You are browsing the archive for Work Boots on the Ground Archives - Union Sportsmen's Alliance.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Join Forces to Increase Public Access for Outdoor Recreation

June 30, 2020 in Conservation News, Press Release

John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge earned the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance 2019 Project of the Year Award. Pictured accepting the award with USA members are Refuge Manager Lamar Gore, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith and Counselor to the Interior Secretary Margaret Everson. Credit: USFWS. (This photograph was taken in August 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Agreement will Help Restore and Support Recreational Opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) have reaffirmed an existing relationship that promises to benefit hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts for generations to come. A recently signed agreement builds on past successes between the Service and the USA by creating new volunteer opportunities for skilled union trades workers to engage in infrastructure and access projects on national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries.

The agreement will facilitate volunteer public service opportunities for USA members that will support outdoor recreation, environmental and recreational education and other opportunities on Service-managed lands. It also aligns with the administration’s commitment to maintain and expand recreational access on America’s public lands. Union volunteers will bring on the ground expertise and practical help needed to deliver our promise of access to all Americans.

For the 80 percent of Americans who live in or near cities, Urban National Wildlife Refuges provide vital access to nature and outdoor recreation, boosting residents’ health and well-being. The USA’s volunteer work at urban national wildlife refuges benefits these communities and cities helping to increase public access while benefiting the surrounding habitat.

“President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt have made increasing access to public lands for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation opportunities a priority,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “We’re thrilled to team up with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, and greatly value the efforts of their members in bringing access to public lands by addressing infrastructure and access projects.”

“We are honored to strengthen our support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Its commitment to improved recreational access and opportunities for all Americans is inspiring,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “We are also grateful to Service Director Aurelia Skipwith and her team of professionals for believing in our mission and our unique abilities to help keep these efforts moving through challenging and daunting times.”

“The agreement will allow the USA and its nearly 300,000 union members to further improve Americans’ ability to access and enjoy these public resources,” said USA Director of Conservation and Communications Forrest Parker. “This improved access will come through our member-led conservation projects as well as outreach events that encourage people to embrace their outdoor heritage.”

With federal investment in infrastructure maintenance at approximately one-quarter of the level seen in the private sector, the Service relies heavily on volunteers to complete projects and execute programs that maximize public access and opportunities.

The USA is poised to fulfill that need through its Work Boots on the Ground program, in which union members volunteer their time and trade skills to complete critical conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects in communities across the country.

The USA’s ability to unite highly skilled union trades workers who are eager and willing to donate their time and talents has already supported a string of success stories at Service-managed lands. These include:

–  Construction of a 500-foot elevated boardwalk at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Liberty, Texas, representing a donation of more than 900 volunteer hours valued at more than $30,000.

–  Restoration of a 150-foot fishing and wildlife viewing pier on Champion Lake at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge – representing a donation of 320 hours of labor worth nearly $15,000.

–  Restoration of access roads and a wildlife observation tower, as well as construction of a non-motorized boat launch on the Tinicum Tidal Marsh at John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia — accomplished by nearly 700 donated hours and heavy-equipment usage valued at more than $56,000.

–  Donated labor plus a $10,000 grant from the USA’s United Outdoors Conservation Fund to construct a 100-foot wheelchair accessible walkway and three fishing stations around a popular pond at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Erie in Ohio.

–  Volunteer coaching of novice hunters during a special mentored deer hunt at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, as well as the donation of hunting stands and other materials to enhance the experience of the mentored hunters.

Located just six miles from downtown Philadelphia, the John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge conserves critical wildlife habitat of the Tinicum Tidal Marsh. The refuge welcomes 300,000 visitors annually with a wide variety of interpretive and environmental educational programs and recreational activities including fishing, kayaking, archery, hunting and wildlife watching.

In 2018, union volunteers from four Philadelphia-area locals donated nearly 700 hours of skilled labor to make critical road repairs and restore a popular wildlife observation tower and rebuild the 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. The project earned the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance 2019 Project of the Year Award.

“The work of these skilled volunteers really benefits the public by making sure we have safe and equal access for everyone who comes to visit the refuge,” said Refuge Manager Lamar Gore. “The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance helps us keep things moving, which means people can continue to fully appreciate this urban wildlife space.”

“The USA has already been a valuable partner,” said biologist Laurie Lomas Gonzales at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. “The work they do is monumental. It allows more access for the American public to get out and witness the natural beauty we have to offer. Our national treasures are out on display because of the initiatives put forth by the USA.”

There are 70 national fish hatcheries visited by more than one million people each year. Hatcheries offer opportunities for viewing the operations and learning about fish, as well as activities such as fishing, hunting, hiking, sightseeing, nature study, birdwatching and photography.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. The Refuge System receives more than 59 million annual visits. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and paddling to nature watching, photography and environmental education.

###

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA): The USA is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Work Boots on the Ground (WBG): WBG is the USA’s flagship conservation program that brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to provide manpower needed to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

Tips To Improve Woodland Wildlife Habitat

April 22, 2020 in Articles, General, Hunting

Managing woodlands and other types of habitat for wildlife benefits a variety of species, including whitetail deer. USFWS image

By Dan Johnson
Woodlands provide habitat for whitetail deer and a variety of other wildlife. Whether you own or lease land, or have the ability to help someone who does, the following tips to improve woodland wildlife habitat can help you master the art of forest management. Use them to help wildlife populations in your area and maximize opportunities for hunting and wildlife watching.

1. Make A Plan
Efficient and effective wildlife habitat management starts with a plan. Start by assessing the property’s potential and identifying what you’d like to achieve. Be sure to pencil in goals such as “attract more whitetail deer to my property” or “provide food and cover for wild turkeys.”

For assistance, reach out to your state wildlife agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other state, local and federal sources of technical support. Then identify realistic steps to improve the habitat and achieve your goals. The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s friends at Mossy Oak also offer a variety of helpful tips. CLICK HERE to check them out.

Brush piles are easy to make and benefit a variety of wildlife species.

2. Brush Up The Habitat
Brush piles provide excellent cover for a variety of wildlife, including cottontail rabbits, chipmunks, wild turkeys, pheasants and a number of songbirds. Properly designed and placed piles provide sanctuary from predators such as hawks, owls and coyotes.

Placing two to four brush piles per acre within woodlots—especially near field edges, draws and trails—can make a big difference. They don’t have to be mountains of brush, shoot for 12 to 15 feet in diameter and 4 to 6 feet high.

To build a better brush pile, crisscross logs and large branches to form a base, then add increasingly smaller diameter woody cover before topping it all off with a layer of twigs and small branches until you can’t see into the interior. Tip: Create a “living” brush pile by cutting partway through the trunk of a small evergreen or broad-leaved tree and pushing it over.

Selectively removing mature trees makes habitat more attractive to wild turkeys and numerous other types of wildlife. Mossy Oak image

3. Let Some Light In
Opening the forest canopy allows more sunlight to reach the ground, sparking the natural growth of food-producing shrubs, grasses and tree seedlings in the understory.

There are a variety of ways to go about it. One is to clear-cut select areas to create small clearings. One way to boost food and cover in a mature forest without taking everything down is to remove 40 to 60 percent of the trees. Known as “shelterwood cutting,” the practice also works well when you want to plant trees, shrubs or other vegetation in a wooded area without creating a clearing.

To pull it off, choose the trees you’d like to leave for food production, nesting or seed, then remove the rest. Tip: In regenerative plantings, it’s common practice to remove most of the remaining trees in five or 10 years, to let the new growth enjoy full sunlight.

4. #SaveTheSnags
Thinning trees can be beneficial, but don’t cut down all the dead trees or “snags”—or remove all the fallen trees. Many species of wildlife use them for dens, roosting, nesting and foraging.

Wildlife-friendly forest managers recommend leaving three to five standing dead trees per acre, plus a few dead downed trees for additional habitat. If your woods lack such cover, consider creating it by deadening a few large trees by girdling or applying herbicide. That being said, remove any dead trees that pose a risk of falling on a building or area commonly used by people.

Heavy-duty Carhartt work gloves and other protective apparel are must-haves when operating chainsaws and other tools and machinery.

5. Dress For Success—And Safety
When operating chainsaws and other tools and machinery, wear all recommended personal protective equipment and work wear to keep you safe. Depending on the task and tools, must-have safety gear might include a hard hat, leg chaps, leather gloves, face and eye protection, hearing protection and steel-toed footwear.

Durable outerwear is also a must. Clothing should fit well and not dangle or have ragged edges that can get caught on limbs or the chainsaw. USA partner Carhartt makes a variety of boots and clothing perfect for adventures in wildlife management. For example, the company’s lineup of heavy-duty work gloves offers heavy-duty handwear for just about any job in the woods.

Additional Conservation Opportunities
If you’d like to get involved in conservation projects, or have ideas for a project in your area, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance would love to help.

“We’re always on the lookout for fish and wildlife conservation projects and outreach opportunities of all sizes for our Work Boots on the Ground program,” explains USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede. “If you have an idea for a project, or would like to volunteer in one, please let us know at conservation@unionsportsmen.org.”

And remember, there are still opportunities to get involved during the COVID-19 crisis through the USA’s Persevere and Volunteer campaign.

Union Volunteers, Remington Arms Expand Illinois’ Recreational Shooting Opportunities

April 20, 2020 in Articles, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union volunteers are helping build trap and skeet shooting facilities at Illinois’ Cumberland County Sportsmen’s Club.

Labor union volunteers, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Remington Arms teamed up to expand public recreational shooting opportunities in Illinois and give a local high school trap team a new home.

Union volunteers donated nearly $30,000 worth of skilled labor, while the USA and Remington provided a $10,000 grant through the USA’s United Outdoors Conservation Fund to build a new trap and skeet shooting complex at the Cumberland County Sportsmen’s Club. The coalition joined forces with local businesses and community members to help push the project forward.

Located south of Champaign near Greenup, the public shooting sports facility will feature an 8-station trap and skeet range, complete with ADA-approved wheelchair accessible walkways. A second trap-only range certified by the Amateur Trapshooting Association is also under construction, and will provide the Cumberland High School Trap Team a welcome base of operations.

“The Cumberland team currently practices at shared facilities that are some distance away, which creates scheduling and transportation hardships for team members and their families,” said Josh McElravy, Central Laborers’ Local 159 member and president of the Lincoln Land Building & Construction Trades Council. “The new range will provide a convenient place to practice and host competitions with shooters from the surrounding area.” It will also benefit other youth and adult shooting programs, including 4-H Shooting Sports, youth events and recreational trap and skeet leagues.

The new range will expand opportunities for shooters of all ages, and give the local high school trap team a new home.

To date, union volunteers from Laborers’ Local 159, Plasterers & Cement Masons Local 143, Operating Engineers Local 841, Electrical Workers Local 702, Bricklayers Local 8 and Carpenters Locals 243 and 270 have donated more than 500 hours of labor valued at nearly $28,000 to the project. The $10,000 grant from the USA and Remington was used to purchase materials and equipment for the trap field.

“The USA is excited to support projects like this,” said USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede. “We’re proud to join with Remington Arms and the union volunteers donating their time and skills through our Work Boots on the Ground conservation program to help provide a facility that will enable youth to enjoy the shooting sports for years to come.”

Launched in 2010, Work Boots on the Ground has completed more than 230 projects in 31 states. The value of donated volunteer labor exceeds $1.5 million, while outreach events have engaged more than 13,000 participants. The USA’s United Outdoors Conservation Fund further expands the organization’s conservation footprint by providing financial assistant to union-based organizations, conservation groups and agency partners to complete impactful conservation and access projects or outreach programs.

USA Director of Sales and Marketing Jay Stuart noted that Cumberland range users were the first beneficiaries of Remington Arms’ increased support of the USA’s fight to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

“Earlier this year, we welcomed Remington Arms as a National Conservation Partner,” he explained. “The Cumberland range is the first project to benefit from this partnership. We are grateful to Remington for providing the financial firepower to help the USA and union volunteers expand opportunities for Illinois shooting enthusiasts of all ages, and we look forward to completing many successful projects together in the future.”

“Remington is proud to be partnered with USA and union volunteers to make this project a reality,” said Remington Director of Marketing Christian Hogg. “We look forward to seeing the young men and women of the Cumberland High School Trap team make use of this facility to hone their skills and promote shooting sports in the area. It will be a great community resource for years to come.”

Spring Sucker Fishing Tips For Fast And Furious Action

April 16, 2020 in Articles, Fishing

USA member Jake Johnson of the Law Enforcement Labor Services union shows off a broad-shouldered redhorse sucker taken from the St. Croix River along the Minnesota and Wisconsin border.

By Dan Johnson
Spring brings an abundance of fishing options virtually coast to coast. Bass, panfish and walleyes are popular targets, but overlooked species are also on the table. Suckers, for example, swim under the radar of the masses, yet offer fast action and a hard fight for those who practice the following spring sucker fishing tips. As a welcome bonus for anyone interested in catching fish to eat, they’re also extremely tasty table fare.

