By: Scott Vance, CEO & Executive Director, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance
What do you think of when someone says “a decade?” Most of us probably think of our own lives and how fast the years have gone by. I can certainly relate as my beard has turned gray and at least a portion of my hair has turned loose over these past 10 years! The most significant event in my entire life happened just 10 years ago when I became a dad. A decade used to seem like a long, long time to me, but as I’ve put more decades in my log book, they now seem shorter than ever.
The renowned iPhone was released just 10 years ago. YouTube was launched in late 2006 and now houses nearly 82 million videos. Ten years ago, Facebook was made available to anyone over the age of 13 and now has 1.8 billion users. Ten years, ago Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana. And last, but certainly not least, just 10 short years ago, several visionary union labor leaders and conservationists announced that they were forming a group called the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) that would unite labor unions all across this great nation for conservation and the preservation of our outdoor heritage.
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 10 short years since our union leaders teamed with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) to form what is now a thriving and influential conservation organization. In those ten years, a tremendous amount has happened. The USA has grown from a sportsmen’s club into a true conservation powerhouse that makes a difference in hundreds of thousands of lives each year through our Work Boots on the Ground and youth outreach programs. Each year, thousands of union members come to connect and enjoy USA dinners and sporting clays shoots that help drive our conservation efforts. The USA has also grown into a permanent, self-sustaining non-profit which no longer requires the support of TRCP, but it still strongly values the partnership and relationships we’ve built together.
I am still very much a rookie with the USA, but in my few months on the team I find myself constantly awed and energized by the overarching concept and untapped potential. Uniting patriotic, tireless union members through conservation and for conservation leaves a legacy that will live on long after we all are gone. We put to work the innovation, knowledge, determination and drive of a labor community that has a resilient and an undying dedication to the progress and success of this country. We are connected by shared skills, bound by a common purpose, and united by a passion to leave things better than we found them. Harnessing the power of our labor unions and putting that energy to work for conservation was not only visionary, but it also has the potential to be the most influential thing to happen for conservation in a very long time.
In a few months we will complete our one hundredth Work Boots on the Ground project. What a testament this milestone project is to the men and women who volunteer their time, skills and resources to help others enjoy the outdoors. Started in 2010, the Work Boots on the Ground program has improved access to millions of acres of wild places and connected thousands of people to the outdoors. Our goal is to not only continue these vitally important conservation infrastructure projects, but to substantially grow them over the next several years. As state and federal agency budgets continue to shrink, the USA will become even more important to building and sustaining the vital infrastructures of our parks, wildlife management areas and public waters.
We are also focused on growing our community outreach programs. We want to create a fun and safe learning environment that not only allows you, and your family, to spend more time enjoying the outdoors, but also unites a community around conservation, labor and outdoor heritage. USA members tell us that three things are vitally important to them when it comes to the outdoors. First, they want to spend more time in the outdoors with family and friends. Secondly, they want to have more places to hunt, fish, shoot, camp, boat and recreate outdoors and they want quality experiences when they do these things. And, finally, they want to pass along this vitally important outdoor heritage to the next generation. The USA wants to build programs and events that do all of these things. We will need your input, ideas and, most importantly, your energy to help us grow the next generation of conservation leaders and the next chapter for the USA. The time to change the future of conservation is now, and I know that together we are up for that challenge.
I am enthusiastic, excited and a little impatient to see what the next 10 years hold for our organization and our great nation. I am honored and humbled to be a part of something so wonderful and with so much potential, and I can’t wait to be part of it with you and your family as our partners.