TRAVERSE CITY — The movement to preserve Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is gaining momentum in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Senate this week passed legislation to designate 32,000 acres of the lakeshore area as wilderness. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, of Michigan’s 1st District, told the Record-Eagle he’s convinced fellow members of the House to hold a formal hearing on the matter in front of their Natural Resources Committee.
“I was able to talk to several members of the leadership to get this thing moving,” said Benishek, whose district includes the Traverse City area. “We are having a good hearing this July, and it’s one more step in getting it to the president’s desk. I’m hopeful we will get this done.”
The office of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, said legislation passed by the Senate stems from 13 years of work to update the lakeshore’s general management plan and protect the park’s unique natural habitat from development. Stabenow, in a press release, said the legislation would protect lands that are undeveloped and that possess significant and valuable natural characteristics.
Developed county roads and state highways, boat launches and many historical structures are excluded.
“It is one of the most beautiful places in America, and I’m glad the Senate voted to ensure it stays that way,” Stabenow said in the release.
Similar legislation passed the Senate in 2011, but the House failed to act. Benishek is optimistic the outcome will be different this year if the legislation makes it to the House floor. A date for the hearing in front of the Natural Resources Committee has not been set.
“I think we’ve got a really good shot,” Benishek said.