You are here

Efforts To Designate Nearly Half of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore As Official Wilderness Introduced in Congress


A bipartisan effort has been launched in Congress to set aside nearly half of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as official wilderness, an effort its backers believe takes a "balanced approach to conservation, recreation, and historic preservation..."

Spanning 71,199 acres (some of which are on North and South Manitou islands) in Michigan, of which 65 miles run along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the lakeshore preserves a wonderful mix of towering sand dunes along the beaches and northern hardwood forest coursed in places by rivers and streams.

Congress in 1982 directed the National Park Service to inventory its lands and manage those that meet wilderness description as de facto wilderness until otherwise noted. The legislation now working its way through both Senate and House of Representatives is designed to deal with that limbo by officially designating 32,557 acres in the lakeshore as official wilderness.

"This bill is not only about conservation, but about access, recreation, and historic preservation," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan said earlier this month in presenting the legislation, co-sponsored with Debbie Stabenow, to the Senate National Parks Subcommittee. "The lakeshore is meant to be enjoyed by the public, and yet because of a requirement included in a 1982 law directing the National Park Service to manage areas included in a 1981 'Wilderness Recommendation' as wilderness, the public cannot access some roadways and historic areas. 

"This restriction is due to the fact that the 1981 wilderness recommendation included county roads and other areas the local community did not believe should be managed as wilderness," continued the senator. "Our legislation excludes these features from the wilderness designation to ensure that access, recreation, and historic preservation are provided at the Lakeshore, reflecting community input. The 1982 law specified that its directive apply 'until Congress determines otherwise.'  This bill provides the congressional direction the 1982 law envisioned."

According to the senator, if the wilderness designation is extended, it would protect the lakeshore's "significant and valuable natural characteristics" yet also provide for continued recreational uses such as boat launchings, hunting, fishing, and the beaching of motor boats on areas adjacent to wilderness.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Reps. Bill Huizenga and Dave Camp, both Republicans.


Does anyone know if the closure will affect the Platte River area at Sleeping Bear? I *love* that place.

yet another example of our government shutting down OUR lands so WE THE PEOPLE can NOT use them! Conservation areas are a farse and is only used to restrict our usage and access to these beautiful areas... America wake up! 2 more steps to socialism.....

Is anonymous an ATV rider?

Nothing is being shut down. Wilderness designation is the highest level of conservation/protection for federal land, banning logging/mining, motorized activity, road building ect...all of which have been already excluded at sleeping Bear Dunes.
Wilderness designation still allows public activity such as hunting & fishing, canoeing & kayaking, camping/backpacking/hiking, bird/wildlife watching, nature study & photography and other such low impact activities and permits the wilderness visitor an experience of quiet & solitude, one of which has become more and more difficult to find in today's  motorized society.
Yes, wilderness typically excludes atv's, snowmobiles, motorboats, jet skis ect...all of which were already not permitted in Sleeping Bear Dunes yet have extensive areas of availability in Michigan statewide. But wilderness designation does not exclude people, you just have to get off your fat ass and WALK in for a change.

Nothing is being closed. Do some research on what wilderness designation really means!

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide