp Meriwether is considered the flagship of the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) Cascade Pacific Council and can accommodate more than 500 campers each day.

Shooting sports including archery, air rifle, rimfire, shotgun and larger caliber firearms are collectively among the Boy Scout’s most popular activities. Yet for years, Camp Meriwether’s facilities were limited to just eight rifle shooting stations, eight archery stations and two shotgun stations.

Camp Meriwether

Sixteen volunteers representing the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers (RWAW) Local 49 and Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 737 and 296 donated their time and talents to the project.

In 2013, the council launched an effort to expand the facilities with a 24-lane rifle range, 24-lane archery range and 10-station shotgun range. After years of planning, fundraising and site prep, the project’s final phase began in 2018. This spring and summer, union volunteers assisted in the framing, sheeting and underlayment for the three new range structures—more than triple the camp’s capacity to introduce youths to the shooting sports.

“The involvement of skilled trade volunteers is so important when a BSA camp takes on a major project,” said Frank Reigelman, BSA’s team lead for outdoor programs and properties. “Volunteers from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance enabled Camp Meriwether to expand its shooting sports ranges to serve members with updated facilities. It’s a win-win as union volunteers enjoy an opportunity to help their communities and the camp receives a high-quality program area.”

“Kids from southern California to Washington get together here to learn about the outdoors and experience activities like archery, trapshooting and riflery,” added USA project leader Travis Hopkins, of RWAW Local 49. “This teaches them pastimes they can enjoy for a lifetime. But it also encourages them to expand their horizons and gives them confidence to try new things—which ultimately helps them become strong members of a healthy community.”

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is proud to help hardworking union volunteers expand Camp Meriwether’s facilities,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “The Boy Scouts of America will use these new ranges to teach thousands of youths safe and responsible firearms and archery skills each season for years to come.”

An official dedication ceremony is planned as part of a grand opening celebration at the new range later this summer.

This isn’t the first time the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance has worked with Boy Scouts of America, and it certainly won’t be the last.