“Suckers don’t get any limelight and are sometimes even looked down upon, but these clean, native fish put up a doggone good fight and taste great,” says legendary fishing guide, Plano Synergy pro and staunch Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) supporter Brian “Bro” Brosdahl.

Although Brosdahl is best known for catching trophy bluegills and walleyes, he has long been a fan of chasing suckers, particularly during the spring spawning run. “Suckers run upstream to spawning areas, gathering in classic areas of reduced current along the way,” he says. “Find a holding area and fast fishing is the rule.”

A Bit About Suckers
The sucker family (Catostomidae) includes more than 70 freshwater species found in a variety of habitats across North America. Besides offering anglers fishing opportunities, many of these species—such as the white sucker—are critical components of the food chain, providing important forage for predators such as walleyes, northern pike and largemouth bass.

The white sucker is an important forage species in many North American fisheries.

Unfortunately, suckers are under siege in some fisheries. A variety of threats including habitat degradation, environmental contamination, migration barriers and impacts from non-native species threaten sucker populations in different regions. Public misconceptions that suckers tolerate poor water quality and are of no value to anglers or the ecosystem don’t help matters, either.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey contend that habitat protection and education/outreach programs, such as those in the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground Program, can play a vital role in protecting and restoring threatened populations of these and other important native species.

“We’re always looking for fish and wildlife conservation projects and outreach opportunities large and small,” said USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede. “If you have an idea for an event or project, or would like to volunteer in one, please let us know at conservation@unionsportsmen.org. There are still opportunities to get involved during the COVID-19 crisis through our Persevere and Volunteer campaign. CLICK HERE for details.”

Thankfully, many healthy lake and river systems are still flush with suckers. Brosdahl notes that shore fishing for them is a perfect fit for responsible outdoor use during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Fishing solo, or having a couple of fishing buddies spread rods six feet or more apart along a remote riverbank, are ideal for practicing social distancing,” he reports. “It’s a great alternative when crowded banks, piers and boat ramps are out of play.”

Bro’s Tips and Tricks
Brosdahl’s sucker strategies are straightforward. “One of my favorite locations is where a relatively clean-flowing tributary stream enters the main river above a necked-down area like a bridge,” he says. “The combination of reduced current and a clean inflow collects spring suckers by the school.” Other strike zones include the downstream side of a sandbar below a feeder stream, and slack water created by points and other obstructions. Sometimes the intersection of slick and slack water is key, but it pays to experiment.

Since some of the best spots are reached on foot, often via hiking trails or blazing your own trail through the backcountry, make sure your apparel is up to the task. Durable outerwear is a must. USA partner Carhartt offers a variety of boots and clothing perfect for serious fishing adventures. For example, the company’s lightweight yet heavy-duty Shoreline Jacket is also waterproof and breathable, for solid comfort no matter the conditions.

Suckers require no special fishing tackle. A 6- to 6½-foot, medium or medium-light spinning outfit spooled with 6 or 8-pount monofilament line is perfect for many situations. Brosdahl favors 12-pound suberbraid mainline, tipped with a short fluorocarbon leader of slightly lighter test than the braid. For efficiency, mobility and ease of packing into remote fishing areas, he stocks a Plano Edge tacklebox with an assortment of small baitkeeper, circle and Aberdeen hooks. Bass Pro Shops’ Bronze Baitholder Hooks are a great example. “Size 4 hooks are often the best choice, but bring a few different sizes so you can match the bait, conditions and mood of the fish,” he notes.

“Same with sinkers,” he continues. “Pack a variety of small split-shot and slip sinkers, with a few pyramid and flat sinkers up to 2 ounces for holding bottom in strong current. Keeping the rig in place, rather than having it roll around or bounce downstream, is key to allowing suckers to home in on it.”

Brosdahl typically uses nightcrawlers for bait, but says where available (and legal), clam strips can be top producers. “Thread bait on the hook so the barb is covered, or suckers will feel it when taking the bait,” he advises.

Presentation is as simple as it gets. Cast out, let it hit bottom, and either hold the rod or place it in a rod-holder or Y-stick while waiting for a bite. “Suckers take the bait in a ‘tap-tap-tap’ manner, so you’ll feel the bite or see the rodtip dance,” Brosdahl explains. “When it happens, resist the urge to make an eye-crossing hookset. Reel down until you feel the weight of the fish, and make a firm but controlled sweep-set. With a circle hook, reeling is enough to set the hook.”

Landing suckers can be as basic as sliding them up on the bank. When practicing catch-and-release, however, Brosdahl recommends a fish-friendly landing net like those in Frabill’s Conservation Series.

USA member Josh Johnson of SMART Local 209 battles a spring-run redhorse.

Fine Dining
Sometimes erroneously considered “trash” fish, suckers taken from clean, clear, cold water are excellent on the table. Doug Stange, editor in chief of USA ally In-Fisherman Publications, reports that suckers are commonly smoked or pickled, but also excel when filleted and deep fried or ground into patties.

“Suckers make the sweetest, most wonderful fish patties I’ve ever tasted, patties alone worth the price of a relaxing afternoon on a sunny riverbank,” Stange says. CLICK HERE for more of Stange’s spring sucker fishing tips.

To be sure, suckers are undeniably bony. “Score through small bones that run through the fillets, so portions can be easily eaten when deep-fried,” Stange advises. “Smoked sucker is a delicacy, and a favorite spring snack in many rural towns,” Brosdahl adds. “The meat peels easily off the bones and is delicious.”

However you slice them—and even if you don’t—suckers are spirited fighters perfect for targeting along riverbanks and lakeshores this spring. The action extends into summer and beyond, too, but that’s a story for another day.

Thorogood Joins Union Sportsmen’s Alliance as National Conservation Partner and Official Boot Sponsor

April 6, 2020 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Thorogood’s American Heritage footwear is a time-tested choice of hardworking union members across the country. The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance proudly welcomes the iconic brand as a conservation partner and Official Boot Sponsor.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) proudly welcomes Thorogood Shoes—maker of legendary American Heritage work, safety and outdoor boots—as its newest sponsor and conservation partner.

Under terms of a multi-year agreement, Thorogood will support the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program as a National Conservation Sponsor and Official Boot Sponsor of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Headquartered in Merrill, Wisc., the employee-owned company has been making rugged, reliable and comfortable footwear for tradesmen and other hardworking Americans since 1892. Along with tough, well-fitting work boots, Thorogood offers an extensive line of outdoor footwear for hunting, hiking and extreme weather.

“Nearly 100 styles of Thorogood’s American Heritage work boots are handcrafted in America by union tradespeople, making this partnership a perfect fit for our organization and our members,” said Jay Stuart, USA director of sales and marketing.

“Thorogood and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance are a match made in heaven,” said Bianca Boettcher, Thorogood marketing manager. “We couldn’t be more honored to be the official boot sponsor of the USA! Thorogood is proud to support union workers, who are longtime ambassadors of our brand. The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s mission of uniting the union community for conservation and community service is something we value greatly as a company.”

As a USA National Conservation Partner, Thorogood will help ensure continued growth of Work Boots on the Ground, which organizes union volunteers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone.

Launched in 2010, Work Boots on the Ground has completed more than 230 projects in 31 states. The value of donated volunteer labor exceeds $1.5 million, while outreach events have engaged more than 13,000 participants,

“Union members who volunteer their time and talents are the backbone of the USA’s conservation, infrastructure and outreach programs,” Stuart noted. “Partners like Thorogood, who support the American worker and believe in our mission to preserve America’s outdoor heritage, are helping us expand our impact from coast to coast.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Takes Steps to Battle COVID-19

March 23, 2020 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

In response to the COVID-19 situation, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is rescheduling events, modifying infrastructure project workdays and developing new conservation and community service options. Pictured, volunteers in action last week building a public pavilion at Smith Lake, Alabama.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is adjusting its national lineup of conservation dinners, shoots, youth outreach events and Work Boots on the Ground projects based on Centers for Disease Control guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Effective immediately, all USA shoots, dinners and community outreach events scheduled through April are being rescheduled. Volunteer work days related to habitat, public access and infrastructure projects are being modified on a case-by-case basis to minimize health risks in accordance with federal, state and local regulations and recommendations.

Since many state conservation agencies are encouraging the public to continue enjoying their state’s natural resources, the USA is also developing opportunities for volunteers to practice social distancing while engaging in personalized conservation and mentorship efforts. USA members and partners should check www.unionsportsmen.org/events regularly for updates.

“The health and welfare of the American people is paramount. We want to make certain we do everything in our power to keep them safe and healthy, especially our senior citizens and those with pre-existing health conditions,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “We are thankful for our union brothers and sisters who represent the front line in keeping America’s infrastructure intact and citizens safe as together we overcome the ever-changing challenges presented by COVID-19.”

“Toward that end, we are working with local organizers, volunteers and other partners to reschedule events and restructure our approach to fundraising and uniting the union community for conservation,” he continued. “We are exploring all options during this crisis to continue to be a powerful force for conservation and community service.  Please remain engaged through our social media and website to learn how you can help.”

Vance thanked the USA’s charter unions, corporate partners and 290,000-plus members for their unwavering support in meeting all challenges presented by COVID-19. “Their commitment ensures our continued ability to harness the time and talents of union volunteers to enhance all Americans’ ability to enjoy the healing powers of the great outdoors, and help safeguard our outdoor heritage for generations to come. When this crisis is over we need to be ready to work harder than ever before for the future of conservation and to help our union brothers and sisters recover from this unfortunate situation,” he said.

Union Apprentices Helping Restore America’s Fisheries, Expand Fishing Opportunities

February 26, 2020 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

 

Operating Engineers apprentices donating their time and trade skills to construction of the new public pavilion at Smith Lake, Alabama.

Participants in labor union apprenticeship programs are volunteering their time and talents to improve America’s fisheries and expand opportunities for recreational anglers.

Apprentices pursuing careers in a variety of skilled trades are a potent source of volunteer labor in fisheries conservation, public access and outreach projects organized by the nonprofit Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Work Boots on the Ground program.

In Gloucester City, New Jersey, at the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association (OPCMIA) Local 592 training center, union apprentices are working in partnership with the Coastal Conservation Association-Maryland Chapter (CCA-MD) to enhance critical fisheries habitat in Chesapeake Bay.

“Each Saturday, a crew of 12 to 20 apprentice plasterers and concrete finishers set molds and pour concrete to make habitat structures called ‘reef balls,’” said training coordinator Anthony Ditri. “As an instructor, I like the project because it not only helps instill a strong work ethic, it gives the apprentices an opportunity to give back to the community. A lot of them are outdoors enthusiasts as well, and take great interest in learning more about how the bay’s ecosystem works.”

OPCMIA Local 592 apprentices working with the Coastal Conservancy Association-Maryland Chapter are creating structures that will improve fisheries habitat in Chesapeake Bay.

“The Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland is thrilled with the launch of our partnership with the USA and the Plasterers and Cement Masons,” said CCA-MD Chair Kevin O’Donovan. “The cement reef balls built by the Local 592 apprentices will serve as important habitat for oysters and fish and will contribute to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay as well as enhance sportfishing opportunities.”

The goal of the ongoing project is to construct 1,500 reef balls over the next three years for the CCA-MD’s Living Reef Action Campaign (LRAC). That calculates to a donation of roughly 6,250 hours of skilled volunteer labor valued at more than $330,000. 

“Some of the structures are used to stabilize shorelines threatened by erosion, but many of them are used in building artificial reefs in the bay itself,” said CCA-MD Executive Director David Sikorski.

“Marine creatures such as oysters, anemones and barnacles inhabit the reefs,” he explained. “Through natural feeding processes, they filter algae and other harmful suspended solids from the water. Crustaceans and forage fish also flourish in the artificial reef ecosystem, providing a healthy food chain that supports striped bass and other popular gamefish.”

The list of conservation projects involving union apprentices is extensive, and includes the creation of a large public fishing pier and courtesy dock on Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga; a kayak launch dock and other refuge-enhancement projects at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, located six miles from downtown Philadelphia; and a tournament weigh-in pavilion at Smith Lake, Alabama.

At Smith Lake, apprentices are helping create the pavilion at no cost to the local community through a partnership between the USA, B.A.S.S. and Alabama Power. “I’ve had 24 different apprentices working and training at the Smith Lake project over the past couple of months,” said International Union of Operating Engineers (Operating Engineers) Local 312 training coordinator Lee Smith.

Slated for a spring completion, the state-of-the art structure will boost fish survival rates, provide shade and shelter for weigh-in ceremonies and help generate millions of dollars in tournament-related revenue for the local economy. It will be open to recreational anglers as well as high school, college, amateur and professional tournaments.

Alabama fisheries biologists are restoring reservoir habitat with spider block fish attractors built by UBC Local 318 and Millwright and Machinery Erectors Local 1192 apprentices.

Another current project, again in Alabama, involves union apprentices donating their skills to build “spider block” fish attractors for the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). The attractors—which help replace natural cover such as trees and brush that deteriorate over time in a manmade reservoir—quickly become home to aquatic plants, insects, baitfish and crustaceans, which in turn provide forage for crappies, bass and other gamefish.

