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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.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Names UAW, IUPAT and IUE-CWA Conservation Stewards of the Year

January 17, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to announce the recipients of the organization’s prestigious 2018 Conservation Steward of the Year Awards for the United Auto Workers (UAW), International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA).

UAW member Steve Cochran, IUPAT member Robert Gilmore and IUE-CWA member Jeanette Mauk were selected to receive the award on behalf of their unions for 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 in the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage.

Steve Cochran

Cochran, of Ooltewah, Tennessee, is president of UAW Local 42 and has spearheaded the local’s USA Conservation Dinner fundraiser the past two years. Cochran also led a major overhaul of the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp on Lake Chickamauga just outside of Chattanooga, in which union volunteers donated labor and $10,000 raised at the dinner to replace a dilapidated dock with a brand-new, 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier.

“It’s an honor to receive this award and represent the entire UAW as we collectively give back to conservation and our communities,” said Cochran. “We are driven to take on projects that benefit everyone and strengthen the connection between union workers and their neighbors.”

Gilmore, of Dawson, Iowa, is a member of IUPAT Local 246 and serves as business manager and secretary-treasurer of District Council 81. He has led USA fundraising dinners in Des Moines since 2015, raising more than $500,000 in the process and organized conservation projects in the area including the large-scale restoration of a handicap-accessible fishing pier and fishing house at Lake Ahquabi State Park, and construction of a large public shelter at Fort Des Moines State Park. Gilmore also launched an annual shooting event for local union members which benefits USA conservation efforts.

Robert Gilmore

Along with this year’s conservation dinner and shoot, he is planning a public shelter/log cabin project at Yellow Banks County Park and a Get Youth Outdoors event for 2019.

“I am extremely honored to be considered for this award,” said Gilmore. “The success of our local efforts is due to a great group of building trades members working together, and reflects the commitment union members have to giving back to their community. The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance makes it easy for us to join forces for the greater cause of conservation, youth outreach and promoting outdoor recreation.”

Mauk, of Dayton, Ohio, serves as the state’s AFL-CIO Field Director. She is a vested member of the IUE-CWA, which is a USA charter union, and is also a member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 98. Mauk has shepherded and grown the USA’s Ohio State Conservation Dinner in Columbus for seven years. She has also organized multiple projects including the installation of a new public fishing pier at Dayton’s Lakeside Lake and Ohio’s first Take Kid’s Fishing Day in Marietta. She is currently planning a youth fishing event to be held in Dayton this May.

“This is awesome,” Mauk said of receiving the award. “It means a lot. But the real rewards of being involved in the labor movement and working with the USA include 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.”

Jeanette Mauk

“Steve, Robert and Jeanette are dedicated volunteers whose leadership and fundraising efforts help us execute impactful conservation projects and safeguard the future of our outdoor traditions in their local communities and across the country,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance.

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.

Previous USA Conservation Steward of the Year Award recipients include: Brent Beasley and Mark Conroy, United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers; Dave Branson and Michael Cramer, United Association; Josh Craig, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; George Hogan, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and Anthony Nicholson, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators.

USA, Union Volunteers Complete John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Improvements

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

The public will enjoy better access to the great outdoors at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge thanks to the completion of a series of refuge-enhancement projects supported by a coalition of partners including the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and local union workers.

Through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG), union volunteers with Insulators Local 14, Painters District Council 21 and Operating Engineers Local 542 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.

Located in Philadelphia, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is America’s first urban refuge. Given its accessibility and visibility to over 1.7 million people living within 10 miles of the refuge and more than 35 million Americans living within a two-hour drive, the refuge serves as a prominent ambassador of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Due to a shortage of staff and funding, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of deferred maintenance projects stands at more than $1.3 billion, including necessary repairs to roads, trails, dams, docks and levees. Adequately supporting maintenance requirements to keep the Service’s infrastructure in good condition is necessary to ensure safe and reliable outdoor recreational access for the American public on their public lands.

Organizations like the USA, aided by union volunteers who donate their time, talents and funding raised at local conservation shoots and dinners, are working to reduce this backlog, restore America’s refuge system and improve public access to these national treasures.

“It is truly heartwarming to see how volunteers from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance have mobilized to help improve the visitor experience for everyone at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. I greatly appreciate their efforts, which are symbolic of how much the refuge is part of the local community,” said Margaret Everson, Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This exemplifies the kinds of public-private partnerships that are critical for conservation in the 21st century. I look forward to seeing more volunteers back at the refuge in the spring.”

