Murkowski, Whitehouse Introduce Don Young Veterans Advancing Conservation Act in Honor of Former Congressman

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), co-chairs of the Senate Oceans caucus, with Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joining as original co-sponsors, introduced the Don Young Veterans Advancing Conservation Act (DY VACA), legislation which aims to help support veterans’ mental health by giving them the opportunity to reinvest their talent, training, and potential to benefit America’s marine environments. Specifically, this legislation creates a new program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which would provide grants to nonprofit groups that hire, retrain, and redeploy veterans and would fund them to conduct coastal, Great Lakes, and underwater conservation missions.


This legislation was originally drafted in the U.S. House of Representatives by the late Congressman Don Young (R-AK) during the 117th Congress. The Alaska State Legislature established June 9th as Don Young Day—a day to commemorate Alaska’s late congressman, who was born on June 9, 1933 and passed away on March 18, 2022 after serving Alaska in the House for 49 years. Senator Murkowski announced the bill today to honor the life and legacy of the former Dean of the House and Congressman for All Alaska.


“Alaskans have established June 9th as Don Young Day to honor the incredible contributions he made to the 49th state and all of America. This day of celebration dovetails the close of Capitol Hill Oceans Week – making today the perfect opportunity to highlight this legislation,” said Senator Murkowski. “As we continue to work to address the ongoing mental health crisis in America and to combat the rising numbers of veteran suicides, this legislation gives us the unique opportunity to help address two seemingly unrelated problems: the rapidly declining health of our oceans and the employment challenges military members face as they work to adjust to civilian life following their service. When Don Young, the former Congressman for all Alaska drafted this legislation, he knew it would be good for veterans and good for the environment. I hope that my Senate colleagues will rally around this legislation to honor Don Young’s life, and to create a healthier future for us all.”


“Veterans have honed skills that translate well to supporting complex conservation efforts,” said Senator Whitehouse, co-founder of the Senate Oceans Caucus.  “I am pleased to co-lead this bipartisan legislation to connect veterans transitioning to civilian life with jobs that will help improve the health of our oceans.”


“Don Young was a longtime champion of Alaska’s oceans, including as my partner in the House ushering through the Save Our Seas and SOS 2.0 Acts, which are helping combat the global marine debris crisis,” said Senator Sullivan. “In recognition of his work and important legacy, I’m honored to join Senator Murkowski and our colleagues in introducing the Don Young Veterans Advancing Conservation Act—one of the last bills Don hoped to introduce before his passing. Our legislation is a win-win: bolstering the resources needed to conduct underwater conservation missions and unlocking career opportunities for veterans to put their diving skills to work for the good of our marine ecosystems.”


“Whether it’s posttraumatic stress or failure to adjust, people talk a lot about veterans’ problems, and for good reason,” says Steve "Gonzo" Gonzalez, former U.S. Navy Master Chief SEAL and current Director of Operations at Force Blue. "But we like to emphasize veterans’ potential. There are so many things that veterans are capable of. They just need a chance. Give them that chance, and they’ll surprise you with how eager they are to learn, how eager they are to reach that next ridgeline, and how eager they are to do a great job.”

Murkowski, Whitehouse Introduce Don Young Veterans Advancing Conservation Act in Honor of Former Congressman