The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Tuesday. In addition to 19 individuals, including several members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., — wife of the late former U.S. Rep. John Dingell — was in attendance at the Oval Office. The new law honors John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history who represented Ann Arbor and other Michigan cities for 59 years.
The act included various projects, programs, activities and studies that promote conservation, recreation, historic preservation and cultural resource protection.
According to Debbie Dingell, her husband would have been delighted by the smooth, successful collaboration between the opposing parties to uphold his beliefs and endeavors.
“John would have been so proud to see Democrats & Republicans come together to sign into law a landmark public lands bill to conserve and protect America’s wild plants, fish, animals, and their habitats,” Debbie Dingell wrote on Twitter. “Smiles and tears all at once.”
Specifically, the law permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has protected more than 40,000 sites and millions of acres of land across the nation. This is one of the largest wilderness bills passed in history. It both reauthorizes programs aiming to improve marine and wildlife habitats, as well as creates competitions for innovative approaches to wildlife conservation and protection issues, such as invasive species control.
The act additionally protects and expands significant monuments and parks central to African-American and civil rights history. The law sets forth the 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps, which aims to increase job training opportunities for all ages on public and tribal lands. The law also authorized the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which nationally provides all fourth graders free access to public lands.
LSA sophomore Kellee Byard, a student in Program in the Environment, emphasized the importance of protecting of Earth’s life, land and resources.
“We must consider how our current actions will affect those living seven generations ahead of us,” Byard said. “If we don’t conserve the environment we currently have, our children, their children and beyond won’t know the world we have now.”
LSA sophomore Camille Mancuso, communications director for the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats, highlighted the significance of incorporating both historical aspects and multiple identities in the law.
“These initiatives really seek to recognize the complexity of U.S. history,” Mancuso said. “Protecting our environment … in a way that keeps all of our land accessible to people no matter their identity and no matter their background is something that should be a really high priority as well.”
Byard said there should be universal support for fair and sustainable land use, wildlife protection and clean air and water maintenance.
“We all need biodiversity, water, resources,” Byard said. “So it’s paramount that people unify within our legislature to support our natural areas.”
LSA sophomore Kate Nachazel, vice president of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, said the bipartisan legislation was a great way to remember John Dingell’s life-long efforts to protect the environment.
“Although I’m not a Democrat and not the same side as him, I think he embodied the spirit of public service and is definitely someone to look up to when thinking about people who tried to change America in positive ways,” Nachazel said.
John Dingell was also a staunch advocate of the auto industry, a his track record was incorporated into the new law, as the MotorCities National Heritage Area will receive an authorization increase of $2 million.
Mancuso said the Dingells have been strong advocates for U-M students in Washington.
“Congressman Dingell’s passing was a great loss to this community and this country as a whole,” Mancuso said. “His work and passion never stopped and we genuinely appreciate all that he has given to us over the years. He is greatly missed.”