Senate passes Levin-Stabenow bill to improve Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Monday, December 31, 2012

WASHINGTON –The Senate unanimously passed legislation authored by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and co-sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., this week to preserve more than 32,000 of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as wilderness, while providing important access to the lakeshore’s recreational opportunities and cultural resources. 

Companion legislation offered in the House by Rep. Bill Huizenga could still pass before the end of the current Congress on Tuesday, culminating 13 years of efforts by the local community, the National Park Service and in Congress to update the lakeshore’s general management plan and protect the park’s unique natural habitat from harmful development while enabling public access to its beaches, trails and streams.  Most of these areas have been managed as wilderness since 1982 when Congress passed a law that required the National Park Service to manage them as such until Congress acts upon a new recommendation. 

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore was ranked “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by ABC’s “Good Morning America” last year. 

“The Senate’s action is a big victory for all those who have worked to protect this precious slice of Michigan’s natural and cultural heritage,” said Levin. “It is a reward for years of effort by local officials and thousands of concerned citizens whose input helped shape this balanced land management plan. And it ensures that these woods, waters and beaches will be unspoiled for countless generations to enjoy. I’m hopeful that even in the last days of the 112th Congress the House can act and send this bill to the president.” 

“Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of our nation’s precious natural resources and a part of our Michigan way of life,” said Stabenow. “This wilderness designation will ensure visitors can continue to enjoy access to the sights, sounds and beauty of the Lakeshore and help preserve the most beautiful place in America.” 

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act was the product of an extensive public engagement process to redefine the areas managed as wilderness within the 71,000-acre lakeshore.  The plan reflects a balanced approach to conservation, recreation, and historic preservation, and it has the support of community groups, local government agencies, the National Park Service and environmental and historical preservation groups. 

Under the legislation, areas designated as wilderness are undeveloped and possess significant and valuable natural characteristics. Developed county roads and state highways, boat launches and many historical structures are excluded from the wilderness designation to maintain access and recreational opportunities and ensure preservation and interpretation of historical resources.  Hunting, fishing, trail use and camping would continue. Motor boats would still be allowed offshore of the dunes, and allowed to beach in areas adjacent to the wilderness area.