United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 318 apprentices, at their training center in Pelham, Alabama, built 100 spider blocks which have been placed in Pickwick and Little Bear reservoirs. Another group of 100 are being constructed at the Florence, Alabama, training center by Millwright and Machinery Erectors Local 1192 apprentices.

“In all, 30 apprentices volunteered about two days’ time (960 hours) to put together the first 100 spider blocks,” said Jay Schuelly, training coordinator at the Pelham facility. “I see it not only as a way for the union to do something for the anglers and community as a whole, but also as an opportunity to show our neighbors and friends what being a union member is all about.”

The apprentices’ willingness to lend a hand is exactly what the ADCNR needed, according to state fisheries biologist Kyle Bolton, who coordinates Alabama’s aquatic habitat recovery program. “We always seem to have a surplus of materials, but lack the manpower to build the spider blocks,” he said. “We and the angling public are very fortunate to have the union members and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance help us with that.”

Rarely do government conservation agencies have the funds or human resources to cover all the projects they’d like to complete, and that’s where the USA volunteers step in.

“Many state and federal agencies, as well as conservation nonprofits, are looking for help with their habitat restoration efforts, and we’re proud to provide it,” said USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede. “It’s a perfect fit for union apprentice programs everywhere, and we encourage all training coordinators and apprentices to join forces with us for conservation.”

 

USA Conservation Dinner Program Kicks Off 2020 Season

February 12, 2020 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

Nearly 200 attendees enjoyed a great time at the USA’s 2020 Conservation Dinners kickoff in Lansing, Michigan.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Conservation Dinner Program’s 2020 season is off to a fast start, continuing its record-setting growth uniting labor union members for community service and conservation.

The 9th Annual Greater Lansing Labor Council USA Conservation Dinner—the first of 31 such events scheduled across the country this year—kicked off the season with a bang in Lansing, Michigan, recently. “The Lansing dinner drew more people than ever, and that’s what we like to see,” said USA Dinners Program Manager Kevin Grubbs. “It was a great start to a vital program.”

Since 2012, the dinners program has helped fuel the USA’s conservation mission delivery by raising funds and recruiting skilled volunteer labor to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects through Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program. Launched in 2010, the program has completed 230 projects in 31 states. The value of volunteer labor donated through WBG is fast approaching $1.5 million, while outreach events have engaged nearly 13,000 participants, including more than 6,000 in 2019.

To date, the USA’s dinner program has hosted more than 37,000 participants at 163 events and raised more than $8.4 million to protect North America’s outdoor heritage.

The dinner format is a recipe for success. USA staff assist local union leadership in organizing and hosting annual dinners that bring members of different unions and other attendees together for an evening of fun and camaraderie in the name of conservation. Proceeds from raffles and auctions for high-quality outdoor gear are dispersed into local conservation accounts and the USA’s United Outdoors Conservation Fund, which is available to participating unions, government agencies and nonprofit partners nationwide.

USA Conservation Dinners raise funds and recruit skilled volunteers to complete conservation, youth outreach and public access projects across the country. Pictured: Four-year-old Natalie Paull caught her first fish while fishing with her father, Adam, on a public pier built by union volunteers in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Our conservation dinners provide fuel for conservation and call volunteers to action for community service,” said USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram. “But they’re much more than that. They provide opportunities for the whole house of labor to gather in one place in celebration of the union brotherhood.”

“Plus, every union—whether public or private sector, trade or industrial—has ever-present needs to connect with its members and their families, pass on labor traditions and engage the local community,” he added. “Through dinners and other fundraisers, infrastructure projects and outreach events, the USA provides opportunities to make it all happen in a powerful, long-lasting manner.”

“Conservation dinners remind the local community of union values and demonstrate our commitment to hunting, fishing, conservation and shooting sports,” said Bob Gilmore, of Painters Local 246. Gilmore is a part of a team from the Central Iowa Building & Construction Trades Council that has led USA fundraising dinners in Des Moines since 2015. The Iowa dinners have raised more than $500,000 and funded local projects including the restoration of a handicap-accessible fishing pier and house at Lake Ahquabi State Park and the construction of a large public shelter at Fort Des Moines State Park.

The Des Moines Area USA Conservation Dinner has raised more than $500,000 for conservation.

Ingram says the USA and its supporters are eager to continue building on these successes. “Our goal is to hold at least one conservation dinner and project in every state,” he explained. “We are fortunate to have tremendous support from the national AFL-CIO, state federations of labor, all levels of building and construction trades councils, central labor councils and the organization’s international charter unions and affiliates. With all the interest and support from these organizations, the outlook for achieving that goal is very promising.”

USA Conservation Dinners are open to all. “We welcome union members and their families, along with friends of labor and the many partners who provide valuable services for labor to come enjoy a great evening of fun, fellowship and conservation,” said Ingram.

Next up on the dinner program agenda is the UAW Region 1-D Conservation Dinner in Flint, Michigan, set for February 27. For the complete schedule of 2020 USA Conservation Dinners, visit unionsportsmen.org. For more information, contact USA Dinner Programs Manager Kevin Grubbs at: keving@unionsportsmen.org.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Honors Glen Kirkham as United Association Conservation Steward of the Year

January 29, 2020 in Conservation News, Press Release

Glen Kirkham (left) receives the UA Conservation Steward of the Year Award from UA Local 68 Business Agent Rick Lord.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored United Association (UA) Local 68 member Glen Kirkham with the UA Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his commitment to conservation and community service.

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

Kirkham, of Rockport, Texas, earned the stewardship award for his exemplary leadership on a project to restore hurricane-damaged facilities at a popular state park on Texas’ Aransas Bay.

“Glen was essential to the completion of a project at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, which was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “The storm damaged much of the park, including the plumbing system that provided water to 44 waterfront campsites that are used by park goers.”

Kirkham was a driving force behind repairs to hurricane-damaged facilities at Goose Island State Park.

The park is a popular recreational destination for campers, anglers, boaters and birdwatchers, and has recorded up to 190,000 visitors per year.

Late in 2018, Kirkham led a group of 39 volunteers from the UA and several other unions in the first phase of the project, which restored potable water to half of the waterfront sites. In early February of 2019, the project’s second phase completed repairs to the remainder of the sites. In all, union volunteers donated 235 hours of labor worth more than $12,300 to the restoration.

“Glen’s leadership on this project means that Goose Island State Park visitors can once again enjoy access to fresh water at these popular facilities along the park’s scenic waterfront,” added Stroede.

Rick Lord, Plumbers Local 68 Business Agent, presented Kirkham’s Conservation Steward of the Year Award on Jan. 26 during the 2020 AFL-CIO COPE Convention in Austin, Texas.

“Being recognized for what we accomplished at Goose Island State Park is a real honor,” said Kirkham. “But it was definitely a team effort. We had volunteers representing a lot of different trades on the project, ranging in age from their early 20s to 60-plus. Special thanks goes to one of our signatory contractors, Peninsula Plumbing and Handyman Services, for bringing in all the trucks and tools we needed to do the job.”

A real sense of camaraderie developed during the restoration, he continued. “I think the older volunteers, especially, were very proud of the way the younger ones stepped right into it. When you’ve been union for a long time, and believe in our way of life, it makes you feel good when the next generation jumps in and keeps it going. The fact that Goose Island State Park is pretty much in our backyard makes giving back to the community that much more special.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Applauds Confirmation of USFWS Director Aurelia Skipwith

January 21, 2020 in Conservation News, Press Release

 

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance with USFWS Director Aurelia Skipwith.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) hails Aurelia Skipwith’s confirmation as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a victory for America’s wildlife, wild places and outdoor heritage.

Skipwith was nominated for the post in July 2019 and recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a bipartisan vote of 52-39.

Skipwith has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior since April 19, 2017. In that role, she helped ensure the protection and stewardship of lands and waters within the national park and wildlife refuge systems.

At the helm of the Fish and Wildlife Service, she will oversee a workforce of more than 8,500 personnel charged with working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

“Aurelia Skipwith’s confirmation is a win for everyone concerned with our nation’s natural resources and the ability of the American people to access and enjoy them for generations to come,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “We have had the pleasure of working with her on a series of projects, and can wholeheartedly attest that her commitment to conservation, public access and cherished outdoor traditions such as hunting and fishing is second to none.”

Most recently, Skipwith assisted the USA with the completion of refuge-enhancement projects at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Located six miles from downtown Philadelphia and within a two-hour drive of 35 million people, the refuge offers tremendous opportunities for connecting community residents with the outdoors.

“When funding and staff shortages left a number of maintenance projects at this urban refuge undone, Aurelia was instrumental in connecting the USA with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and getting the projects started,” Vance explained.

Through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, labor 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, the value of refuge enhancements that benefit local residents continues to climb.

Additional recent USA projects with the Department of the Interior include fishing pier restorations at Jones Point Park, Ottawa NWR and Trinity River NWR, and mentored hunts at Blackwater NWR.

“We are honored to support the National Wildlife Refuge system and other facets of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Vance. “And we look forward to future project partnerships with the USFWS under Aurelia Skipwith’s leadership.”

“I am grateful to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and its union volunteers for helping improve public access to these natural treasures and making sure they remain places for families to enjoy the outdoors,” said Director Skipwith. “Their efforts truly make a difference for residents of surrounding communities, and for all who care about our refuges and other public lands. I’m excited about the Fish and Wildlife Service working with the USA and collaborating on many more projects that benefit American conservation and the American people.”

Union Volunteers Take Minnesota Kids Ice Fishing

January 19, 2020 in Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Volunteer Mike Rodger (center) of Cement Masons Local 633 showed a pair of young participants the finer points of ice fishing tactics.

Dire predictions of an apocalyptic blizzard didn’t stop more than 75 young anglers from celebrating winter with local labor union volunteers at the Minneapolis Area Take Kids Ice Fishing Day on Chisago Lake Saturday, January 18.

A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 9 and a coalition of other supporters, the free event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of ice fishing.

As it turned out, the area received only 2 to 4 inches of snow—a mere “dusting” by Minnesota standards–coupled with mild morning temperatures that made for excellent fishing conditions.

Over 25 union volunteers and B.A.S.S. High School Fishing members provided participants with hands-on ice fishing instruction and assistance. Much to their delight, the budding anglers each received a free Pure Fishing ice fishing rod and reel, game calls from Plano Synergy and other goodies. As a bonus from local unions and other supporters, more than $3,000 in door prizes were given away as well.

Elevator Constructors Local 9 member Dave Morin (left) greeted guests with free fishing tackle.

“We had a great turnout and the event went really well,” said local volunteer project leader Dave Morin, a member of IUEC Local 9. “It’s awesome to see all these kids getting out to experience ice fishing, some for the first time. I’m thankful to our sponsors, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and all the volunteers who pitched in to make this possible.”

Participants came from across the Twin Cities and around the region. Tony Wilking made the 70-mile drive from St. Cloud so his 6-year-old son Jack could enjoy the festivities. “We’re grateful for everyone who put this event together,” said Wilking, a retired U.S. Army veteran. “Activities like ice fishing are so much better for kids than sitting inside playing video games.”

Participants Tony Wilking (left) and son Jack were all smiles waiting for a fish to take the bait.

“This is a really cool idea,” added David Brandner, of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, who brought his son Mason to the event. “You’re getting kids involved in the outdoors, which is wonderful. Plus, how many people can say they took their kid fishing and got a free fishing pole?”

Volunteer Jarrod Asleson, a member of Cement Masons (OPCMIA) Local 633, said donating time to take kids fishing was a labor of love. “My wife is an AFSCME union member and we’re both happy to be out here doing something positive for our community,” he said. “This is our second time volunteering at a Union Sportsmen’s Alliance youth ice fishing event and we’re already looking forward to next year!”

The Chisago Lake Take Kids Ice Fishing Day was organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, which is supported by USA national conservation partners Bass Pro Shops, Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing, Remington Arms and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

The event was sponsored by IUEC Local 9 and the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, with support from: IBEW Local 110, Operating Engineers Local 49, OPCMIA Local 633, Pipefitters Local 539, UA Plumbers Local 15, Roofers Local 96 and the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Building and Construction Trades councils. Additional corporate partners included Clam Outdoors, Joe’s Sporting Goods, Maynard’s Tackle, Northland Fishing Tackle and Today’s Tackle.

Chisago Lake was a hub of activity as more than 75 youth and their families turned out for the USA’s Take Kids Ice Fishing Day.

“Thanks to Dave Morin and his diehard crew of volunteers from various unions and the local community, the event was a great success,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “Participants were treated to a fun morning of ice fishing in heated shelters with everything they needed to experience the fun of ice fishing and hopefully get hooked on the sport.”

The Minneapolis-area event was the latest in series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day activities held through Work Boots on the Ground, which organizes union volunteers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone.

Launched in 2010, the program has completed 230 projects in 31 states. The value of volunteer labor donated through WBG is fast approaching $1.5 million, while outreach events have engaged nearly 13,000 participants, including more than 6,000 in 2019.

