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USA Boots on the Ground Marches to Action
The USA’s new Boots on the Ground program brings together skilled union members willing to volunteer their skills and time on conservation projects that improve and enhance public access, wildlife habitat and outdoor experiences for communities across America. Boots on the Ground will work closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups that, due to budgetary constraints and cutbacks, don’t have the manpower needed to get important projects done.
Few groups are in a better position to help remedy this situation than USA members and their union brothers and sister, with their skills, devotion to hunting, fishing and the outdoors, and their "let’s get the job done" spirit.
When USA Regional Coordinator Jim Klatt, who is heading the Boots on the Ground program, put word out that the USA was looking for a few projects to test the concept, the phones started ringing. It wasn’t long before he realized there are hundreds, if not thousands, of projects that could use help from skilled union volunteers. Currently, Jim is talking with agencies and wildlife conservation groups in Nevada, Michigan, Alaska, Wisconsin, Maine and Washington State, while fielding inquiries from other states across the country.
The first Boots on the Ground project to gain real traction, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin, Whitetails Unlimited and Safari Club International, is a major whitetail deer study. Wisconsin’s DNR has the funds to purchase building materials for live-catch deer cages, which will be used to trap and radio-collar deer, but they don’t have the skilled manpower (in this case welders) or the workspace to build the cages. That’s where Boots on the Ground volunteers come in.
Jim got the ball rolling with a call to the state DNR and to Jose Bucio at the Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO, which has a long history of working with the DNR. Before long, union sportsmen, who we hail "welders for wildlife," stepped up to begin welding approximately 80 cages, which will be employed this winter. The four-year study will benefit the deer, hunters and every Wisconsinite who enjoys the presence of America’s most popular big game specie.
The USA is taking the Boots on the Ground program one step at a time to ensure the first projects are done right. But already, we see that the need for skilled union sportsmen volunteers is huge and one of the best ways the USA can help advance its mission to improve and enhance public access and wildlife habitat for all of America’s citizens.
Watch future issues of The Union Sportsmen’s Journal and the USA website for updates and progress reports on Boots on the Ground program and to learn how you too can participate in projects that benefit your community.