Union volunteers donated more than $56,000 in time and machinery use to complete a series of improvement projects at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

On-site refuge staff were equally appreciative. “The team from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance was a great group of professional and joyful guys that obviously love their work,” said John Heinz refuge manager Lamar Gore. “I’d love to work with them in the future, as they allowed us to improve visitor access and experience to one of the most activated public lands in the refuge system.”

USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker said the John Heinz project, like similar efforts the USA has organized across the continent, was a labor of love.

“We are honored to support the national wildlife refuge system’s efforts to protect a network of lands and waters for conservation for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans,” said Parker. “And we are very proud of the many union volunteers who donate their time and skills to complete projects on refuges and elsewhere in their local communities that impact the future of conservation and our shared outdoor heritage.” 

Parker noted that earlier last fall, the USA and Department of the Interior (DOI) gathered at John Heinz NWR to celebrate Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day and commemorate the kick-off of the refuge-enhancement projects. The event recognized the importance of such efforts, along with the important role urban national wildlife refuges play in protecting wildlife habitat and providing outdoor recreational opportunities for all Americans.

A coalition of partners including fishing industry powerhouse Pure Fishing, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Plano Synergy supported the event.

 

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Applauds Farm Bill Conservation Funding

December 18, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Hunting, Press Release

Flush with funding, habitat protection measures and public access incentives, the 2018 Farm Bill is being praised as a boon to wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) hails passage of the 2018 Farm Bill as a major victory for conservation, wildlife and public access.

The $867 billion legislation, which passed the House and Senate last week with strong bipartisan support and veto-proof majorities, provides more than $5 billion for conservation efforts on private land and offers a number of provisions that bode well for the future of the nation’s fish and wildlife.

The good news includes a 3-million-acre increase for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), bringing the total to 27 million acres. The voluntary program offers landowners incentives to remove highly erodible and environmentally sensitive lands from production, benefiting upland wildlife habitat and water quality improvement.

Added CRP gains include language directing the secretary of Agriculture to conduct routinely scheduled signups with targeted state-to-state allocations—a critical step toward adding new acres into the program each year—while enrolling 30 percent of all CRP acreage for continuous protection. Plus, a new program called CLEAR 30 creates a pilot program for a 30-year contract option on the most highly sensitive lands such as buffers, wetlands and riparian areas.

Other conservation highlights include added funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), more Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds for wildlife, stronger “Sodsaver” grasslands protection and the retention of “Swampbuster” safeguards.

The Farm Bill also includes an expansion of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), which supports access to nearly 1 million acres of private land for hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits. 

USA conservation allies including Pheasants Forever and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership praised the new legislation, calling it a win for sportsmen, landowners, wildlife, water quality, and the nation’s economy. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue also commended Congress for bringing the Farm Bill “across the finish line” and has encouraged President Trump to sign it into law.

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance was likewise supportive of the legislation and optimistic about its implications. “The new Farm Bill’s funding and provisions are critical to preserving and enhancing our shared natural resources and treasured outdoor heritage,” he said. “They also offer landowners, agencies, non-profits and other partners expanded opportunities to join forces with the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, which connects union volunteers with local, hands-on conservation projects that would otherwise go undone.”

To date, the USA has organized and executed more than 150 conservation, public access, outreach, education and mentoring projects across the nation through WBG, including more than 50 projects in 2018.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Welcomes Provost Umphrey as Platinum Conservation Sponsor

November 20, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to welcome the Provost Umphrey Law Firm—a national leader in the fight for justice and workers’ rights for nearly 50 years—as a Platinum Level Conservation Sponsor. 

Texas-based Provost Umphrey has pledged $1 million over the next five years to support Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program, and conservation outreach programs benefiting the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage.

“Members of the USA are hard workers, the type of workers that we represent every day,” says Joe Fisher, managing partner at Provost Umphrey. “As fellow outdoorsmen, we recognize the importance of supporting WBG to ensure these hard workers are able to continue their conservational and educational efforts.”

“We feel honored and blessed to have Provost Umphrey as our partner as we expand our conservation and outreach programs nationwide,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “They are hunters, anglers, shooters and conservationists who believe in our mission and strongly support our outdoor heritage. They live the lifestyle we support through our conservation efforts and they believe deeply in our mission.”

