As I glanced out my office window, I saw a chubby gray squirrel struggling up a limb with a plump red crabapple in his mouth. He stopped for moment, obviously out of breath and contemplating his next move. I was mesmerized by his soft gray coat, sparkling black eyes and clumsy agility as he anticipated his next meal. As I watched, autumn’s leaves started to fall around him with their deep garnet and fiery orange hues. My mind’s eye shifted to the expectation of crunching hoof beats from a frosty morning tree stand, the low, guttural quack of a hen mallard and the explosive flush of a rooster pheasant. I was instantly transported to the field in anticipation of what this new season would bring.
As I reflect on the last few months, it occurs to me that life’s seasons are also filled with endless beauty, bountiful harvests and the tremendous expectation of what lies ahead. This time has been very humbling for me. It is an incredible honor to serve the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. I cannot thank Chairman Trumka and our Board of Directors enough for entrusting me with a leadership position in this organization. I have heard extraordinary things about USA, especially the union skilled, committed and passionate volunteers. Words do not adequately describe how excited I am to join this amazing team.
As we approach our tenth anniversary, I know you are all eager to do more and continue growing this legacy of conservation. Congratulations on your tremendous success! The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is truly becoming a major conservation influence. Striving to always be better and do more is indeed the cornerstone of a great team. This is a critical time for our country and the conservation culture we all love. I believe we are seeing a conservation movement rivaled only by the historic efforts of great leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell and Gifford Pinchot. Our country is becoming more urban, less connected to the outdoors and ultimately less engaged in conservation. The future of hunting, angling, shooting and our conservation heritage depends on passionate, dedicated people who are willing to think differently, partner broadly and build a sustainably bright future for our country and all of its people. I believe the labor unions are overflowing with this type of commitment, and I am proud to join you as we fight the good fight.
I believe the next decade will be the most important time in our country’s conservation history. We are at a crossroads where we must embrace new ways to not only deliver conservation, but also ensure that it remains a well-funded, top priority for our political leaders and mainstream America. Outdoor sportsmen and women have always gladly carried the responsibility of supporting wildlife and wild places, and I believe they will continue to do so, but in potentially different ways and through more innovative approaches – like what the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance offers. It will take new partnerships, new funding sources and most importantly, passionate people willing to give their time, energy and ideas for a stronger conservation future.
I started my career in conservation nearly 25 years ago as a graduate student doing work on bobwhite quail and ring-necked pheasant in southern Iowa. I grew up in rural western North Carolina, and I cannot remember a time that I wasn’t completely obsessed with fish, wildlife, the woods and their wonderment. I am a hunter, an angler, a father, a husband and a committed conservationist. I am most at peace when I am in the woods or on the water. There is nothing I find more rewarding than seeing my 9-year-old little boy discover the beauty of God’s creation and appreciate the bounty he has entrusted us to oversee. I not only understand the mission and vision of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, but I live it each and every day.
We are uniquely positioned to not only harness the passion and commitment of sportsmen and women, but to combine that with the solidarity, strength and impact of our labor unions. I cannot think of a group with more potential to influence the future of conservation in a meaningful, people-centered way than the USA. I believe it is important that you find meaning in your work, and I am blessed to work where I truly believe in what we do and why we do it. I can’t wait to get started serving with all of you. I am here because I believe we have an unparalleled opportunity to change people’s lives.
A lot of organizations set lofty goals and visionary expectations, but few of them have the talent, passion and perseverance to achieve them. I believe The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance not only has the vision, but the right people to change the future of conservation. I look forward to making that happen together!