Congress Passes Wilderness Bill For Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Halfway To Withdrawing Lands Near Glacier National Park From Leasing

With a simple voice vote, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation to set aside 32,500 acres of official wilderness at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and to further protect Glacier National Park from oil and gas exploration.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act protects pristine shoreline and forests on the coast of Lake Michigan. It will be the first new wilderness designated during the 113th Congress. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Dan Benishek (R-MI) and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), received strong support from area residents, the National Park Service, and the Michigan congressional delegation.

Meanwhile, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2013 (HR 2259) would protect the watershed outside Glacier National Park by formally withdrawing the area from future oil and gas leasing.

While the Sleeping Bear Dunes legislation has passed both chambers of Congress and heads to President Obama for his signature, the Glacier legislation has yet to be voted on in the Senate.

“Rep. Benishek and Sen. Levin have provided great bipartisan leadership, working with the community to develop a bill that will help ensure the long-term well-being of Michigan’s treasured lakeshore and its central role in the region’s economy,” said Mike Matz, director of the U.S. public lands initiative for The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Wilderness designation will ensure that the local community’s interest in the natural, scenic, and recreational values of the lakeshore will be protected for generations to come.”

At the National Parks Conservation Association, Midwest Regional Director Lynn McClure praised the "strong bi-partisan effort – supported by the entire Michigan delegation" that cleared the way for the wilderness legislation.

"The endeavor to establish wilderness in this iconic national park on Lake Michigan has been in the works since 1981. Today’s designation, a result of strong public participation, will preserve visitor access and hunting and fishing opportunities, while protecting the fragile dunes, bluffs, and forest in the park," said Ms. McClure. "We thank Senator Carl Levin and Representative Dan Benishek for their leadership and ongoing support for Sleeping Bear Dunes, and thank this Congress for designating the first new wilderness area since 2009.”