Provost Umphrey’s support will help the USA substantially increase its mission delivery. The USA is dedicated to uniting union workers to complete critical conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects in communities across the country. The organization celebrated its 100th WBG project last fall and has already coordinated the completion of more than 50 projects in 2018.

“Like the relationships with our charter unions and other allies, financial support like the Provost Umphrey sponsorship helps the USA maintain its record-setting growth as we harness the passion, power and skills of union volunteers to impact the future of conservation and our shared outdoor heritage,” Vance added.

The Provost Umphrey sponsorship follows USA partnerships with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Pure Fishing, Pheasants Forever and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The USA also recently partnered with industry leading product sales group Outtech and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic resources by increasing participation in fishing and boating.

USA, Partners Host Veterans’ Fishing Event to Celebrate New Griffin Reservoir Fishing Pier

October 31, 2018 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release

Griffin Reservoir

Project partners gathered for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicating the new community fishing pier.

U.S. Armed Forces veterans were honored with a fishing event Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018 at Griffin Reservoir near Scranton, Pennsylvania, to celebrate the dedication of a new public fishing pier that gives community members of all ages and physical abilities improved access to the popular impoundment.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Pennsylvania American Water, American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) and a consortium of local labor unions hosted the event. Union volunteers assisted the veterans, each of whom received a free rod, reel and tackle courtesy of Pure Fishing, plus additional items courtesy of Carhartt. Prior to the dedication ceremony, a catered lunch was provided to all veterans and other participants.

Griffin Reservoir

Union volunteers helped local veterans enjoy the new public pier.

The dedication recognized USA volunteers from Pennsylvania American Water, Utility Workers Local 537, Electrical Workers Local 81 and Carpenters Local 445 who donated more than 400 hours—a labor value of nearly $15,000—to clear the site and construct the 18 ft. x 25 ft. handicap-accessible pier.

The project was one of three funded by a $60,000 grant from the AWCF to the USA and organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program.

AWCF and Pennsylvania American Water provided additional support to complete the driveway and parking lot, further improving access to Griffin Reservoir. The project also received funds allocated from the USA’s United Mine Workers of America Conservation Dinner in Fairmont, West Virginia.

Located in Lackawanna County, the 110-acre Pennsylvania American Water reservoir is flush with a variety of gamefish, including above-average populations of largemouth bass, bluegills and black crappies. The reservoir was opened to public shore-fishing 2011, but access was limited until the new pier was completed.

“This project is the culmination of a unique partnership that benefits our community,” said Pennsylvania American Water President Jeffrey McIntyre. “Working with both our Charitable Foundation and USA, we brought a team of volunteers together to create this beautiful spot that we are now able to share with every member of our community. Pennsylvania American Water is proud to continue its commitment to our communities and our neighbors.”

Griffin Reservoir

U.S. Navy veteran Clifford Davies told media members he is looking forward to returning to the pier on future fishing expeditions.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation was proud to support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance with funding for this outstanding project, which will enable greater interaction with and appreciation for our water resources among the local community served by Pennsylvania American Water,” added Aldie Warnock, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the American Water Charitable Foundation.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Richard Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder were also on hand. “We’re just so proud to be part of a movement that helps our skilled union workers give back their time, energy and talents to make everyone’s lives better by being able to come out and enjoy this beautiful reservoir,” said Bloomingdale.

“We are honored to work with Pennsylvania American Water, American Water Charitable Foundation and our many hardworking union volunteers, who joined forces through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program to complete the new fishing pier,” added USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “This project will benefit the local community for many years to come.”

While the veterans enjoyed their lakeside meal and fall fishing trip, they were also eager to return to the new pier on future fishing adventures. “This is great,” said Clifford Davies, a retired Navy veteran with 20 years of service. “I look forward to coming back here again next summer.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With more than 40 million anglers generating $35 billion in retail sales and $600 million for fisheries conservation and public water access through special excise taxes each year, it’s critical to continue recruiting new anglers,” Stroede added. “Plus, research has shown that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for children to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, due to a shortage of staff and funding, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of deferred maintenance projects stands at more than $1.3 billion, including necessary repairs to roads, trails, dams, docks and levees. Adequately supporting maintenance requirements to keep the Service’s infrastructure in good condition is necessary to ensure safe and reliable outdoor recreational access for the American public on their public lands.

Organizations like the USA, aided by union volunteers who donate their time, talents and funding raised at local conservation shoots and dinners, are working to reduce this backlog, restore America’s Refuge System and improve public access to these national treasures.