Participants David Brandner and son Mason savored a chance to get out on the ice together.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Alabama Power and B.A.S.S. Break Ground on Smith Lake Pavilion

January 14, 2020 in Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) volunteers have broken ground on a new public fishing tournament weigh-in pavilion at Alabama’s scenic Smith Lake. The state-of-the art structure is being created at no cost to the local community through a partnership between the USA, B.A.S.S. and Alabama Power.

Located between Birmingham and Huntsville, 21,000-acre Smith Lake is popular with tournament and recreational anglers from across the nation. Its deep, clear waters hold a variety of gamefish including largemouth and spotted bass, sunfish and striped bass. The lake is nationally known for trophy size spotted bass. In fact, it produced the Alabama state record spotted bass in 1978—an 8-pound, 15-ounce behemoth that also set a world record at the time.

The new pavilion will help anglers enjoy Smith Lake’s bounty while protecting these priceless resources. It will feature water access and the capacity to hold fish tanks to help reduce stress on fish and increase release survival rates at the weigh-in site. The covered facility also will provide shade for tournament weigh-in ceremonies.

Located at the Lewis Smith Lake Dam Boat Ramp, the pavilion will be used by recreational anglers as well as high school, college, amateur and professional tournaments. The pavilion will be open to the public when not in use by tournaments.

Smith Lake is a popular destination for tournament and recreational anglers from across the United States.

All community residents will benefit, as tournaments are a boon to the local economy. For example, each B.A.S.S. Elite Series tournament drives in excess of $1.1 million in direct economic impact. Thanks to media exposure, each event also generates an average of $17.9 million in additional tourism revenue within two years of the tournament.

“This pavilion will provide a much-needed place for organizations to hold their weigh-ins, from local bass clubs to the largest Bassmaster Opens tournaments,” said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. “Alabama Power’s support of this project, combined with the engineering expertise donated by the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources as part of their larger boat ramp renovation project and the incredible construction skills of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance volunteers, are very much appreciated.”

“We are thrilled to work with B.A.S.S., the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and the local community to construct this pavilion that will enhance this access point on Smith Lake,” said Zeke Smith, Alabama Power executive vice president of external affairs. “We look forward to it opening and playing a part in showcasing the state of Alabama’s beautiful waterways.”

Construction on the pavilion project is being done by skilled labor union volunteers through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program. “We’re proud to partner with B.A.S.S. and Alabama Power on this project, which will benefit Smith Lake anglers for years to come,” said Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “Our union volunteers are passionate about the outdoors and conservation, and they enjoy sharing their time and trade skills giving back to their communities.”

Volunteers from the following unions and groups are currently donating their time and job skills to complete the project: Operating Engineers Local 312, Laborers Local 559, Carpenters Locals 318 and 1209, Millwrights Local 1192 and Iron Workers Local 92. The project is also supported by the Alabama AFL-CIO and the USA’s Alabama State Conservation Dinner. Volunteers from additional unions are also expected to participate, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance volunteers began construction of the new public pavilion at Smith Lake, Alabama.

Stroede estimates union volunteers will donate more than 1,000 hours of skilled labor valued at over $50,000 to complete the pavilion. In all, he expects the value of donated labor, materials and machinery to top $100,000.

Casey Shelton, business manager of IBEW System Council U-19, was thrilled to see union volunteers tackle the project. “As part of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and a high school fishing coach, I am proud to see this project underway and excited about the positive impact it will have on the fast-growing sport of high school fishing,” said Shelton.

“This is a great example of a diverse group of entities coming together to achieve one goal. We are proud to be a part of this project and continue our mission of accessibility to the natural resources of our great state,” added Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Youth Outreach Program Awarded $25,000 Grant from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund

December 16, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) community-based youth outreach events recently received a boost in the form of a $25,000 grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund.

The donation will support youth events in the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program. Portions of the grant funds will be applied to at least a half-dozen events, including the USA’s second-annual Take Kids Ice Fishing Day in Minnesota next January.

By all accounts, the new partnership is a perfect match. Each year, the USA organizes free fishing, recreational shooting and hunting events through Work Boots on the Ground—which unites union volunteers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone.

Launched in 2010, the program has completed 230 projects in 31 states. The value of volunteer labor donated through WBG is approaching $1.5 million, while outreach events have engaged nearly 13,000 participants, including more than 6,000 in 2019 alone.

Each outreach event is designed to connect participants with the nation’s outdoor heritage by teaching practical outdoor skills while instilling an appreciation of nature and desire to conserve and protect it.

A $25,000 grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund will help thousands of youth experience fishing and hunting through the USA’s outreach events.

Guided by the visionary leadership of Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris, the Outdoor Fund empowers Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s 200 million annual customers to support conservation efforts by roundup up their purchases. Rallying passionate customers alongside dedicated team members, industry partners and leading conservation organizations like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Bass Pro is creating North America’s largest conservation movement to collectively shape the future of the outdoors and all who love it for generations to come.

“Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and the USA share the same goal,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance, “to introduce new people to hunting and fishing so our outdoor heritage and conservation ethics survive and flourish.”

Many of the USA’s youth events are held in urban and semi-urban areas where young people have little or no opportunity to engage in traditional outdoor activities on their own, Vance noted. “Local union members, in service to their community, volunteer their time to mentor young participants, with the hope of igniting a spark that turns into a life-long passion for the outdoors,” he explained.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is thrilled with the opportunity to partner with Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s—great organizations that share the vision of preserving our outdoor traditions and natural resources for generations to come,” added USA Conservation and Communications Director Forrest Parker. “This partnership will allow the USA to continue to grow our mission and engage even more youth and communities with the outdoors.”

Though the USA-Bass Pro Shops partnership is still in its infancy, Bass Pro Shops also supported a USA-led youth event marking the Nov. 2 dedication of a new wheelchair-accessible fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network, the center focuses on aquatic conservation education and annually serves more than 11,000 youth and adults.

The massive new pier is the result of a multi-year community service project organized by the USA through Work Boots on the Ground. Donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses from project partners topped $800,000. 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 fishing event built into the day’s festivities. Volunteers from local labor unions, the FWC and members of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) assisted the excited young anglers. Bass Pro Shops donated $2,000 in clothing and gear to help outfit the young anglers, while the USA used the occasion to proudly announce the Outdoor Fund grant.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Names Vance Ayres IUEC Conservation Steward of the Year

November 7, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Volunteers celebrate the completion of the restored Jones Point Park fishing pier.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Director of Governmental Affairs Vance Ayres with the 2019 IUEC Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his exemplary commitment to conservation and community service.

The award recognizes volunteers from each of the USA’s charter unions who have made exceptional contributions to the USA’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

Ayres, of King George, Virginia, is a longtime USA supporter, project volunteer, and has been instrumental in fundraising efforts in the USA’s Capital Area market.

The resulting funds have fueled the completion of multiple projects including the USA’s 100th Work Boots on the Ground project at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia. That effort saw more than 100 union volunteers, including Ayres, donate nearly 900 hours of skilled labor to restore a 60-year-old public fishing pier on the Potomac River.

Capital Area projects also include the improvement of recreational shooting opportunities at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland. Union volunteers donated more than 445 hours to build three covered, fully-accessible shooting stations available to community residents and other guests using the range.

Vance Ayres (right) with AFL-CIO President and USA Board of Directors Chair Richard Trumka.

“Vance Ayres has been a fantastic leader for the USA and our conservation efforts for many years,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “It is impossible to convey the value of someone like Vance. Without dedicated volunteers like him we wouldn’t have nearly as great an impact on the future of conservation as we do today.”

Ayres grew up in an outdoors-oriented family who nurtured a love of hunting and fishing, and the desire to preserve and protect the nation’s natural resources. In addition to his hands-on volunteer work for the USA, he helped organize the USA’s first sporting clays shoot at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in 2009. He also helped coordinate the 2nd Capital Area Conservation Fundraising Dinner.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this award from the USA,” said Vance. “It’s a great organization that does great things for communities and conservation, in which the building trades and the labor movement have always played huge roles.

“Volunteering is one of the most important things all of us can do to make our lives better and to protect our communities,” he continued. “It has had a profound impact on my way of thinking and a positive impact on the future of my family and friends. I urge others in the labor movement to get involved to help the many great things in our world like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance!”

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.

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.

USA, UAW Help Improve Access to Flint River

October 1, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Throngs of community residents flocked to the new Paddler’s Landing access for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony and release of 100 lake sturgeon.

Anglers and paddle-sports enthusiasts of all ages and physical abilities are enjoying better access to Michigan’s scenic Flint River, thanks in part to a $7,000 donation raised during the inaugural Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 1-D Conservation Dinner.

The funds, along with a matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), helped fuel the creation of the new Paddler’s Landing public access in Mott Park Recreation Area in Flint.

The new structure is part of an on-going, large-scale revitalization project driven by the city of Flint, Corridor Alliance Chapter (CAC) of the Flint River Watershed Coalition and other stakeholders to benefit local residents, area businesses and visitors.

Historically, river access here has been difficult. Within the city, water follows a concrete channel that provides no access, while the park’s rocky banks are not easily negotiated. It’s one reason project supporters feel the park, which draws fewer than 5,000 visits per season, is greatly underutilized.

“With the new landing and the future completion of the Riverfront Restoration project in downtown Flint, we expect this number to grow significantly,” said CAC manager Sarah Scheitler.

Indeed, the Flint River offers ample opportunities for watersports activities including canoeing, kayaking and tubing. Plus, the fishery holds largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleyes, northern pike and panfish—in fact, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website promises anglers that the river holds the state’s best smallmouth fishing.

Paddler’s Landing provides access to a wealth of opportunities for anglers and other watersports enthusiasts to enjoy the Flint River.

A wide concrete stairway, bordered by protective boulder rip-rap, the Paddler’s Landing structure offers safe access to and from the river, even when water levels fluctuate. It includes a wooden-rail watercraft slide, as well as a transfer seat and step system to allow those with limited mobility to safely access the water.

“As part of our official ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 21, participants released 100 young lake sturgeon supplied by the DNR,” said Scheitler. “There were dozens of people, young and old, standing on the access during the release. After all the work everyone has done, it was both exciting and gratifying to see how easily and safely people could reach the water’s edge.

“Until the UAW made this connection for us, we had not had a relationship with the USA,” Scheitler noted. “And we were amazed by their ability to raise funds. The group’s $7,000 donation essentially became $14,000 with the matching MEDC grant, which was a bit more than 10 percent of the total project budget. It was a substantial donation with which we were thrilled. And we’re eager to work with the USA again on future projects.”

Though the landing is already in use, one final piece remains to be placed, according to UAW Local 659 community service representative and CAC board member Dale Snyder.

“Under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program, our UAW local is proud to be part of this fabulous project,” he said. “As soon as possible, union volunteers have plans to fabricate and install a metal handrail along the downstream side of the stairway.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Welcomes Plano Synergy as National Conservation Partner

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

Plano Synergy, an industry-leading producer of must-have gear for serious hunters and anglers, has joined the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) mission to unite the union community to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

“Our members, staff and supporting partners are proud to welcome Plano Synergy as a National Conservation Partner as we harness union workers’ power, passion and skills to enhance and ensure opportunities for millions of Americans to enjoy the great outdoors for generations to come,” said USA Director of Corporate Partnerships Brian Dowler.

The outdoor manufacturing powerhouse brings together 17 top brands in the outdoor industry, including Barnett Crossbows, Frabill, Plano and Wildgame Innovations. All are dedicated to creating innovative, high-performance products that help users make the most of time spent afield.

“Partnering with the USA to help preserve our hunting and fishing heritage for future generations is a paramount priority and speaks to the core values of all our brands,” said Plano Synergy VP of Marketing Pete Angle. “Like the USA, Plano Synergy strongly pursues habitat conservation and new hunter and angler recruitment efforts.”

As a USA National Conservation Partner, Plano Synergy will directly support Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program, which organizes union volunteers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone.

Launched in 2010, the WBG program has touched communities in 31 states. 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.

“In addition, a dedicated portion of Plano Synergy’s commitment benefits our United Outdoors Conservation Fund—an innovative grant funding program that allows the USA to further expand its conservation footprint and mission impact,” Dowler added.

The Plano Synergy partnership also supports the USA’s popular Brotherhood Outdoors television show, which airs 26 weeks a year on the Sportsman Channel, along with the USA Shooting Tour and USA Conservation Dinner program. As a bonus to USA members, select Plano Synergy products will be available at UnionSportsmenStore.com.

About Plano Synergy: Plano Synergy Holding, Inc. is the leading U.S. manufacturer and marketer of fishing tackle boxes, archery equipment, game cameras, protective cases and other gear for hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. The company’s market-leading brands include Ameristep Hunting Products, Barnett Outdoors, Evolved Harvest & Habitats, Flextone Game Calls, Frabill, Halo Optics, Plano, Tenzing Outdoors and Wildgame Innovations. For more than a half-century, Plano Synergy brands and products inspire people to engage in outdoor pursuits throughout the world. For more information, visit: www.planosynergy.com.

