Secretary Jewell, President Trumka Celebrate Important Volunteer Partnership

LIBERTY, March 18, 2016 - As part of an ongoing partnership with the AFL-CIO and its official conservation organization, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, to restore parks and other public lands and waters, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives, and local leaders to officially dedicate a new boardwalk connecting the city of Liberty with the nearby Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge.

The construction of the new 500-foot Palmer Bayou Boardwalk, a project supported by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Liberty Community Development and the Friends of the Refuge, and built by the AFL-CIO and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and other volunteer organizations, will connect the city of Liberty with the refuge, allowing visitors to experience more than 30,000 acres of wildlife viewing, nature photography, hunting, fishing, hiking and other special events hosted throughout the year.

“The Palmer Bayou Boardwalk is a great example of the importance of volunteers to rebuild, renew and restore our country's national parks and national wildlife refuges,” Secretary Jewell said. “I applaud the AFL-CIO and the Union Sportsmen's Alliance for their collective effort and foresight in bringing together numerous volunteers whose invaluable contributions make a significant impact on important conservation projects nationwide. This boardwalk offers visitors, especially families, access to nature and some of America’s most unique wildlife.”

The boardwalk also represents the culmination of the largest conservation effort thus far under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2014 between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA). The USA is a labor union community dedicated to using its expert trade skills for the benefit of conservation projects on public lands nationwide through its "Work Boots on the Ground" program. The program enlists federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups that, due to budgetary constraints and cutbacks, lack the resources needed to get critical projects done.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance brings a lot more muscle to the conservation movement,” President Trumka said. “The volunteers who built the boardwalk at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge gave up numerous weekends, planned out the work zone, brought in and operated machinery and heavy materials, all in the face of intense heat, mosquitoes and a lot of mud and muck. To every conservation project USA volunteers 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 stepped up to work with the Refuge, the city of Liberty and others to construct the boardwalk. Members used their skills and expertise to build the boardwalk and observation deck despite less than optimal conditions, including record flooding. The boardwalk is the highlight of the "From Crosswalks to Boardwalks Initiative", a multi-partner effort that includes the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, the city of Liberty, multiple partners and others with the goal of encouraging the public to get outdoors.

“This project is a success story about how partnerships among agencies, communities and volunteers working together can accomplish great things," said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle. “I’m especially enthusiastic for schools to use the boardwalk as an outdoor classroom, directly connecting the next generation with nature and conservation.”

Today's dedication complements the Interior Department's youth initiative to inspire millions of veterans and young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. The existing 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.

Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1994 to protect a remnant of the bottomland hardwood forest found along the Trinity River. The refuge’s cypress-studded-lake and bottomland hardwood forest provides important breeding, wintering and stopover habitat for a variety of migratory and resident wildlife. A diversity of waterfowl and numerous Neotropical songbirds depend on the bottomland hardwood forests, forested swamps, open water and wet pastures. The upland areas of the refuge include natural pine and mixed pine-hardwood forest and cultivated pastures. Historically, this area of east Texas has played a key role in sustaining continental and Central Flyway waterfowl populations. The landscape supports abundant populations of white-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcat, and an estimated 800 types of butterflies and moths and two dozen species of reptiles, including alligators and cottonmouth snakes.


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