Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the Union Sportsmen's Alliance (USA), an organization representing affiliates and members of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), will sign a Memorandum of Understanding later today stating their collective commitment to rebuild, renew and restore our country's national parks, national wildlife refuges and other public lands alongside youth and veteran conservation corps.
The agreement, which will be signed at the Union Sportsmen's Alliance's Annual Conservation Gala in the nation's capital, will pair the Union Sportsmen's Alliance all-volunteer "Work Boots on the Ground" program with shovel-ready projects on public lands.
"This agreement with the AFL-CIO and the Union Sportsmen's Alliance is really a win-win," said Secretary Jewell. "Not only will our nation's parks and public lands benefit from the expert labor, but many young people will have an opportunity to work alongside the volunteers, learning about the great outdoors and gaining important trade skills. I applaud the Union Sportsmen's Alliance for their work to continue to strengthen the nation through volunteer efforts that will make a big difference in conservation projects across the country."
The MOU outlines a mutual commitment to the cooperative "Work Boots on the Ground" program among the Department of the Interior and its three land-managing bureaus - the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management - and the AFL-CIO, acting through the Union Sportsmen's Alliance.
"America's workers are committed to doing our part to save our nation's parks and restore our public lands," said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. "The USA was established to unite the union community for conservation under a single banner, to protect our most precious and beautiful lands, waters and wild spaces."
There are already "Work Boots on the Ground" projects identified as "shovel-ready' in Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Minnesota, Maryland, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.
"When our union members show up with their tool belts on, they have the skills and training to get the job done," said Fred Myers, Union Sportsmen's Alliance Executive Director and CEO. "To every conservation project they take on, they bring an unmatched work-ethic, superior trade skills and a desire to give back to their community."
The Union Sportsmen's Alliance created the all-volunteer "Work Boots on the Ground" program in 2010 to provide a framework to recruit and coordinate members of the labor union community to volunteer their expert trade skills for conservation projects. In 2013, the Union Sportsmen's Alliance announced the launch of its park program. Since then, park projects have been completed in several states, saving agencies thousands of dollars. The park projects are in addition to many other "Work Boots on the Ground" projects around the country, including Get Youth Outdoors Day and Take Kids Fishing Day events in three cities.
The Union Sportsmen's Alliance reports there are more than 7 million union members who recreate regularly in the outdoors, making them one of the nation's largest single constituencies of outdoor users.
Today's agreement complements the Interior Department's youth initiative to inspire millions of veterans and young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. The Memorandum of Understanding emphasizes that, when possible, the AFL-CIO and Union Sportsmen's Alliance will work collaboratively with youth and veteran corps in order to share experience and expertise.