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.

Ryan Anderson Honored as Union Sportsmen’s Alliance IUPAT Conservation Steward of the Year

September 16, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release

IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden (L) and USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance (R) presented Ryan Anderson with the IUPAT Conservation Steward of the Year Award.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 30 Business Manager Ryan Anderson with the 2019 IUPAT Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his exemplary commitment to conservation and youth outreach. 

The award recognizes a volunteer from each of the USA’s charter unions who has made exceptional contributions to the USA’s effort to organize union volunteers to donate their time and unique trade skills to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

“He is an inspirational leader and a true champion of volunteers,” USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker said of Anderson, who hails from Aurora, Illinois. “Ryan’s passion for the outdoors, the future of conservation, and for organized labor drive him to go above and beyond every day.

“He commits a huge amount of time to USA efforts across the board and has played a significant role in the USA’s growth,” Parker continued. “He is always willing to tackle the tough work and never backs down from challenges. His autonomous efforts to introduce youth to the outdoors are amazing and we are lucky to call him a friend.”

Anderson has been involved with a number of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program projects, several of which focused on the 750-acre Torstenson Youth Conservation Education Center near Rockford, Illinois. The center offers environmental education programs to organized youth groups as a way to encourage children to become the next generation of conservation stewards.

“We’ve completed several projects at the center, and Ryan has been an instrumental figure in all of them,” said USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram. “He’s one of those people who leads by example. If he sees something that needs to be done, he throws his heart and soul into it. Just a great example of a union leader who loves the outdoors, passes on the tradition to his children, and who provides a great value to the members of his union.”

“I am honored and stunned to have received the IUPAT Conservation Steward of the Year Award,” Anderson said when presented the award during the IUPAT 32nd Annual General Convention in Las Vegas, August 12, 2019. “With participation in hunting and fishing declining since the 1980s, I believe it’s important that we do everything possible to preserve our natural and cultural outdoor heritage by supporting educational and outdoor recreational programs for the next generation of hunters, fishermen and conservationists.”

USA Presents Segal Consulting/Segal Marco Advisors With Lifetime Partner Award

September 10, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release

Segal’s support of the USA Shooting Tour allows union members and leadership to enjoy recreational and networking opportunities while raising critical funds for conservation.

Segal Consulting/Segal Marco Advisors’ longstanding support of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) mission to unite the union community in the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage has earned the organization’s $750,000 Lifetime Partner Award.

The award recognizes the trusted New York City-based investment, retirement and pension advisors for contributions surpassing the $750,000 mark. 

“We at Segal Consulting and Segal Marco Advisors are very pleased to be long-time supporters of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and their work to engage veterans and promote conservation,” said David Brenner, senior vice president and national director of multiemployer consulting for The Segal Group.

Segal Group President and CEO David Blumenstein (center) accepted the $750,000 Lifetime Partner Award from AFL-CIO President and USA Board of Directors Chair Richard Trumka (left) and USA President and CEO Scott Vance.

USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram said Segal Consulting/Segal Marco Advisors’ support has helped the USA expand its mission delivery and impact.

“Segal Consulting and Segal Marco Advisors have a rich tradition of supporting the mission of the USA,” he said. “Their annual sponsorship of the USA Shooting Tour trailer helps keep our program rolling across America, providing unique and valuable outdoor recreation and networking opportunities for union members and leaders.

“In addition, they routinely support our shooting events with contributions and participation by contributing their team sponsorship to veterans of military service,” Ingram added. “This patriotic gesture by Segal leadership allows veterans to attend and participate at no charge, and provides them with a day of outdoor recreation and networking with trade union leaders for potential employment opportunities. Knowing we have a Lifetime Partner like Segal has allowed the USA to grow and expand opportunities for our members.” 

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.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Honors Greg West as 2019 OPCMIA Conservation Steward of the Year

September 3, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

OPCMIA International General President Daniel Stepano (L) and USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance (R) presented Greg West with the OPCMIA Conservation Steward of the Year Award.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored Greg West of the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association (OPCMIA) with the 2019 OPCMIA Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his exemplary commitment to conservation and community service.

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

West, of Dayton, Ohio, serves as Local 132 business manager. He was instrumental in completing an extensive USA Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation project that transformed a dilapidated eyesore into a popular city park enjoyed by local families, disabled veterans and other city residents. 

“When the once-popular Lakeside amusement park in West Dayton closed after being bypassed by a freeway project, the area around the lake suffered years of neglect, fell into disrepair and became a place you wouldn’t want to hang out,” said USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram.

In the renovation’s first stage, a coalition including the city of Dayton, USA, Ohio AFL-CIO, a number of union locals and neighborhood civic groups rallied more than 100 volunteers to remove trash and underbrush from around the lake. 

Funded in part by $25,000 raised through the USA’s Ohio State Conservation Dinner, the second stage involved installing a floating, handicap-accessible fishing pier, walkways, park benches, lighting and more.

“After the clean-up, Greg and the OPCMIA stepped up and placed concrete supports for the floating pier and park benches,” Ingram explained. “Greg’s leadership and the Cement Masons’ involvement also encouraged other trades to get involved.”

Along with OPCMIA Local 132, the Dayton MV Regional Labor Council, AFSCME Council 8, IBEW Local 82, Laborers’ Local 1410, Iron Workers Local 290, IUPAT Local 249, USW Local 5541, UA Local 189 and the Dayton Newspaper Guild were involved with the Lakeside Lake project.

“I am honored to be part of something that turned an eyesore into a beautiful area that can be used by the community,” said West. “It was awesome working side by side with my brothers from the other trades, and I especially want to thank my brothers and sisters from Local 132 who volunteered their time and skills to give back to the community.

“The Conservation Steward award is a great honor, and I want to acknowledge my local and my international for their support on this project,” he added. “We couldn’t have done it without their strong backing.”

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance and OPCMIA International General President Daniel Stepano presented West’s award August 15 at the OPCMIA 52nd International Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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.

Provost Umphrey Receives Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Lifetime Partner Award

August 29, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

Provost Umphrey’s contributions support a variety of conservation, public access, education and youth outreach projects conducted by union volunteers, like this new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Provost Umphrey Law Firm’s generous support of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) mission to unite the union community in the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage has earned the organization’s $250,000 Lifetime Partner Award.

The award recognizes the Texas-based law firm—a national leader in the fight for justice and workers’ rights for nearly 50 years—for surpassing the $250,000 donor mark.

“Our firm is honored to receive this distinguished award from the USA,” said Provost Umphrey Managing Partner Joe Fisher. “The USA’s commitment to conservation and the education it provides youth is imperative to our future, and we are proud to support its ambitions and forthcoming endeavors.”

Provost Umphrey Managing Partner Joe Fisher

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance said the firm’s donations are part of an even larger commitment. “In 2018, Provost Umphrey became the USA’s first Platinum Level Conservation Sponsor by pledging $1 million over five years to support Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program,” he said.

“Like the steadfast support from our founding partners, charter unions, corporate sponsors and union volunteers, Provost Umphrey’s contributions have helped shift our mission delivery into high gear,” Vance added, noting that the USA recently celebrated the completion of its 200th WBG project 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 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 program has touched communities in 31 states; 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.

“As fellow hunters, anglers and conservationists, Provost Umphrey’s leadership believes in our mission and recognizes the importance of protecting our outdoor heritage,” Vance said. “The growth in the number of USA youth events and conservation projects, as well as the increased complexity of the work our volunteers are doing, is a direct result of this kind of valuable support.” 

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Honors Jeff Burgin as SMART Conservation Steward of the Year

August 27, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. (L) and USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance (R) presented Jeff Burgin with the SMART Conservation Steward of the Year Award.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored Jeff Burgin of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) with the 2019 SMART Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his efforts to improve public access to one of the Southeast’s premier fishing and recreational boating destinations.

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

Burgin, of Dunlap, Tennessee, serves as SMART Local 5’s Chattanooga-area business representative. He also championed a USA Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) project to enhance access to Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga—a popular destination for anglers and other watersports enthusiasts from within the state and around the country.

Burgin played a pivotal role in the major overhaul of one of Chickamauga’s busiest access points, the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp adjacent to Harrison Bay State Park just outside Chattanooga. The renovation expanded year-round access by replacing an existing dilapidated dock with a brand-new, 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier. Volunteers also restored a fishing pier adjacent to the launch and later hosted a USA Take Kids Fishing Day event at the rejuvenated ramp.

The entire project was conducted without state game and fish funds. Materials were purchased with $10,000 raised by United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 42 and $22,000 in federal marine fuel tax revenues from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). All union labor was donated by volunteers from SMART Local 5, UAW Local 42, IBEW Local 175 and Iron Workers Local 704.

“Jeff was crucial to the Wolftever Creek fishing access project,” said USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede. “He, along with the apprentices that he leads, donated their time on multiple weekends to see the restoration through to the end. Without his assistance and leadership, the project would have been difficult to complete. Now the renovated pier provides better access to the thousands of anglers and boaters who utilize the boat ramp, as well as to the many anglers who fish from the pier.”

For his part, Burgin said the efforts were a labor of love.

“After hearing Stroede speak about the upcoming project and the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program at a Chattanooga Area Labor Council meeting, I was hooked and told him that we wanted to help,” Burgin explained. “The USA is spot-on with their efforts to provide union labor with an outlet to serve their communities with meaningful conservation projects that positively impact the environment. I’m thankful to serve and look forward to working with the USA again in the future.”

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance presented Burgin with his award August 15, 2019 at SMART’s Second General Convention in Las Vegas.

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.

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 Co-Founder Kinsey Robinson Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

August 13, 2019 in Articles, General, Press Release

United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers International President Kinsey Robinson (center, with wife Mona) was presented with the USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award by (from left) USA Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications Brian Dowler, USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram, USA President and CEO Scott Vance, AFL-CIO President and USA Board of Directors Chair Richard Trumka and USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to announce that one of its co-founders and current board members, Kinsey Robinson, international president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, has been honored with the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award recognizes Robinson’s leadership and service to the USA going back to the very beginning. In 2002 he was among a handful of union leaders who recognized that they should provide union members something beyond a secure future through collective bargaining—something that touched their personal and family lives in a meaningful way.

“Kinsey Robinson is one of the founding fathers of the USA,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “He’s one of the guys who came up with the idea of a union-based conservation organization.”

“He’s responsible for the focus of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance,” added Tom Buffenbarger, retired president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. “Bringing together like-minded people from across the labor movement who love the outdoors.” 

The idea that was born in ’02 became a reality in 2007 with the launch of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. Today the organization boasts nearly 300,000 members, each with the common goal of preserving North America’s outdoor heritage. 

“Union members understand the value of conservation and giving back to their local communities,” said Robinson, “And it makes me proud that they are willing to take up the challenge of protecting and restoring our natural environment.”

Under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, union members donate their time and skills to restore and improve public recreational lands and waters in their communities, as well as to organize youth conservation and fishing activities, such as the Get Youth Outdoors Day events Robinson feels might be most important of all.

Robinson instructs a young shooter on the finer points of firearms handling at a USA Get Youth Outdoors Day event.

“Kinsey Robinson is the one who initiated our youth program at USA,” said AFL-CIO President and USA Board Chair Richard Trumka. “And he’s done more to help it reach young people than anybody else out there.”

Robinson sees it as a debt people today must pay to ensure the future. 

“We owe it to our youth to pass on our traditions and heritage of hunting, fishing and spending time in the great outdoors,” he said. “If we don’t preserve wildlife and the environment, they, and their own children, won’t have it to enjoy.” 

Getting kids involved at an early age is a key component to the process, he added.

“It’s important for them to understand how that heritage plays into conservation; how it’s important to the animals, the environment and the air we all breathe,” he said. “They will become the voters and the people who will set the direction in the future. That’s why we must spend so much time with them now. It’s a great responsibility.”

As a longtime USA board member and current board treasurer, Robinson has, and does, play a vital role in setting policy and mapping out organizational goals. He’s also a familiar face, volunteer and participant at USA events across the country.

“Kinsey means so much to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance,” said Vance. “We can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for the USA over the years, but the Lifetime Achievement Award is one way we can express how much we appreciate him.”

“I’m extremely honored,” said Robinson upon receiving the award, which was presented at the organization’s recent Fundraiser Gala in Washington, D.C. “The people who make up the USA are very special, and while I’m deeply involved in the conservation mission, knowing the type of people who came together to honor me—well, it just makes it that much better.”

USA, Partners Celebrate Union-Powered Public Shooting Range Improvements

August 1, 2019 in General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson (center right) and IBEW Local 26 Business Manager George Hogan (center left) joined union volunteers at a ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicating new shooting stations at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and a consortium of partners celebrated the improvement of public recreational shooting opportunities at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland, July 31.

A dedication ceremony marked the completion by local labor union members of three covered, fully accessible shooting stations that will be available to community residents and other guests using the range.

“We’re proud to be part of this effort, where union members rolled up their sleeves to help Prince George’s continue to provide the community with some of the finest shooting opportunities in the United States,” said Kinsey Robinson, USA board of directors member and international president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers.

Organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, the project was completed at no cost to the public. 

Union volunteers from IBEW Local 26, SMART Local 100, IUEC Local 10, IW Local 5 and the UBC, along with the Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO), collectively donated more than 445 hours of skilled labor worth over $23,500. Plus, $10,000 in materials was donated using funds from the USA’s Capital Area Conservation Dinner, for a total project value of more than $33,500.

Located just outside Washington, D.C., Prince George’s Trap and Skeet Center is a premier shotgun clay target shooting range open to the public, youth groups and other organizations year-round. The addition of the new shooting stations gives visitors from all walks of life expanded opportunities to enjoy a variety of shooting sports activities including trap, skeet and sporting clays.

The facility is part of the Department of Parks and Recreation administered by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Honors UWUA Local 335 Member Allan Bathon with Conservation Steward of the Year Award

July 30, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

USA Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications Brian Dowler (L) presented Local 335 President Allan Bathon with the 2019 UWUA Conservation Steward of the Year Award.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 335 President Allan Bathon with the 2019 UWUA Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his exemplary commitment to conservation and community service. 

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

Bathon, of Florissant, Missouri, championed the revitalization of public access to the Meramec River at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills, Missouri. 

The effort began in early 2017, when Bathon spearheaded a USA Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) project in which union volunteers from Missouri American Water and UWUA Local 335 tore out and replaced the original ramp, which was built in the 1940s and in poor condition. 

Unfortunately, less than a week after it was completed, catastrophic flooding damaged 90 percent of new structure beyond repair. Undeterred, Bathon helped devise a new design to stand up to future flood waters, and rallied union volunteers to rebuild the ramp, which was completed for the second time on August 13, 2017. In all, volunteers donated more than 500 hours of labor to make the new ramp a reality. 

Funded through a $35,000 grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation, the new facility was named the Ron Schneider Boat Ramp to honor a longtime UWUA member who aided the initial rebuild. Bathon also organized the ramp’s official dedication celebration in April of 2018, which included a family outdoors day that drew more than 250 participants.

Bathon spearheaded the USA’s public access project on the Meramec River at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills, Missouri.

“Allan has repeatedly proven himself a leader willing to step forward and make things better, both in the workplace and his community,” said USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram. “He brought UWUA Local 335 and its members together to work with Missouri American Water to complete a fantastic community service project at Minnie Ha Ha park. The new ramp will benefit local residents for decades to come. The benefits of Allan’s leadership in conservation far exceed this single project, however. They extend all the way to the UWUA International and our national partnership with American Water.”

USA Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications Brian Dowler presented Bathon with the award July 26, 2019 at the UWUA’s 31st Constitutional Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I am honored to receive this award,” Bathon said. “But it’s not my honor alone.  It belongs to everyone who put in a lot of hard work on this project.”

Bathon explained that creating opportunities for community members to enjoy the outdoors was a major motivation for he and other union volunteers involved in the Minnie Ha Ha ramp project. “We’re blessed with natural resources like the Meramec, Mississippi and Missouri rivers in our area, but work needs to be done for people to access them,” he said. “We decided to step up our game and start making it happen—and look forward to completing additional projects in the future.”

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.

USA, RBFF, Union Volunteers Unite to Build Public Fishing Pier in Harrison County, Mississippi

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

Fishing just got better at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office’s County Farm near Gulfport, Mississippi.

Labor union members, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) joined forces to create a new fully accessible public fishing pier at the property, which hosts hundreds of local residents every season. 

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.

“Research shows that accessibility is key to growing fishing participation,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “We are pleased to partner with the USA to bring a fun, safe fishing opportunity to such a popular location, encouraging strong participation for generations to come.”

Union volunteers united by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG) installed the user-friendly structure, along with a concrete sidewalk running from the parking area to the pier, and a lakeside fish-cleaning station complete with running water and electricity. 

Union volunteers installed a new floating fishing pier, fish cleaning station, sidewalk and pier abutment at the Harrison County Sheriff’s County Farm.

To get the job done, volunteers from United Association 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 RBFF. Harrison County provided $5,000 to cover the cost of a dock extension at the request of the Sheriff’s Office.

UA Local 568 Business Manager Kevin Cruso, who served as local project leader, said organizers were inspired to build the pier after seeing physically challenged park visitors watching 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. “This is not for departmental use, it is for everyone in the community—including handicapped residents who want to go fishing.”

Peterson noted that the new pier will be a perfect addition to the Sheriff’s Office’s annual Youth Fishing Rodeo, which draws more than 300 children from all walks of life. “We have kids from the city, the county and everywhere in between come out and enjoy a day of fishing,” he said. “We will definitely use the pier for this event. Plus, local residents can come out and fish from it year-round.”

An official dedication ceremony is planned for October 12, in conjunction with the 2019 Harrison County Sheriff’s Youth Fishing Rodeo. The USA will join a number of local and national partners in sponsoring this event.

Mauk Named Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Volunteer Of The Year

July 24, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release

Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk (fourth from left) was presented the USA Volunteer of the Year Award by (from left) AFL-CIO President and USA Board of Directors Chair Richard Trumka, USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker, USA President and CEO Scott Vance, and USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk with the organization’s Volunteer of the Year Award for her tireless commitment to conservation, community service and solidarity.

Mauk, of Dayton, Ohio, is a vested member of the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA), which is a USA charter union, and is also a member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 98. 

She has a long track record of volunteering her time and talents to organize projects and special events through the USA’s Work Boots on the ground program. For example, she was instrumental in the Lakeside Lake renovation project in West Dayton, rallying more than 100 union and community volunteers to clear trash and invasive vegetation, assemble a fishing pier and install custom park benches.

In 2018, Mauk played a key role in organizing USA Take Kids Fishing Day events in Marietta, Dayton, West Portsmouth and Portsmouth, and assisted the Chillicothe Fire Department with its Fish With A Firefighter Day—all with help of union volunteers. 

In addition, she has shepherded and grown the USA’s Ohio State Conservation Dinner in Columbus for seven years, raising funds for multiple projects, including the construction of the Black Fork Wetlands Environmental Studies Center at Ashland University.

“Our Volunteer of the Year Award goes to someone who has gone above and beyond,” said USA President and CEO Scott Vance, “a person who is a role model for other volunteers. Someone who can get out front, motivate and inspire. Jeanette has all those qualities and more.”

Mauk began her union career in 1997 while working on an auto assembly line in Dayton. Starting out as a union steward, she worked her way into the local IUE-CWA office, then onto the staff of the Central Labor Council in Dayton. 

As state AFL-CIO field director, she travels Ohio working with all the Central Labor Councils, and takes every opportunity offered to talk about the USA and its mission. “I love the labor movement and am proud of the benefits it brings union members,” she said. “I also support the USA wholeheartedly because it’s a program that benefits not just union members, but their families and the communities as well. When people see my sincerity as I talk about it, I think they respond.”

Ohio claims 35,000 USA members, more than any other state, and the annual USA Conservation Dinner in Columbus, with more than 500 attendees, is the second largest in the country—thanks in part to Mauk’s efforts.

Upon receiving the Volunteer of the Year Award, she said, “This is awesome, and means a lot. But the real reward of being involved in the labor movement and working with the USA includes giving back to our communities, fostering solidarity among union members and building bridges between unions and the public. When you see what can be accomplished when everyone pulls together, it just makes you want to do more.” 

Ever humble, Mauk was quick to credit volunteers from local unions and the surrounding community for uniting to make the events and projects she has organized possible.

“I’m able to accomplish what we have here in Ohio on behalf of the Ohio AFL-CIO because of our great volunteers from all sectors of our labor unions, building trades and other groups within the community,” she said.

Mauk was presented the Volunteer of the Year Award July 16 during the USA’s Fundraising Gala in Washington, D.C.

American Water Charitable Foundation Awards $300,000 to Union Sportsmen’s Alliance

July 23, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release

The new grant agreement will fund a variety of conservation and community access projects to be built by union volunteers, such as this public fishing pier constructed in 2018 through an AWCF-USA joint effort at Griffin Reservoir near Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) are pleased to announce a $300,000 grant in support of their growing partnership and shared commitment to unite the union community in preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage. 

“The American Water Charitable Foundation is pleased to continue our support of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance through a multi-year grant directly benefiting the USA’s all-volunteer Work Boots on the Ground program,” said AWCF Chair Fred Myers. “Work Boots on the Ground brings union members and American Water employees together to volunteer their time and skills on water-related conservation projects that benefit the communities we serve. This has been a great partnership and we look forward to the next three years.”

“We are honored to continue working with American Water and the American Water Charitable Foundation,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “The projects our union volunteers have already completed with their support, along with those that will be executed under this new agreement, will benefit local communities for years to come.”

The three-year grant agreement will support the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, which unites labor union members to complete conservation, public access, education and outreach projects in communities across the country.

The new three-year grant agreement was announced on July 16 at the USA’s Fundraising Gala at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. From left: Fred Myers, American Water vice president of Labor Affairs and AWCF chair; Scott Vance, USA president and CEO; Carrie Williams, AWCF president; Forrest Parker, USA director of Conservation and Community Outreach.

“American Water’s dedication to our shared mission has fueled the completion of a number of critical conservation and community access projects, and their continued support will help us expand our conservation and outreach programs nationwide,” added USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker.

Over the past two years, the USA and AWCF have collaborated on a series of projects to improve public facilities and enhance access to recreational waters. Their first joint effort resulted in the construction of a large boat storage structure at Harrison Bay State Park in Tennessee, which is used to shelter watercraft available for public use.

The organizations also joined forces to construct a non-motorized boat ramp at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills, Missouri, as well as wheelchair-accessible fishing piers on Griffin Reservoir near Scranton, Pennsylvania, and at Jacobson Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

The funding and volunteer union labor vital to the completion of these and other similar projects has been greatly appreciated by local agencies and municipalities, which in many cases would have put construction and restoration plans on hold due to budget constraints.

The new agreement will finance up to 10 additional projects, each involving the restoration of outdoor recreational sites, the creation of better access to outdoor areas, the enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat, or the introduction of new participants to outdoor activities.

The new three-year agreement was initially announced on July 16 at the USA’s Fundraising Gala at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. The program will be administered by American Water’s nonprofit organization, the American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF).

7th Annual USA Fundraising Gala Celebrates Mission Expansion, Union Brotherhood and Valued Partners

July 22, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

The Joint Armed Forces Color Guard of the United States Military District of Washington presented the colors at the beginning of the USA’s Fundraising Gala.

In the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) held its 7th Annual Fundraising Gala July 16 at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.

With more than 200 in attendance, the union-powered nonprofit organization raised nearly $200,000 in net proceeds to help propel its mission to unite the union community in providing access to the outdoors, opportunities for all, and preserving North America’s outdoor heritage.

“It’s been only 12 years since we launched the USA,” AFL-CIO President, USA founder and board chair Richard Trumka said in his address to the group. “And we now have more than 300,000 active members—and counting.”

The USA draws on the talents of its members—union brothers and sisters who possess a variety of trade and organizational skills—who volunteer their time to participate in projects that benefit conservation and public access in their local communities. Volunteers also donate time to outreach events such as youth outdoors days and veterans’ fishing events.

AFL-CIO President and USA Board of Directors Chair Richard Trumka addressed the gathering.

“The USA was responsible for more than 40 conservation projects from Maine to Oregon through our Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program last year,” added Trumka, “where more than 600 volunteers donated 5,000-plus hours worth a quarter-million dollars in skilled union labor.

“And in one day—a single day—800 kids across the country got the chance to experience the thrill of casting a line and catching a fish through our outreach programs. Since 2017, we’ve introduced over 10,000 kids to fishing through our Get Youth Outdoors program!”

Jeanette Mauk, Ohio AFL-CIO field representative and recipient of the USA’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year Award, summed up the volunteer experience. “We do what we do because it’s in our hearts,” she said. “Union members want to give back to the communities in which they work and live, and doing things like renovating a disabled-accessible fishing pier at a public park, or putting on a Take Kids Fishing Day does just that, while strengthening ties between union members and their neighbors.”

“Coming together as union brothers and sisters to support our communities is what it’s all about,” echoed Insulators Local 14 Apprenticeship Training Director John Stahl. He organized and led a multi-faceted Work Boots on the Ground project to enhance public access and rebuild facilities at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia last year, which continues in 2019. The undertaking, which earned the USA’s 2018 Conservation Project of the Year Award at the Gala, directly benefits the 35 million people who live within a two-hour drive of this urban refuge.

The final individual honor presented at the Gala, the USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, went to United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers International President Kinsey Robinson. One of the organization’s original founders, Robinson now serves on the board of directors, and was recognized for his longtime service to the USA.

USA President and CEO Scott Vance also thanked the organization’s Charter Unions for their unwavering support to the mission of uniting union members in service to their communities.