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

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

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

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

“We are honored to join forces with these partners in support of the national wildlife refuge system’s efforts to protect a network of lands and waters for conservation for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans,” said Parker. “And we are extremely proud of the many union volunteers who donate their time and skills to complete projects on refuges and elsewhere in their local communities to help everyone enjoy the outdoors.”   

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

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

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Recognizes Madison’s Dave Branson as UA Conservation Steward of the Year

September 24, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Dave Branson (center) accepted the 2018 UA Conservation Steward of the Year Award from (left) USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede and Events Manager Kevin Grubbs.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) honored Dave Branson, executive director of the Building Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin (BTC), with the 2018 United Association (UA) 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 in the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage.

Branson, a member of UA Local 434 from Madison, Wisconsin, has been involved in union construction trades for nearly four decades. He is a longtime supporter of USA youth outreach, conservation and fundraising efforts.

“Dave is a tireless leader who volunteers countless hours each year to support his community and the future of our outdoor traditions,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “His commitment, dedication and willingness to freely give his time and talents underscores why volunteers are our most valuable resource in achieving the USA’s mission.

“For example, Dave organizes our Take Kids Fishing Day events in Madison and Janesville, Wisconsin, which last June alone introduced more than 250 local youths to natural resources conservation and the joys of fishing,” Vance continued. “He is also a driving force behind the USA’s annual AFL-CIO, BTC Madison Area Conservation Dinner, which to date has raised more than $325,000 for conservation. 

“Dave has also spearheaded a number of conservation projects, including the recent renovation of the Vilas Park Fishing Pier on Madison’s Lake Wingra, rallying more than 50 local union volunteers to transform a structure that was literally falling apart into a safe, accessible platform that provides community members of all physical abilities with improved access to this popular fishing lake.”

Dave Branson

USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede and Events Manager Kevin Grubbs presented Branson with the award on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018 at the Madison Area Conservation Dinner.

“It’s very gratifying to receive this award,” Branson said. “But I couldn’t have done it without all of the union volunteers from the Building Trades and AFL-CIO who stepped up to make these projects and outreach events come to fruition.”

Branson explained that volunteering offers many benefits. 

“It’s rewarding to teach children about fishing, then see the smiles on their faces as they reel in their first fish,” he said. “Fundraising dinners build relationships between members of different AFL-CIO unions, while raising money to complete projects in our community. Plus, holding outreach events and completing beneficial projects improves relationships between unions and the public, by reminding people that union members are friends and neighbors who enjoy giving back to our hometowns.”

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.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Holds Get Youth Outdoors Day

September 19, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

More than 60 youths learned about conservation and hunting while experiencing the thrill of the shooting sports firsthand Sunday, Sept. 16 during the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 7th Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays in Clear Lake, Minnesota.

Organized by the USA and supported by a coalition of union, industry and conservation partners, the event educated boys and girls ages 9 to 17 about wildlife conservation, dog training and other outdoor topics through hands-on activities and demonstrations. 

Local organizer Mike Ganz welcomed participants with a talk on wildlife and conservation.

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. NSSF recently awarded the USA a $30,000 grant to host a series of events in which union volunteers trained in firearms safety and instruction provide hands-on introductions to trap shooting, riflery and archery.

Young shooters learned the basics of safe and responsible riflery on the .22 range.

“The success of this event showcases the great potential for harnessing union members’ love of the outdoors and spirit of volunteerism to help NSSF promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports by increasing participation through First Shots and other programs,” said NSSF Director of Shooting Range Services Zach Snow.”

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

To cap off the free event, attendees were treated to gift bags and a picnic-style lunch.

The event was part of Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program—and sponsored by partners including Roofers International, NSSF, Savage Arms, Roofers Local 96, BAC Local 1, Central MN BCTC and other local union groups. Sixteen volunteers donated 84 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 heritage,” said Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson, who attended the event and personally coached dozens of youth shooters on the sporting clays range. “Plus, events like this foster relationships among union members from all AFL-CIO unions, and between unions and their communities.”

Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson advises a fledgling sporting clays enthusiast on gun handling and aiming.

“These types of hands-on, interactive youth events are critical to the future of hunting and recreational shooting,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance, who was also on hand mentoring shooters on the firing line. “This event in particular is a shining example of the great things that happen when unions and groups like the USA and NSSF join forces to assist American union workers in sharing their passion for the outdoors with the next generation of hunters and recreational shooters.”

