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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.

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 www.myoutdoortv.com.

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.