“Forever Fields” Observation Platform Helps Public Enjoy Wildlife
A team effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Pheasants Forever (PF) and local union volunteers created a new viewing platform and observation deck on PF’s “Forever Fields” property in Knox County, Illinois, that will help visitors enjoy and better understand wildlife that relies on grassland and wetland ecosystems.
“This new structure will increase public awareness about conservation and educate visitors about a variety of wildlife species and their habitat needs,” said local Pheasants Forever biologist Scott James. “It will also provide users a higher quality experience for observing nature. Visitors can listen for singing birds and croaking frogs, watch wildlife, observe prairie grasses swaying in the wind, and overlook the peaceful landscape.”
The USA and Pheasants Forever signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in March 2017 allowing the two organizations to team up on conservation and habitat projects, mentored hunts, volunteer training and education. The first joint project to be completed since the MOU was signed, the new tower includes an ADA-compliant, handicap-accessible ramp, 4-foot-high wildlife viewing deck, and stairway leading to an observation platform that rises 11 feet above the surrounding landscape.
“The property is open to the public and we encourage everyone to visit,” James added. “We also plan to accommodate schools, groups of people with disabilities, scout groups, and other community organizations, specifically by hosting events on and next to this new platform.”
PF began construction of the project and purchased the materials with funding support from the USA. The USA brought together volunteers from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) Local 237 and International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 649, who were instrumental in helping complete the project in time to qualify for Illinois Clean Energy grant funding. Union volunteers donated 16 hours of labor while building a stairway to the observation deck and railing along the deck.
“It’s a blessing to share our God-given skills and time with our community,” said Matt Bender, a carpenter and business representative with UBC Local 237 who took the lead to recruit volunteers and complete the project. “This is a beautiful area. We’re glad to be part of making it accessible for everyone to enjoy.”
James said his organization is thankful for such support. “The time volunteers spent on this project is greatly appreciated,” he said. “The support from USA allows the construction expertise of its union members to supplement the biological and conservation expertise of Pheasants Forever so that higher-quality projects can be achieved. Pheasants Forever is very grateful for the support of USA and union volunteers on this project, and we are excited to work together on future projects. This partnership can only strengthen conservation and our hunting heritage.”
“The Forever Fields project is a great example of how partnerships, like the one formed between the USA and Pheasants Forever, result in more on-the-ground impact for conservation while opening up new opportunities for unions to improve their communities,” said Forrest Parker, USA director of conservation and community outreach. “We are grateful for our partnership with Pheasants Forever and for the members of Carpenters Local 237 and Operating Engineers Local 649, who volunteered their time and skills to complete this first joint project.”