The longest-serving member of Congress visited campus Tuesday to commemorate the University’s 10-year partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.
Rep. John Dingell (D—Mich.) joined alumni, faculty and students from the School of Natural Resources and the Environment in the Dana Building for a press conference to laud the collaboration’s success.
The event was prompted by the Detroit River IWR’s recent hiring of Catherine Dennis, a SNRE alum. Dennis will join three other SNRE alumni hired by the Detroit River IWR in the last 10 years.
The speakers at the conference included SNRE Dean Marie Lynn Miranda, SNRE Prof. Bob Grese and John Hartig, Detroit River IWR refuge manager.
The University’s partnership with the Detroit River IWR began, just three years after the project first commenced. The SNRE also partners with the Detroit River IWR for graduate training by sending students to the site to do field-based work and using the Detroit River IWR’s resources to teach critical concepts in landscape architecture.
The Detroit River IWR is the only international wildlife refuge in North America and one of the major metropolitan wildlife refuges in the country. It encompasses Humbug Marsh, which Hartig said is designated as a “wetland of international importance.”
In his address, Dingell said the refuge has preserved and protected lands, as well as opened them up to public use.
“We’re leaving the wildlife here to be enjoyed and be loved and be seen and we’re doing it under one of the great conservation organizations in the world, the Fish and Wildlife Service,” he said.
Some SNRE faculty said they are grateful for the University’s partnership with the refuge. At the conference, Miranda said she felt optimistic about upholding the arrangement in the future, stressing the common goals of the SNRE and the refuge.
“I feel that Congressman Dingell, the school and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hold a very strong core value in common and that is a deep and unrelenting commitment to the preservation and protection and sensible use of natural resources of the environment,” Miranda said.
In comments at the event, Grese said the partnership aids the school’s students and helps train them to analyze an environment’s unique ecological and social characteristics, as well as create designs to harmonize the two.
“The refuge has been a really important laboratory for use in terms of looking at ways we can use our unique design scales as ecological designers, to try to restore important habitats and create places that really connect people with nature as a part of the urban metro area in Detroit,” Grese said.
When introducing Dingell, Hartig lauded the congressman’s persistent efforts to preserve and protect the environment. During his tenure in Washington, Dingell helped pass the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
“Every time the U.S. Wildlife Services has needed a voice in Washington on conservation and sustainability, Congressman Dingell has been the first person to stand up and walk the walk,” Hartig said.
During his speech, Dingell mentioned the beauty of the natural environment, referencing the work of President Theodore Roosevelt and his efforts in sustainability.
“God didn’t make many of these wonderful places and it’s a wonderful world he gave us,” said Dingell.