I still remember the slogan (and song) from the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union: “Look for the union lable....” It was a jingle written to convince people that pants, shirts and other clothes made in the USA, made by laborers who were in the ILGWU were better than the clothes being imported from Asia and other areas.
I’m not sure how that worked out, specifically, but the ILGWU is still around as are dozens of other labor unions and the millions of American workers belong to them. More than six million union workers across the country are outdoors enthusiasts in their non-working hours so it was a natural progression for union laborers to further unite and form the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. The Alliance’s mission statement reads: The mission of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.
The programs and projects performed by this group are varied as well as impressive. From youth mentoring, to competitions to promoting volunteerism from among their ranks, there are opportunities for all their members at many levels of engagement.
Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 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. An agreement has been formed, built on past successes between the Service and the USA, which creates new volunteer opportunities for skilled union trades workers to engage in infrastructure and access projects on national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries.
It creates 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 USFWS commitment to maintain and expand recreational access on America’s public lands.
It often seems congress has an unlimited treasury when it comes to doling out tax dollars to many federal agencies. The Department of Health and Human Services tops the list, the Defense Department isn’t far behind, neither is the Department of Agriculture which doesn’t even own any farm land. The Department of the Interior, of which the Fish and Wildlife Service is just a part, doesn’t even make the top ten list.
That’s why the U.S. Fish and Service Director, Aurelia Skipwith said, “We’re thrilled to team with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to help meet our infrastructure needs. 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 and public access projects in locations across the country.The USA’s ability to provide volunteer trades workers 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 Texas.
- Restoration of a 150-foot fishing and wildlife viewing pier on Champion Lake.
- 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 near Philadelphia.
- Donation of 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 in Ohio.
USA Director, Forrest Parker, said this agreement facilitates the group’s continued engagement with USFWS 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.”
For more information about the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, their support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other programs during these challenging times go to www.unionsportsmen.org.