USA Charter Unions include:

AFL-CIO
International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
International Association of Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
International Union of Elevator Constructors
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
IUE–CWA Industrial Division
Laborers International Union of North America
North America’s Building Trades Unions
NFL Players Association
United Association
United Auto Workers
United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers
Utility Workers Union of America

Vance is also quick to point out that the organization’s ability to contribute to the welfare of the outdoors and people who cherish it lies not only with its dedicated unions and their members.

“From the beginning, we’ve welcomed and are grateful for the assistance and steadfast support from corporate partners who are devoted to our mission,” he said. “Partners like the Union Insurance Group (UIG), Bank of Labor, the Union Labor Life Insurance Co. (ULLICO) and Carhartt. Each of these organizations is a Diamond Level Partner, having provided more than $1 million each to the USA over the past 12 years.”

Four organizations were given special recognition during the event for their part in supporting USA’s mission. For donations surpassing $250,000, Lifetime Partner Awards were presented to Segal Consulting/Marco Advisors, Provost-Umphrey Law Firm, American Income Life Insurance Co., and Pure Fishing. Special thanks went to founding partner Buck Knives for its invaluable contributions dating back to the USA’s inception, including handsome, custom-logoed knives for the Gala. Additional founding partners include AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation, Bank of Labor, UIG, and ULLICO.

“There is no way the USA could have become as big, or as strong, or accomplished as much, without the support of these valuable and loyal founding partners and those who have joined them in support of our mission,” Vance said.

Along with the awards program and great fellowship, event attendees enjoyed a delicious meal and beverages, generously supplied and served by the Union Insurance Group, and had a fabulous time participating in the event’s fundraiser raffle and auction. Donated items ranged from a Florida Keys tarpon adventure and African safari to custom firearms and a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl.

Many thanks to all those who attended and helped support the USA’s mission.

USA, Union Volunteers Restore Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge Fishing Pier

June 28, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

A popular fishing pier on Champion Lake in the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge received a much-needed facelift thanks to union volunteers, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and the Lower Trinity Basin Master Naturalists.

Organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, volunteers from the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 31, United Association Plumbers Local 68, United Steelworkers Local 13-1, Insulators Local 22 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Locals 716, 351 and 66 joined forces June 22-23 to restore the aging, 150-foot structure.

“We replaced pretty much everything above the waterline,” said project leader and retired Local 68 secretary/treasurer Mike Cramer, adding that the effort entailed roughly 240 hours of skilled labor and 80 hours of general labor—a donation of time and talent worth nearly $15,000.

Funds for lumber and other building supplies were also donated. “The project required nearly $10,000 worth of construction materials,” said Cramer, “which were purchased with proceeds from the annual conservation fundraising dinner organized by the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council and the USA.”

Union volunteers donated more than 300 hours to restore the popular fishing and wildlife observation pier.

The spacious T-shaped pier is a favorite destination for refuge visitors who want to view wildlife or fish for abundant bass, crappies and catfish on the 800-acre lake.

“The pier was built 15 years ago,” said refuge manager Stuart Marcus, “and was showing its age. Between the flooding we get from time to time, extreme seasonal temperature swings and normal wear and tear, it really did need to be repaired.

“We’ve enjoyed working with the unions over the years, and this was another fantastic job.” he added. “It would not have been possible without the USA, the volunteers who donated their time and the union-raised funds used to purchase the materials.” 

Though the project took only two days to complete, getting started on it proved to be challenging, according to Cramer. “Our plan was to start work several weeks ago when air temperatures were in the 70s,” he explained, “but heavy rains upstream put the structure under water. When lake levels dropped and the volunteers could finally get to it, they were working in sweltering 90-plus degree weather. But they’re a dedicated bunch and got the job done.”

USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker explained that the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge project, like similar efforts the USA has organized across the United States, was a labor of love. 

“It’s an honor to support the national wildlife refuge system’s efforts to protect a network of lands and waters for conservation for the benefit of all Americans,” he said. “And we are extremely proud of the union volunteers who donate their time and trade skills to complete projects on refuges and elsewhere in their local communities to improve public access and impact the future of conservation and our shared outdoor heritage.”

Parker noted that projects resulting from the USA’s partnership with the Department of Interior (DOI) also include ongoing enhancement work at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, where union volunteers donated more than 800 hours of skilled labor to install a kayak launch dock, make improvements to an observation tower and repair roads and trails.

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 Sportsmen’s Alliance Honors Insulators Local 14 Member John Stahl with Conservation Steward of the Year Award

June 18, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

Insulators General President James “Bud” McCourt (L) and USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram (R) presented John Stahl with the Conservation Steward of the Year Award.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (Insulators) Local 14 Member John Stahl with the 2019 Insulators Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his exemplary commitment to conservation and community service.

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

Stahl, of Williamstown, New Jersey, oversees the apprenticeship program of Insulators Local 14. He shepherded the USA’s John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge enhancement project, in which union volunteers with Insulators Local 14, IUPAT DC 21 and Operating Engineers Local 542 in 2018 donated 691 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $36,000 on a kayak launch dock, observation tower improvements and road repairs. Machinery usage valued at $20,000 pushed the total project value over $56,000. With work continuing in 2019, the value of refuge improvements that benefit local residents continues to climb.

Among his accomplishments, Stahl has shepherded the USA’s John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge enhancement project, which so far has resulted in the creation of a kayak launch dock, observation tower improvements and road repairs.

“It is truly heartwarming to see how volunteers from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance mobilized to help improve the visitor experience for everyone at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge,” said Margaret Everson, principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “I greatly appreciate their efforts, which are symbolic of how much the refuge is part of the local community.”

“Whether organizing a project or rolling up his sleeves on site, John leads by example,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “In addition to his efforts with the John Heinz project, he has been a driving force in the USA’s Annual Tri-State Conservation Dinner since its inception. He also helped organize the construction of more than 100 pheasant transport boxes for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, aiding the release of pheasants for public hunting on more than 20 wildlife management areas around the state.”

“I am grateful and humbled to receive this award,” Stahl said. “It was very much appreciated but not expected. I don’t do this for the recognition. I enjoy giving back, and my biggest motivator is having unions and their members involved in their communities.”

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.

USA Joins Effort to Expand Rend Lake Recreational Opportunities

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

USACE St. Louis District Commander Col. Bryan Sizemore (center, in uniform ) and partners who helped complete the Pollinator Trail Project at North Marcum Recreation Area cut a ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the trail opening to the public. The group also announced plans to further expand recreational opportunities with a new archery range, and the addition of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to the team of project supporters.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has joined ongoing efforts to expand recreational opportunities at North Marcum Recreation Area on Rend Lake near Benton, Illinois.

A coalition of partners including the USA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), local labor unions, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Rend Lake College, Rend Lake Bike Club, Scholastic 3-D Archery and Rend Lake Conservancy District have pledged to help build and maintain a state-of-the-art archery range at the popular public day use area.

The handicap-accessible, sheltered archery range will feature over a dozen targets plus an elevated shooting platform, along with a 3-D archery course and 12-mile mountain bike trail.

“We have had such wonderful experiences working with our local unions on past projects, and look forward to continuing this strong partnership in the future,” said USACE Natural Resources Specialist Cassie Magsig. “Today we signed a partnership agreement with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, representing several labor unions, and five other local stakeholder groups to begin the next improvement project for the North Marcum multiple resource area. Rend Lake greatly appreciates the continuous dedication and efforts made by these incredible partners and friends.”

Labor union members donated their time and talents to create the new Pollinator Trail at North Marcum.

The partnership was announced at a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the grand opening of the new Pollinator Trail at North Marcum, featuring a rejuvenated pond complete with four fully-accessible fishing stations. The 1,200-foot trail encircles the pond and is surrounded by five acres of native grass and plants that attract insects, birds and other wildlife that can be viewed from the trail. The pond was dredged and expanded to improve habitat for gamefish and other wildlife species.

While the USACE covered part of the cost of the project, other partners including local labor unions donated time, materials and equipment to bring it to conclusion, according to Jim Hobbie of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA).

“We have a very close relationship with the USACE on Rend Lake,” he said, “and jumped at the chance to help with this important project.”

Along with LIUNA Local 773, volunteers from the Carpenters Regional Council, Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 318, Lake Contracting, Erb Equipment and Ryterski Trucking all played a part in the planning and construction, donating well over 100 hours of time to the expansion, he explained.

Construction on the archery range project is expected to begin shortly, with an opening date yet to be determined.

Union Volunteers Build Blinds For Physically Challenged Sportsmen

June 13, 2019 in Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

A pair of new track chair-accessible ground blinds donated to the Michigan DNR will give physically challenged hunters and wildlife watchers better access to the great outdoors.

Disabled veterans and other physically challenged outdoors enthusiasts will soon enjoy better access to Michigan’s public lands.

Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO), in partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and United Auto Workers (UAW) Ford National Community Outreach Program, donated two track chair-accessible ground blinds to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) at a recent charity event in South Lyon, Michigan.

Presented by MiOFO President Tom Jones during the Garmin Automotive OEM Technology Show and Charity Golf Outing, the structures will be placed within the Sharonville State Game Area in Jackson County, where they will be available for hunting and wildlife viewing.

The donated blinds are among a dozen such structures that have been, or will soon be, placed on public hunting lands in Michigan as part of a far-reaching program developed by MiOFO and executed by USA and UAW volunteers.

The new blinds will create outdoor opportunities for hunters of all physical abilities.

As part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation initiative, union volunteers from the UAW-Ford National Community Outreach Program donated their time and expertise to construct the blinds, according to Jones.

“Our partners’ gift of labor allows us not only to expand outdoor opportunities for individuals with health challenges,” he said, “but also to increase the number of hunters in the community, which helps ensure that public lands will always be around for everyone to enjoy.

“About 12 percent of Michigan’s land area belongs to the public,” he continued, “and with the help of the USA, UAW and MDNR, our goal is to install at least one accessible blind within every one of the state’s designated game areas.”

A project with such lofty and wide-ranging goals is a perfect fit for this partnership, said UAW-Ford Community Outreach and Veterans Initiative Coordinator Jeff Terry.

“It’s a testament to our close teamwork,” said Terry. “And to all that can be accomplished through collective bargaining for our members, as well as in the communities in which we live, play and work.”

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.

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 Names Ben Hur Construction Union Contractor of the Year

May 10, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

USA Strategic Accounts Manager Sam Phipps (left) presented the USA Union Contractor of the Year Award to Ben Hur Construction Vice President Mark Douglas.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) proudly announces it has recognized Ben Hur Construction Company of St. Louis, Missouri, with its inaugural Union Contractor of the Year Award.

Presented May 1 at The Association of Union Constructors Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, the prestigious award acknowledges Ben Hur’s selfless commitment to unite the union community behind a large-scale conservation project in Florida.

“Our goal for the Union Contractor of the Year Award is to recognize a contractor who truly lives and breathes solidarity and community,” said USA Strategic Accounts Manager Sam Phipps. “A contractor who goes above and beyond to make the mission of uniting a unique community through conservation possible. We want to recognize a union contractor who believes in making a positive impact and providing our future generations of outdoors enthusiasts opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise.”

The $800,000 project, organized by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, encompasses building a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier alongside a 2.5-acre saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida. The project will be the USA’s largest undertaking to date and is expected to be completed in May of 2019.

Until 2017, the effort to build the long-awaited structure was stalled due to a lack of funding. It was then that the USA tackled the endeavor—working with a consortium of partners including the Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, Florida AFL–CIO, Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Southern States Millwright Regional Council, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Pure Fishing and a number of local labor unions.

To give the project one of its largest pushes forward, Ben Hur Construction volunteered to manage the entire construction effort and to see it through to completion. The move amounted to an in-kind donation valued at $100,000.

Ben Hur Senior Project Manager Jason A. Brown said when the company first heard about the project, it quickly volunteered to help.

“We’ve been around for 120 years as a union contractor and have a long history of community support,” he explained. “Being involved with an organization like the USA is a great fit for us, and a perfect way to give back to the union members who work so hard for us every day.”

SYCC’s campus, located on the eastern shoreline of Tampa Bay, includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility, outdoor classroom, hiking and kayak trails, as well as a wildlife observation tower—all of which help to attract more than 11,000 youth and adults per year to visit and participate in its various marine education programs.

By design, the new boardwalk and fishing pier will now allow even greater access to fishing, observation of wildlife and the study coastal marine habitats with minimal impact to the environment.

Union Volunteers Introduce Dayton Area Youth to Fishing

May 7, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

From morning to early afternoon of Saturday, May 4, more than 120 young anglers and their families lined the bank of Lakeside Lake near Dayton, Ohio, to experience fishing firsthand during the free Dayton Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

A team effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Division of Wildlife and Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of fishing.

The Dayton-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 120 young anglers experienced fishing firsthand Saturday during the free Dayton Area Take Kids Fishing Day.

Each of the young anglers received a free fishing rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing. They also received game calls courtesy of Plano Synergy, a partner in the event, and T-shirts courtesy of local union sponsors. Union volunteers rigged up the rods and provided participants with fishing instruction and assistance. To cap off the day, youth enjoyed a free picnic lunch with their union mentors.

Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk noted that union members are quick to give back to their communities, and—along with teaching kids to fish—events such as this help the general public learn more about their union neighbors and organized labor.

“People unfamiliar with labor unions have a chance to connect with our members and see how willing they are to donate their time, funds and talents to their communities,” she said.

USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede explained that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for young people to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation.

“Take Kids Fishing Day events educate a future generation of American anglers and conservationists from diverse communities and backgrounds,” said 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 participants.”

The event comes on the heels of efforts by the USA and Ohio AFL-CIO, along with other organizations and partners, to improve public access and amenities at the lake. The improvements included a massive cleanup and installation of a new fishing pier, completed in October 2017.

Both Mauk and Stroede were involved in that project, and Stroede added that it is nice to see how the efforts of union members pay off with events like this.

“It’s really kind of the whole mission of what we do,” he said. “After completing an infrastructure project that improves the access or facilities at a location, we follow up with an event that showcases the new opportunities available to community members thanks to the efforts of union volunteers, the USA and our many conservation allies.”

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.

Nashville-Area Youngsters Invited to Free “Get Youth Outdoors Day” March 31

March 11, 2019 in Conservation News, 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, March 31 at the free, fun-filled 1st Annual Nashville 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 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nashville Gun Club, located along the banks of the Cumberland River in West Nashville.

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 youngsters ages 9 to 15 are invited to learn about the shooting sports and conservation during the free Get Youth Outdoors Day event March 31 at the Nashville Gun Club.

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 75 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 stay for a free picnic lunch!

The Nashville-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 sponsored by an NSSF grant with support from national conservation partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Conservation Dinner Program On Record-Setting Roll

March 4, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Conservation Dinner Program is growing at a record-setting pace, thanks in part to its unique ability to unify labor union members and connect them to their local communities via conservation-related projects.

Launched in 2012, the dinners program helps fuel the USA’s conservation mission delivery by raising funds and recruiting skilled volunteer labor to complete hands-on, community-based outreach and infrastructure projects through Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program.

Dinner proceeds are dispersed into local conservation accounts and the USA’s United Outdoors Conservation Fund, which is available to participating unions, government agencies and nonprofit partners nationwide.

The dinner program recipe is simple and potent. USA staff assist local union leadership in organizing and hosting annual dinners that bring members of different unions and other attendees together for an evening of fun and camaraderie in the name of conservation.

Besides great food and fellowship, conservation dinner attendees enjoy a special program and variety of activities including raffles, auctions and more.

“Since our first event in Dallas seven years ago, dinners have provided the fuel for conservation and called volunteers to action for community service,” explained USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram, who oversees the program. “But they’re much more than that. These events provide opportunities for all of the house of labor to gather in one place in celebration of the union brotherhood.”

“Plus, every union—whether public or private sector, trade or industrial—has ever-present needs to connect with its members and their families, pass labor traditions on to the next generation and engage the local community,” he continued. “Through dinners and other fundraisers, infrastructure projects and community outreach events, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance provides opportunities to make it all happen in a powerful, long-lasting manner.”

To date, the USA’s dinner program has hosted more than 26,000 participants at 130 events and raised more than $6.9 million to protect North America’s outdoor heritage.

With four dinners already completed, 2019 is off to a fast start. “We’ve raised nearly $300,000 and hosted more than 1,100 attendees,” said Ingram. “And on February 16, the Des Moines Area USA Conservation Dinner shattered the USA’s all-time fundraising dinner record with a gross revenue of $160,444 for conservation. With a total of 36 dinners planned—our highest yearly total ever—we’re excited to see what the rest of 2019 brings.”

The Des Moines Area USA Conservation Dinner recently shattered the USA’s all-time fundraising dinner record.

Future plans include continued expansion. “Our goal is having at least one conservation dinner and project in every state,” said Ingram. “We have tremendous support from the national AFL-CIO, state federations of labor, all levels of building and construction trades councils, central labor councils and the organization’s international charter unions and affiliates. With all the interest and support from these organizations, the future is extremely promising.”

One thing that won’t change, Ingram promises, is the program’s underpinnings. “We strive to exhibit the core values of labor at every USA event,” he said. “Hallmarks include respect for our flag and the importance of family and faith. We also recently launched a process of pinning all veterans and active duty personnel with a USA logo veteran’s lapel pin to honor their service.”

Ingram notes that USA dinners are open to everyone. “We welcome union members and their families, along with friends of labor and the many partners who provide valuable services for labor to come enjoy a great evening of fun, fellowship and conservation,” he said.

For more information on USA conservation dinners, visit unionsportsmen.org or contact USA regional events managers Kevin Grubbs, keving@unionsportsmen.org, or Chris Piltz, chrisp@unionsportsmen.org.

Armed Forces veterans are honored on stage at every USA conservation dinner.

USA, Union Volunteers Tackle Hurricane Harvey Damage to Goose Island State Park

February 15, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Visitors to Texas’ Goose Island State Park will once again enjoy fresh water close at hand while camping and picnicking along the Gulf Coast, thanks to the efforts of hardworking union volunteers and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Located on St. Charles and Aransas bays north of Corpus Christi, the popular park offers fishing, boating, camping and wildlife watching opportunities. It is also home to the iconic “Big Tree,” an ancient live oak estimated to be more than 1,000 years old.

Due to these attractions, Goose Island State Park attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually—drawing guests from local communities and across the continent.

Unfortunately, the park’s beachside shelters had been without water since Hurricane Harvey battered the coastline in 2017. To remedy the situation, a coalition of volunteers from local labor unions stepped up to make the necessary repairs to get the taps flowing again.

Thirty-nine volunteers donated a total of 265 hours of labor worth more than $12,300 to the project, which included replacing damaged water lines and fixtures at 44 beach shelters along the park’s scenic waterfront. The repairs were completed in two phases, the latest of which wrapped up February 9. Park officials provided the necessary materials while union members donated their time, skills and tools to make the project a reality.

Union volunteers donated 265 hours of labor to restore the water supply at 44 beachside shelters at Goose Island State Park.

Participating union members represented United Association Local 68, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 278, Communications Workers of America Local 6137, American Federation of Teachers Local 3456 and International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 22.

“The staff of Goose Island State Park was extremely grateful that a group of talented volunteers were willing to complete such a mission,” said TJ Hinojosa, interim park superintendent. “The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance members’ service to their state park system provided park staff the ability to focus on other projects and daily tasks.

“Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Goose Island had its most successful year with over 190,000 guests,” Hinojosa noted. “Partners like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance help us return to our potential a little more every day.”

Local organizers and volunteers were grateful for a chance to make a difference. “We are thankful for everything the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance does to help union members give back to their communities through projects like this,” said CWA Local 6137 president Kristie Veit. “The Texas AFL-CIO has also been a big supporter of this project and similar efforts that benefit our neighbors and neighborhoods.”

“The Goose Island State Park project exemplifies how union volunteers are benefiting their communities and outdoors enthusiasts around the country through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “These infrastructure repairs will benefit thousands of people who visit this scenic, historic and environmentally significant park every season.”

The project restored water supplies that had been disrupted since Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Volunteer Labor Donations Top Million Dollar Mark

February 12, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

USA volunteers building educational kiosks in Michigan recently pushed the total value of labor donated through the organization’s Work Boots on the Ground program over the $1,000,000 mark.

Fueled by a flurry of project completions and strategic partnerships, the value of volunteer labor donated by Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) members to community-based conservation projects through the Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program has topped the $1,000,000 mark.

The milestone was reached as a crew of union volunteers from the United Auto Workers (UAW) Ford Community Service Ramp Program put the final touches on five informational kiosks for the USA’s conservation partners at Pheasants Forever. The kiosks will be placed on game management areas around Michigan to educate the public on the benefits of habitat, conservation and hunting.

The project exemplifies the WBG program, which unites union workers to complete critical conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects in communities across the country.

The USA celebrated its 100th WBG project in late 2017 and to date has coordinated the completion of 156 projects in 30 states and the District of Columbia. USA volunteers have logged 29,937 hours on these efforts, which include 63 outreach campaigns, 85 infrastructure projects and eight support projects.

WBG kicked off in 2010 under the guidance of program manager Jim Klatt. The first project saw union volunteers craft supersize mesh-and-metal live traps for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) researchers to use in buck mortality and fawn recruitment studies. As has since been the case in many WBG projects, the work would not have been possible without union volunteers. The DNR had secured funding to purchase building materials for the live traps but lacked the skilled labor and workspace to build them.

The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program kicked off in 2010, when union volunteers created live traps like this prototype for Wisconsin DNR whitetail deer research.

“We are extremely proud of our volunteers for reaching this milestone,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “They are without a doubt our greatest asset. Their willingness to freely donate time and talents to benefit their neighbors and protect our outdoor heritage continually propels us to new heights in mission delivery and impact.

“Our volunteers are also what make us so unique as a non-profit conservation organization,” he added. “They are the most well-trained and skilled volunteers in the world because of their unique apprenticeship and trades experience. Providing skilled and trained volunteers who can do things that other volunteer groups cannot is clearly our unique niche among the conservation community.”

The USA already has plenty in the works for 2019, including projects and events in communities coast to coast. In what promises to be the largest project to date, the group rallied a coalition of public, private and union partners to construct a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Part of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the marine-focused conservation education center serves more than 11,000 youth and adults annually. Union volunteers are expected to donate in excess of 1,000 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $50,000 to complete the pier and boardwalk, while the USA also contributed $20,000 and Southern States Millwright Council donated $50,000. National union contractor Ben Hur Construction is providing an additional $100,000 of in-kind donation to the project.

A large-scale enhancement project is also planned for the William Powers State Recreation Area in southeast Chicago, which includes construction of an ADA-compliant fishing pier. Additional projects range from the construction of a weigh station-pavilion on the shores of Smith Lake near Jasper, Alabama, to the refurbishment of a public pier at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge just outside Liberty, Texas. Union volunteers are also gearing up to build a pedestrian walkway in Prineville, Oregon, that will open access to 70 acres of public property, and install a handicap accessible fishing pier in Harrison County, Mississippi.

The USA is also organizing a pair of Get Youth Outdoors Day events in concert with the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports. A number of youth fishing events are also on the docket. The USA’s 2019 Take Kids Fishing Day schedule kicked off in Minnesota in January, with additional events set for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, 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.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Unveils United Outdoors Conservation Fund

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

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s new United Outdoors Conservation Fund will provide significant financial resources to union-based organizations and other partners to harness the power of union volunteers as a force for conservation.

Building on record-setting increases in partnerships and completed projects, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to unveil the United Outdoors Conservation Fund—an innovative grant funding program that will allow the organization to further expand its conservation footprint and mission impact.

The fund will provide significant financial resources to union-based organizations, conservation-based non-profit organizations and agency partners to execute impactful conservation and public access projects, and conservation outreach, education and mentoring programs to benefit their local communities.

The monies available through the United Outdoors Conservation Fund are generated through a variety of sources including USA conservation dinners, corporate sponsorships and major donations.

“In the wake of major conservation successes in 2017, the USA has continued to expand its infrastructure projects and community engagement events,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “The launch of our United Outdoors Conservation Fund is a huge step toward further growth as it will both increase the number of conservation projects and events and open the door for even larger scale efforts.

“This grant fund empowers the USA, our union locals, conservation allies and agency partners to put public-private partnerships into motion in a way that not only increases the impact of our projects but also engages many more stakeholders and communities,” he continued. “It will enable labor to make a significant and substantial difference in our country’s conservation future.”

A variety of conservation projects and outreach efforts that benefit local communities will qualify for funding.

Since launching its flagship conservation initiative, Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), to connect union volunteers with hands-on conservation projects that would otherwise go undone, the USA has executed more than 150 projects across the nation. Both the pace and scope of these efforts has increased dramatically in recent months. The organization celebrated its 100th WBG project in the fall of 2017 and coordinated the completion of more than 50 projects in 2018.

The USA has also built a track record of partnering with other non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies, companies and communities to benefit all stakeholders while helping preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

To be considered for United Outdoors Conservation Fund support, projects must address a conservation need and benefit the community, as well as provide opportunities for multi-partner involvement and coordination using union volunteers and their families to execute the project. Infrastructure, community outreach and wildlife habitat projects on public or private property are admissible, but the property must be accessible to the public.

Examples include improving public access to the outdoors, restoring public parks, educating youth about the outdoors, introducing young adults to the union trades through conservation and conserving critical wildlife habitat.

Any union organization that has completed a USA conservation dinner or fundraising shoot in the past 18 months or a local union that is a member of USA’s new Partner Local program with at least half of its membership being active USA members may apply. Grant funds are also available to conservation-based non-profit organizations and local, state and federal agencies that work with unions.

Proposals for USA grants will be submitted in a two-stage process. The first stage includes an initial application (Letter of Intent). Selected applicants advance to the second stage of the grant process and are invited to submit full proposals.

Applications must be completed online at: unionsportsmen.org/grantfund. For additional information or questions regarding the United Outdoors Conservation Fund, email conservation@unionsportsmen.org.