Waterfowlers in the North­west will have access to several new duck hunt­ing blinds in the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC) because of a recent Union Sports­men’s Alliance (USA) Work Boots on the Ground conservation project completed by union volunteers.

Twenty sheet metal apprentices of SMART Local 55 donated 400 hours of labor to build eight blinds, including three wheelchair-acces­sible blinds, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) specifications, according to Travis Swayze, IBEW Local 112 business manager and the project leader.

“When the pandemic was in full swing, we postponed a couple of things, including a Take Kids Fishing event,” he said. “So this is really our first USA project. And I must hand it to the sheet metal workers for step­ping up and getting it done in the amount of time we had.”

“When we proposed the project to Travis, he jumped on it,” said USA Conservation Programs Manager Sam Phipps. “He knew how much of an impact it would have with the hunting public and a valuable partner like the Fish and Wildlife Service — and he picked up the reins.”

Twenty SMART Local 55 apprentices donated 400 hours to build eight blinds.

On Saturday, October 8, 24 union volunteers from SMART Local 55, IBEW Local 112 and IUPAT District Council 5 donated 100 hours to install four of the new hunting blinds on the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, said Lamont Glass, Mid-Columbia River NWRC visitor services manager.

“They were put into a high-traffic unit where no type of blind existed before,” Glass said, “so they’ll be a good addition to our lottery draw area.”

Overall, union members donated approximately 500 hours of labor, a value of $26,500, to the waterfowl blind project, while funding for building materials came from the FWS and proceeds from the USA’s Tri-Cities Building & Construction Trades Council Conservation Dinner.

“And there were many more people behind the scenes who were part of the whole process,” added Swayze, “including volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Laborers International Union of North America; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association; United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada; International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union; along with the Washington State, Central Washington and Pendleton Building & Construction Trade Councils, who were heavily involved in our chapter banquets. These fundraising dinners make projects like this possible.”

Twenty-four union volunteers and some family members installed four blinds at Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.

FWS personnel will install one wheelchair-accessible blind in a newly developed area at McNary Wildlife Refuge, as well as a new blind to replace an old pit blind at the Cold Spring refuge, Glass further explained. Two accessible blinds will be installed over the next year as opportunities to open new areas arise, he added.  

“It was this refuge system’s first partnership with the USA and local union volunteers, and it turned out well,” Glass said. “It was a great savings in labor costs for the FWS, and we look forward to working together on future projects.”

“With the nature of the union building and construction trades, it makes sense for us to work with an organization like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance that supports our members’ activities,” Swayze concluded. “All the union affiliates strive to give back to the communi­ties in which their members live and work, and our union brothers and sisters are always up for the task at hand.”

Local 19 retiree Keith Gilmer

Thanks to the strong support of his SMART pension, retired SM Local 19 (Southeastern Pa.) member Keith Gilmer has been able to spend plenty of time pursuing one of his passions: the outdoors.

“As a member, I was able to retire at the age of 55, and enjoy a few more years of good health than a lot of friends I know,” he explained. “I have been fortunate enough to make several hunting trips, and on my most recent one, I traveled to Newfoundland on a moose hunt.” Gilmer joined Mountaintop Outfitters — including the owner of the company, Art — for a successful trip: “I harvested a nice bull with a 40-and-a-half-inch spread … Previously I harvested, along with other bulls, a woodland caribou that is currently in the Boone and Crockett world record books.”

Because he was able to retire at 55 years old, Gilmer has the opportunity to devote a great number of years to exploring the natural world. It’s not something he takes for granted. “Thanks to groups like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, along with our local unions, we get to enjoy parts of our ‘golden years’ outdoors,” he added. “Thank you for your past support, as well as the days and years to come.”

Don’t just watch hunting or fishing shows from your couch. Be a guest star on “Brotherhood Outdoors,” a new cable television series of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance that will feature hardworking and hard playing union members.

UTU and other union members passionate about the outdoors and who wish to pass on their hunting and fishing heritage to the next generation, have potential to star in this TV series.

“Brotherhood Outdoors,” which will begin airing on the cable Sportsman Channel in July 2011, will portray two kinds of adventure. In some episodes, host Tom Ackerman will take guests on an outfitted hunting or fishing trip in North America, often with a union member-owned outfitting operation. In others, the tables will be turned as union guests play the guide, taking Tom to their secret hunting or fishing spot.

Whether you want to take a break from the do-it-yourself routine and join Tom for a guided hunting or fishing adventure, or show your union brothers and sisters and the rest of America that you’ve got the skill and experience to be the guide, send your application in and maybe you will be a star on “Brotherhood Outdoors.”

Click here to download an application.