WASHINGTON – The Senate passed legislation in efforts to improve Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The legislation authored by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and co-sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. was passed unanimously.
The bill would preserve more than 32,000 of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as wilderness. Under the legislation, areas designated as wilderness are undeveloped and maintain valuable natural characteristics.
Boat launches and highways, along with many historical structures, are excluded from the wilderness designation in efforts to maintain access and recreational opportunities. Hunting, fishing, trail use and camping will still continue. Motorboats will be allowed offshore of the dunes and allowed to beach in areas adjacent to the wilderness area.
Another companion legislation offered to the house by Rep. Bill Huizenga could also pass before the end of the current Congress on Tuesday.
It’s all a change coming forth from 13 years of efforts by the local community, the National Park Service and Congress to update the lakeshores general management plan to and protect the park’s natural habitat from harmful development, all the while continuing access to its beaches, trails and streams.
“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,” Levin said. “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 was ranked “The Most Beautiful Place In America” by ABC’s “Good Morning America” last year.
“Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of our nation’s most precious natural resources and a part of our Michigan way of life,” Stabenow said. “The 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.”