Union members in the Northwest build waterfowl shutters for national wildlife refuges

Spring Hill, Tennessee—Northwest waterfowl hunters will have access to several new duck hunting locations in the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC) due to a recent Union Sportsmen’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation project Alliance (USA) completed by union volunteers.

Twenty apprentice members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 55 donated 400 labor hours to build eight shutters, including three wheelchair-accessible shutters, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) specifications, according to Travis Swayze , IBEW Local 112 business manager and 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 project in the US and I have to give the sheet metal workers credit for giving a step up and do it in the amount of time we had.”

SMART Local 55 apprentices building hunting blinds.

“When we pitched the project to Travis, he jumped on it,” said Sam Phipps, U.S. Conservation Programs Manager. “He knew how much of an impact it would have with the hunting public and a valued partner like the Fish and Wildlife Service, and took the reins.

On Saturday, October 8, 24 union volunteers from Electricians (IBEW) Local 112, Sheet Metal Workers (SMART) Local 55, and Painters (IUPAT) District Council 5 donated 100 hours to install four of the new hunting shutters at the National Wildlife Refuge. Umatilla, said Lamont Glass, manager of visitor services for the Mid-Columbia River NWRC.

“They were placed in a high-traffic unit where there was no shutter of any kind before,” Glass said, “so they will make a nice addition to our lottery drawing area.”

Overall, union members donated approximately 500 hours of labor, worth $26,500, to the blind waterfowl project, while funding for construction materials came from the FWS and proceeds from the Conservation Council Dinner. US Tri-Cities Building and Construction Trades

Volunteers from 24 union volunteers from IBEW Local 112, SMART Local 55, and IUPAT District Council 5 and some of their family members installed four blinds at the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge on October 24.

“And there were many more people behind the scenes who were part of the whole process,” Swayze added, “including volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Laborers’ International Union of North America; Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Railroad and Transportation Workers; International Association of Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons; 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 Unions; along with the Washington State, Central Washington, and Pendleton Building and Construction Business Councils, who were very involved in our chapter banquets. These fundraising dinners make projects like this possible.”

FWS staff will install a wheelchair-accessible shutter in a newly developed area on the McNary Wildlife Refuge, as well as a new shutter to replace an old shutter on the Cold Spring refuge, Glass explained. Two accessible shutters will be installed over the next year as opportunities arise to open new areas, she added.

“It was the first partnership of this shelter system with the US and local union volunteers, and it turned out well,” Glass said. “It was a huge labor cost savings for FWS, and we look forward to working together on future projects.”

“Given the nature of the union building and building trades, it makes sense for us to work with an organization like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance that supports our members’ activities,” concluded Swayze. “All union members 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.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA): USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to unions whose members hunt, fish, shoot, and volunteer their skills for conservation. America is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information visit www.unionsportsmen.org or plug in Facebook, Twitter Y Instagram.

Ground Work Boots (WBG): WBG is America’s flagship conservation program that brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise for conservation projects that enhance and enhance public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, they restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The U.S. Work Boots on the Ground program works closely with federal, state, and local agencies and other conservation groups to provide the labor needed to complete critical projects that might otherwise go undone.