A win for wilderness: Sleeping Bear Dunes is now official!

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Credit: NPS.

Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness was officially dedicated in a ceremony on May 30, making it the first wilderness protected by Congress in almost exactly five years.

The bipartisan bill to designate more than 32,500 acres of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as wilderness passed the House of Representatives in March 2014, conferring the highest possible level of public land protection on an area known as “the most beautiful place in the country” and renowned for its islands, forests, miles of beaches and sand dunes rising hundreds of feet above Lake Michigan. The legislation was shepherded by Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Dan Benishek, who attended the ceremony.

See more incredible photos of Sleeping Bear Dunes

“This legislation has been over a decade in the making and reflects the work of thousands of local community members from across the Grand Traverse region," said Rep. Benishek. "It was done the right way, by local citizens, and is something we should all be proud of.” 

“This show of bipartisan cooperation is particularly welcome as we celebrate 50 years since the Wilderness Act was passed with similar bipartisan backing in 1964,” said Alan Rowsome, senior director of government affairs at The Wilderness Society. “There are many additional popular, bipartisan wilderness bills currently awaiting passage in Congress. We urge lawmakers to take action on more than two dozen similar wilderness bills that enjoy strong local support but require approval by Congress to achieve the protection they deserve.”

The Sleeping Bear Dunes are popular for kayaking, canoeing, swimming and fishing, all of which are permitted in the protected wilderness areas. This wild area also contains valuable habitat for wildlife, including whitetail deer, beavers, porcupines and foxes.  Birds are especially abundant here, including wood ducks, hooded mergansers, loons, pelicans, herons, egrets, ospreys, bald eagles and a variety of owls.

See a little of what makes the Sleeping Bear Dunes so special:

Credit: NPS.

Credit: NPS.

Credit: Jeff Camilleri, flickr.

Credit: Jim, flickr.

Credit: Jim, flickr.

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