“The USA and its union, industry and conservation allies support a variety of youth mentorship programs and outreach events across the nation,” Vance noted. “We are proud to provide opportunities for young people and their families to experience the fun and rewards of recreational shooting, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.”

 

 

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Dedicates Newly Renovated Vilas Park Fishing Pier 


September 19, 2018 in Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union volunteers join together to celebrate the completion of the USA’s Vilas Park Work Boots on the Ground fishing pier project, improving access to the lake for all.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), volunteers from the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin (BTC) and a crowd of union and community leaders, volunteers, park staff and youths gathered at the newly renovated Vilas Park Fishing Pier in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 14, 2018 to celebrate better public access to popular Lake Wingra.

Using funds raised at the USA’s annual AFL-CIO, BTC Madison Area Conservation Dinner, more than 50 local union volunteers teamed up with the USA and the city of Madison to transform the park’s original floating fishing pier—which was languishing in disrepair in a city storage yard—into a safe structure fully accessible to residents of all physical abilities.

More than $28,000 in materials and nearly $10,000 in union volunteer labor were donated to the project, which was organized under through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program. Volunteers coordinated transportation of the pier to one of the local union shops where over the course of a cold Wisconsin winter, numerous repairs were made, including the installation of new decking and a sturdy railing system.

In preparation for installation of the renovated pier, volunteers and union contractors also designed and constructed a pier abutment as well as a new sidewalk and steps on the edge of Lake Wingra.

Four-year-old Natalie Paull of Madison caught her first fish while fishing with her father, Adam, within minutes of the dedication ceremony.

As a testament to the access the new pier provides community members to Wingra’s panfish, bass and other gamefish, the structure was in use within minutes of the dedication. As union representatives and volunteers packed up to leave, Adam Paull of Madison took his four-year-old daughter Natalie fishing on the new pier. Thanks to the abundant and hungry sunfish schooling a short cast from the dock, she quickly reeled in the first fish of her life.

Natalie was ecstatic, while her father was grateful to the union volunteers, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and other project partners for providing a place to create such priceless memories. “This is great,” he said. “The pier is in the perfect place for us to enjoy the lake together and catch fish.”

City officials were likewise grateful. “I’m deeply appreciative to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and all the trades for making this happen,” said Madison Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp. “The high quality of craftsmanship displayed by these union volunteers is a testament to their commitment to this project and to their community, and marks the continuation of a longstanding tradition of union workers giving back to the city of Madison.”

“The Building Trades Council has been working with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for six years to raise funds for conservation projects and Take Kids Fishing youth events,” said project leader BCT Executive Director Dave Branson. “We feel this fishing pier was a good project to give back to the community and make the lake accessible to everyone.”

“The Vilas Park pier project is an excellent example of how local unions are positively impacting their communities and the future of conservation through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” added USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This pier provides improved and safer public access for all residents to enjoy the fishery and beauty of Lake Wingra.”

In an outstanding display of solidarity and community service, a coalition of volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and skills to this project: Ironworkers (IW) Local 383, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Local 13, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) Local 314, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFIAW) Local 19, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 159, International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 132, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 7, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 113 and 330, Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 18, Badger Sheet Metal, Forse Consulting, Ideal Crane, Sullivan Design Build, Terra Engineering and Construction, and Wiedenbeck, Inc.

Union Volunteers, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Aid Wyoming Elk Management

August 22, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union volunteers recently collaborated with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to create a custom fence-crossing structure near Etna, Wyoming, that helps wildlife managers maintain healthy herds of free-ranging elk while protecting farmers’ crops from damage.

Volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 322 out of Casper donated 48 hours of skilled labor to install a gate-like “elk jump” along a fence that guides Wyoming elk during migrations between their high-country summer range and lower elevation winter feeding areas.

The volunteers reconfigured the fenceline, set poles, built a retaining wall and erected fencing. Lower Valley Energy provided a boom truck to aid in setting the poles during the project, which was organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.

Derek Lemon, habitat and access coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Jackson Region, said the structure will make it easier for managers to safely drive wayward Wyoming elk back onto the right side of the fence.

“An 8-foot-high fence runs roughly 20 miles along the boundary between public and private lands to facilitate elk movement from the mountains to state-run winter feeding grounds,” he explained. “When elk get on the wrong side of the fence, they damage crops and raid haystacks. In response, state game wardens are called in to push the animals back to where they need to be.”

