CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, March 4, 2014, the House will consider S. 23, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act, under a suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on January 22, 2013 by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), where it passed in the Senate by unanimous consent. S. 23 was then referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
S. 23 designates 23,557 acres along the mainland shore of Lake Michigan and on certain nearby islands in Benzie and Leelanau Counties, Michigan as wilderness, and as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System, to be known as the “Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness.” Moreover, S. 23 establishes road setbacks of 100 and 300 feet from centerline for adjacent county roads and state highways, respectively. This legislation clarifies that nothing in the Act: 1) prevents the maintenance and improvement of roads located outside the boundary of the wilderness area; 2) affects the jurisdiction of the State of Michigan with respect to the management of fish and wildlife; and 3) modifies, alters, or affects any treaty rights or valid private property rights.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was established on October 21, 1970, in order “…that certain outstanding natural features including forests, beaches, dune formations, and ancient (glacial) phenomena…be preserved in their natural setting …for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreation, and enjoyment of the public.” The Lakeshore extends nearly 30 miles along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and includes two large islands with an additional 35 miles of shoreline. The lakeshore encompasses 71,291 acres with 30,000 acres currently managed as wilderness.
In 1981 the Department of the Interior published a General Management Plan (GMP) that would greatly hinder public recreational access to the lake shoreline and prevent maintenance of popular trails, roads and historic sites through wilderness restrictions. In 2002, when the GMP was about to go into effect, a local citizens group was formed to block implementation. After years of negotiations, a revised GMP was issued in 2009. It re-aligned the wilderness boundaries to allow motor boat access, maintenance of trails and historic sites and permits hunting under state regulation.
This legislation codifies these negotiated changes to protect public access. Under the bill, the wilderness area does not include any existing county roads or areas managed primarily for historic resources. This is to ensure the continued availability of the county roads for visitors accessing remote trailheads, beaches, backcountry areas and historic areas. Although the lakeshore’s boundary extends one-quarter mile out into Lake Michigan, none of the waters of Lake Michigan are proposed as wilderness. This ensures continued access by motor boaters to the shoreline beach adjacent to the wilderness area.
The House companion, H.R. 163, was reported by voice.
 See House Report 113-366.
 See House Report 113-366.
CBO estimates that implementing this legislation would have no significant impact of the federal budget, and would not affect direct spending or revenues.
For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.