Congress Approves Sleeping Bear Dunes as First Wilderness Designation in Five Years

Mar 4, 2014

Today, for the first time in five years, Congress designated land to be protected as wilderness. The House of Representatives approved the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act (S. 23), which permanently protects 32,557 acres along the mainland shore of Lake Michigan.

The Senate approved the bill last year and President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law. The bipartisan legislation was introduced last year by Representative Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) and Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

The newest addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System will be known as “Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness.”

“Sleeping Bear Dunes is a national treasure and this legislation will ensure that it is protected for all Americans to enjoy,” says Paul Spitler, Director of Wilderness Campaigns for The Wilderness Society. “This year we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and we applaud Congress for finally passing wilderness legislation after an unprecedented five-year pause. However, the job is not done. Now is the time for Congress to turn its attention to the dozens of other bi-partisan wilderness bills that have been awaiting action for years."

The Wilderness Society pointed to more than two dozen wilderness bills with strong local support that require action by Congress. The organization hopes Congress will approve the bills swiftly.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness area includes portions of two islands, forests, miles of beach and spectacular sand dunes rising hundreds of feet above Lake Michigan. In 2011, ABC’s “Good Morning America” called this scenic shoreline area as “the most beautiful place in the country.” This publicly owned land will be open to visitors for hiking, fishing and enjoyment of this unique wild landscape.

Michael Reinemer