Wyoming Elk

Volunteers secure a retaining wall to the “elk jump” structure.

Elk jumps, which serve as one-way gates, allow wardens to avoid chasing elk all the way to the end of the fence. “An elk jump is basically an opening in the fence with a corner and small ramp on one side, and six-foot drop on the other,” said Lemon. “The animals are willing to jump down to cross the fence, but rarely pass through in the other direction.”

Completion of the new crossing earlier this month considerably shortens the distance wardens must push elk back to public land. “This reduces stress on the animals and allows wardens to focus more time on other enforcement duties,” said Lemon.

“The project was on our to-do list, but we didn’t have the manpower to make it happen,” he added. “Having union volunteers and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance step in was fantastic because it allowed us to get the job done right away. It’s a win for the state, our wildlife and the local community.”

“When we learned of the need for this project, IBEW members jumped at the chance to help,” said IBEW Local 322 member Greg Moyer, who helped lead the construction effort.

“Union members are always interested in doing projects that improve the quality of life in our communities—and are particularly passionate about work that involves hunting, fishing, conservation and mentorship,” Moyer continued. “I’m grateful the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Work Boots on the Ground exist to help us with this community involvement.”

“Wyoming’s wintertime elk feeding program dates back more than a century and is critical to avoiding winter die-offs from starvation,” added USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “The USA is proud to help union members assist the Game and Fish Department in maintaining an abundance of elk that can be enjoyed by all citizens.”

Wyoming Elk

Members of IBEW Local 322 jumped at the chance to help the local elk herd and safeguard farmers’ crops.

USA, NSSF Join Forces to Introduce Youths to the Shooting Sports

August 20, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

 

shooting sports

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) are joining forces to introduce youths and their families to the enjoyment and rewarding experiences of safe and responsible recreational shooting.

Utilizing a $30,000 NSSF grant, the USA will hold a series of three pilot events through its Work Boots on the Ground program in which union volunteers trained in firearms safety instruction provide participants hands-on introductions to shooting disciplines including trap, sporting clays, riflery and archery.

Thanks to the NSSF grant and funds raised at USA shoots, dinners and other events, all supplies including eye and hearing protection, firearms and ammunition will be provided at no charge.

The USA pilot events will be part of NSSF’s successful First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports.

The first pilot event is set for Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 in concert with the USA’s 7th Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day—a free event open to boys and girls ages 9 to 17. The event will be held at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays Shooting Facility in Clear Lake, Minnesota, just north of Minneapolis. Attendees will also learn about wildlife, conservation and other outdoor traditions.

Additional events are planned for Tennessee and Texas in 2019.

“We’re excited to launch this pilot project with NSSF,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “American union workers are as passionate about passing our shared outdoor heritage to the next generation as they are about hunting, fishing and shooting. USA Work Boots on the Ground youth projects have engaged thousands of youths, and NSSF’s support will assist us in further expanding these efforts.”

In turn, NSSF Director of Shooting Range Services Zach Snow said his organization is eager to tap union members’ love of the outdoors and spirit of volunteerism in NSSF’s quest to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports by increasing participation.

“Research has revealed a high percentage of hunters and shooters in union households,” he explained. “Working with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to help these folks create new shooters is a great fit for First Shots. We look forward to seeing this project grow and thrive.”

The USA-NSSF alliance follows USA partnerships with fishing industry powerhouse Pure Fishing and conservation champions Pheasants Forever and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The USA also recently partnered with industry leading product sales group Outtech and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic resources by increasing participation in fishing and boating.

“Like the relationships with our charter unions and other allies, these agreements help the USA maintain its record-setting growth as we harness the passion, power and skills of Labor of union volunteers to impact the future of North America’s outdoor heritage in communities across the country,” said Vance.

Union Volunteers Expand Boy Scouts’ Camp Meriwether Shooting Sports Facilities

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

Camp Meriwether

Union volunteers helped construct three new ranges at Camp Meriwether.

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

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

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

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

Camp Meriwether

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nichols Park Restoration Receives USA 2017 Conservation Project of the Year Award

August 2, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Nichols Park Restoration

Oklahoma AFL-CIO President Jim Curry and Communications Director Debra Wojtek accepted the 2017 Conservation Project of the Year Award from USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance (L) and Director of Conservation Forrest Parker (R) on behalf of the many union partners involved in the Nichols Park restoration.

