What happens when trade unions and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) come together for conservation? From past joint operations, it seems what we get is lots of hard work from people who know the meaning of hard work, and lots of science-driven biome best practices from the people who know the meaning of wildlife biology. That partnership is getting more official every day: Today, the USFWS and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) solidified a partnership that promises to benefit millions of hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts for generations to come. A recently signed agreement builds on past successes between the Service and the USA by creating new volunteer opportunities for skilled union trades workers to engage in infrastructure and access projects on national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries.
The agreement will facilitate volunteer public service opportunities for USA members that will support outdoor recreation, environmental and recreational education and other opportunities on Service-managed lands. It also aligns with the Administration’s commitment to maintain and expand recreational access on America’s public lands.
“We’re thrilled to team with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance in meeting our infrastructure needs,” said U.S. Fish and Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “The Service depends on volunteers to help meet those needs, and the efforts of trades workers are greatly valued and appreciated.”
With federal investment in infrastructure maintenance at about one-quarter the level seen in the private sector, the Service relies heavily on volunteers to complete projects and execute programs that maximize public access and opportunities.
The USA is poised to fulfill that need through its Work Boots on the Ground program, in which union members volunteer their time and trade skills to complete critical conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects in communities across the country.
The USA’s ability to unite highly skilled union trades workers who are eager and willing to donate their time and talents has already supported a string of success stories at Service properties. These include:
- Construction of a 500-foot elevated boardwalk at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Liberty, Texas, representing a donation of more than 900 volunteer hours valued at more than $30,000.
- Restoration of a 150-foot fishing and wildlife viewing pier on Champion Lake at Trinity River Refuge – representing a donation of 320 hours of labor worth nearly $15,000.
- Restoration of access roads and a wildlife observation tower, as well as construction of a non-motorized boat launch on the Tinicum Tidal Marsh at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia — accomplished by nearly 700 donated hours and heavy-equipment usage valued at more than $56,000.
- Donated labor plus a $10,000 grant from the USA’s United Outdoors Conservation Fund to construct a 100-foot wheelchair accessible walkway and three fishing stations around a popular pond at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Erie in Ohio.
- The volunteer coaching of novice hunters during a special mentored deer hunt at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, as well as the donation of hunting stands and other materials to elevate the experience of the mentored hunters.
“The USA has already been a valuable partner,” said Trinity Refuge biologist Laurie Gonzales. “The work they do is monumental. It allows more of the American public to get out and witness the natural beauty we have to offer. Our national treasures are out on display because of what the USA does.”
USA Director of Conservation and Communications Forrest Parker said the agreement facilitates the group’s continued engagement with Service sites across the country.
“It will allow the USA and its nearly 300,000 union members to further improve millions of Americans’ ability to access and enjoy these public resources,” he said. “This improved access will come through our member-led conservation projects as well as outreach events that encourage people to embrace their outdoor heritage.”
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