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This Lawmaker Receives An OK

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A Naturalist’s Journal: 

This Lawmaker Receives An OK

By Doug Fulton

Every so often in this column, I become angry with and then try properly to castigate congressmen and representatives in general for failing to pass (or in some cases even bring out of committee) a much needed piece of conservation legislation.

Once in a while I get a question from a friend on the order of, “Are there any congressmen you know who are doing a good job in conservation?”

Yes, Virginia, there are good congressmen. And one of the best, insofar as conservation issues are concerned, is from right here in Michigan.

Unfortunately, conservation topics seldom get headlines of the type usually reserved for such things as foreign aid, missiles, the Mafia, and farm surpluses.

A member of Congress who really sticks his neck out on conservation issues and fights for his beliefs is up against a very powerful bunch of special-interest lobbies. If these lobbies had their way, the word conservation would be defined in the dictionary as exploitation.

But if you take all the conservation bills which have been passed in the last few years and give a good searching look at the men who have sponsored them, and worked for them, one name seems to pop out consistently — John Dingell of Michigan’s 15th District. 

Now I’ve never met Rep. Dingell, and since he’s from another district I’ve never had the opportunity to vote for him. But I do know what he has done for for the cause of conservation in this country, and I only hope the voters of his district appreciate him as much as the rest of us do

Let’s take a look at some of the legislation he has authored or sponsored:

Enactment of Public Law 660, the first really meaningful federal water pollution control act, and subsequent revisions which strengthened this act by setting up a Federal-State program of pollution abatement works construction. Under the provisions of this bill, much needed impetus has been given to communities wishing to solve the pollution problem by direct action, including some of the first treatment plants ever on the Mississippi River; 

Enactment of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and the provision for the $3 duck stamp for refuge acquisition;

Legislation accelerating the program of refuge acquisition for migratory waterfowl;

Enactment of administrative regulations to require the Bureau of Public Roads and state highway authorities to take appropriate measures to protect streams from destruction or impair-pairment because of highway construction.

Legislation increasing the penalties for market hunting of migratory waterfowl;

New regulations from the Department of the Interior to prevent nation wildlife refuges from commercial exploitation, oil drilling, and uses inconsistent with their fundamental purposes;

One of the original sponsors of the Wilderness Bill and the Save our Shorelines legislation. In this session of Congress Rep. Dingell has introduced a compromise Wilderness Bill which may at last enable this vital piece of legislation to get through the committee which has blocked all attempts to bring it to a vote before this time;

Co-sponsorship (with Rep. John Blatnik, another good conservationist) of House Bill 3166 and 3167 of this Congress, authorizing the creation of an independent agency to handle water pollution within the Federal Government. This bill would also permit establishment of Federal standards for insertion of contaminants and pollutants into navigable waters.

These are but a few of the important pieces of legislation for which Rep. Dingell has fought since he became a congressman.

In his own words, “Conservation is something to which I have I devoted a great deal of my time in the Congress and it is, I must confess, somewhat a selfish interest. I want to leave to my boys and to their great grandchildren something of the mountains, woods, waters, and wildlife which I enjoyed as a boy.” 

If that is a selfish interest, then would that we had a few more selfish people. ... f

Conseravtion implies the ability and the willingness to look beyond tomorrow. On this score John Dingell rates highly.

It’s too bad there are so few like him in our law-making bodies. 


Image caption: REP. JOHN DINGELL