Union volunteers’ restoration of historic Nichols Park in Henryetta, Oklahoma, as a community gathering place in the great outdoors has garnered the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 2017 Conservation Project of the Year Award.

Including follow-up work in 2018, more than 100 union workers from 23 union locals donated over 2,475 hours of skilled labor valued at nearly $91,000 and raised in excess of $13,000 for materials to complete a variety of critical improvements to the popular park.

Among the upgrades, volunteers replaced a pavilion roof, improved lighting, replaced picnic tables, cleared overgrown areas and replaced a dilapidated fishing dock with an ADA-compliant floating pier. Union volunteers also built and installed a new flagpole at the park entrance and constructed new camp-style barbecue grills.

Part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, the Nichols Park restoration project was a team effort by the USA, the Oklahoma AFL-CIO and Oklahoma State Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC).

“This project is a picture-perfect representation of what drives the USA’s mission and how the union community eagerly embraces the opportunity to unite for conservation and community service,” said USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker, who announced the award July 24 at the USA’s annual Conservation Gala in Washington, D.C. “Union volunteers completely transformed an aging, poorly maintained city park into a place where the community can once again come together to enjoy the outdoors.”

Nichols Park Restoration

Union volunteers donated more than $100,000 in labor and materials to restore Nichols Park as a community gathering place in the outdoors.

Henryetta Mayor Jennifer Clason hailed the project and declared a special “Union Day” in its honor. “Restoring this historic park, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1941, was fabulous for our city,” she said. “What union volunteers did would have taken months for city crews to even begin to accomplish. The fishing dock would have been years out, if even on the radar due to the dilapidated infrastructure our city faces.

“We will be forever thankful to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for making this project happen without cost to our city,” Clason added. “It was truly amazing to see our park transformed from a work in progress to a dream getaway.”

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and skills to the Nichols Park restoration project: Oklahoma State AFL-CIO; Oklahoma BCTC; OPEIU Local 381; IAHFI Locals 94 and 64; TWU Local 514; UA Locals 344 and 430; IBEW Locals 584, 1002, 1141; NALC Local 442; GMP Local 48; SMART Locals 124 and 270; IUOE Local 627; BAC Local 5; IAMAW Local 850; Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma; LIUNA Local 107; USW; Roofers Local 143; and the city of Henryetta.

“It feels good being part of something that benefits your community,” said Oklahoma BCTC Executive Director Jimmy Fish. “I’m proudest of the new pier, which gives people a place to fish in the local area. It was very rewarding to see all the kids come down here and catch fish on it during the dedication celebration.”

Nichols Park Restoration

Among the many improvements to the park, union volunteers replaced a dilapidated fishing dock with an ADA-compliant floating pier.

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

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

Kids Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

Kids Fishing

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

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

“Take Kids Fishing Day events aim to educate a future generation of American anglers from diverse communities and backgrounds,” explained USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “With more than 40 million anglers generating $35 billion in retail sales and $600 million for fisheries conservation and public water access through special excise taxes each year, it’s critical to continue recruiting new anglers.”

Stroede noted additional benefits of teaching kids to fish. “Research has shown that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for children to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation,” he said.

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

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

 

Union Led Wolftever Creek Project Enhances TN Fishing And Boating Access

May 11, 2018 in General, Work Boots On The Ground

Spanning more than 36,000 acres, Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga is a popular destination for anglers and other watersports enthusiasts from within the state and around the country.

Fishing is a prime draw. The scenic reservoir is consistently ranked among the nation’s top bass fisheries and currently holds the Tennessee state records for both largemouth and spotted bass. Recreational boating, waterskiing, kayaking, swimming and camping also attract thousands of visitors each year. Unfortunately, funds to maintain and enhance public access to this crown jewel of the Tennessee River system are chronically tight.

To help remedy the situation, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and a dedicated team of union volunteers stepped up to complete a major overhaul of one of Chickamauga’s busiest access points, the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp adjacent to Harrison Bay State Park just outside of Chattanooga.

The renovation expanded year-round public access by replacing an existing dilapidated dock with a brand-new, 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier.

Before Photos:

Union volunteers donated approximately 300 hours of labor to demolish the old dock April 7, install the new pier April 21 and align the structure on April 28. Volunteers also replaced damaged and unsafe floor boards and the top rail of a fishing pier adjacent to the boat launch.

The final phase of the project, set for completion by the end of May, includes the installation of an additional handrail on the pier abutment and transition plates between dock sections. In the meantime, the pier is open for use.

The project was part of USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, which brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and talents 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 WBG program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.

The Wolftever Creek project was conducted without the use of 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.

The project originated when UAW Local 42 expressed interest in taking on a community-based conservation project, and USA research revealed strong public support for improvements to the Wolftever Creek ramp.

Demolition & Renovation Photos:

“Unions are always looking for ways to get involved and improve their communities,” said UAW Local 42 President Steve Cochran. “The Wolftever Creek boat ramp was one of the most heavily used access points to the lake, but it was really unsafe and unusable in the winter due to low water levels. Replacing the boat ramp is a project that UAW Local 42 really wanted to get involved in to benefit the public and demonstrate that we care about our community.”

Along with UAW Local 42, participating union members also represent the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 175, Ironworkers (IW) Local 704 and Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 5.

“The Wolftever Creek project is an excellent example of how local unions are positively impacting their communities and the future of conservation through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This dock benefits thousands of fishermen and other recreational boaters who use the Wolftever Creek boat ramp. It not only improves the aesthetic value of this location but provides improved and safer access to all who utilize it.”

TWRA officials were grateful for USA and union volunteers’ assistance in making the Wolftever Creek ramp renovation a reality faster than limited state budgets and manpower could have allowed.

“The donations and hard work of the Union Sportsmen allowed us to accomplish this project more quickly,” said Capt. Matt Clarey, who oversees boat access areas and ramps for TWRA Region III. “We’re pleased to work alongside such great citizens. This partnership will benefit Tennesseans for years to come.”

UAW Local 42 Vice President David Gleeson noted the added benefits of having union members from different trades join forces in pursuit of common goals such as conservation and community service.

“Volunteer projects like the one at Wolftever Creek build comradery and enable members of various union trades to discuss issues,” he said. “We had ironworkers, sheet metal workers and auto workers. But at the worksite, we were all just workers. Nobody had a big head. We just helped one another out with what needed to be done.”

After Photos:

Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp Receives Complete Renovation

April 23, 2018 in General, Press Release

Wolftever Creek

Anglers and recreational boaters will enjoy improved access to Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga, thanks to a major overhaul of the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp, including the installation of a new pier on April 21, by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and a dedicated team of union volunteers.

Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp is located adjacent to Harrison Bay State Park just outside of Chattanooga and is one of the area’s most heavily used public water accesses. The renovation expands year-round public access to the 36,000-acre Tennessee River impoundment by replacing an existing dilapidated dock with a brand-new, 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier.

Union volunteers donated approximately 300 hours of labor to demolish the old dock April 7 and install the new pier April 21. Volunteers will return to install an additional handrail on the pier abutment, align the floating section of the pier and install transition plates between dock sections. In the meantime, the pier is open for use. Volunteers also replaced damaged and unsafe floor boards and the top rail of a fishing pier adjacent to the boat launch.

Before Photos:

Part of USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, the project was conducted without the use of 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.

The project originated when UAW Local 42 expressed interest in taking on a community-based conservation project, and USA research revealed strong public support for improvements to the Wolftever Creek ramp.

“Unions are always looking for ways to get involved and improve their communities,” said UAW Local 42 President Steve Cochran. “The Wolftever Creek boat ramp was one of the most heavily used access points to the lake, but it was really unsafe and unusable in the winter due to low water levels. Replacing the boat ramp is a project that UAW Local 42 really wanted to get involved in to benefit the public and demonstrate that we care about our community.”

Along with UAW Local 42, participating union members also represent the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 175, Ironworkers Local 704 and Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 5.

Demolition & Renovation Photos:

“The Wolftever Creek project is an excellent example of how local unions are positively impacting their communities and the future of conservation through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This dock will benefit thousands of fishermen and other recreational boaters who use the Wolftever Creek boat ramp. It will not only improve the aesthetic value of this location but provide improved and safer access to all who utilize it.”

TWRA officials were grateful for USA and union volunteers’ assistance in making the Wolftever Creek boat ramp renovation a reality faster than limited state budgets and manpower allowed.

“The donations and hard work of the Union Sportsmen allowed us to accomplish this project more quickly,” said Capt. Matt Clarey, who oversees boat access areas and ramps for TWRA Region III. “We’re pleased to work alongside such great citizens. This partnership will benefit Tennesseans for years to come.”

After Photos: