Located in Northwest Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan in Benzie and Leelanau Counties. Sleeping Bear Dunes is a scenic 35 mile stretch of Lake Michigan's coastline, plus North and South Manitou Islands (The Islands sit just off the mainland coast, appearing every bit as the cubs in Native American legend who were lost to the deep waters while Mama Bear on the mainland watched in desperation). The area has beautiful natural features, including miles and miles of unpopulated sand beaches, woods and forests, and awe-inspiring sand dunes created by glaciers and other geological processes unfolding yet today. The Lakeshore’s history is replete with maritime and lumbering adventure as well as agricultural development. The natural harbors at South and North Manitou Islands brought safe haven to many a ship, while other ships that were not so fortunate shipwrecked, many still lying on the lake bottom. Historical features throughout the Park’s acreage on the Islands and on the Mainland are many, including an 1871 lighthouse, three former Life-Saving Service/Coast Guard Stations, Port Oneida (a historically significant former farming community), Boekelodge (an old, restored cabin deep in the woods of Benzie County), Glen Haven (a tiny community removed from their homes by the establishment of the Park), and many other features. The Lakeshore comprises 56,993 federal acres and 4,194 non-federal acres.
ORAL STATEMENT BY
JEANNETTE A. FEEHELEY
President, Citizens for Access to the Lakeshore (CAL)
P O Box 96, Beulah MI 49617-0096 www.citizensforaccesstothelakeshore.com
before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation
July 23, 2013
RE: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act (H.R. 163) Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Grijalva, Members of the Subcommittee, Thank you. My name is Jeannette Feeheley. I am President of Citizens for Access to the Lakeshore. We ask your support for our Congressman Dr. Dan Benishek’s H.R. 163. We are grateful to Dr. Benishek and his many co-sponsors, including the Honorables Bill Huizenga and Dave Camp who, prior to redistricting, represented the counties where the Park is located. We are grateful to our Michigan Senators who sponsored an identical bill, S 23, which passed the Senate in June. The effort has been bicameral and bipartisan since inception. The Park is young and had an uneasy birth. It wasn’t until 1970 that Michigan citizens were finally persuaded to yield a swath of prime Lake Michigan shoreline to the care of the federal government. The enabling legislation assured it would henceforth be preserved for the recreation and enjoyment of the public. The following two decades were difficult because, except for two small, state-owned parcels, all the land was already owned. Families with generational ties to the land were required to sell and move. Some were happy, some were not, but the land was slowly acquired, sometimes by eminent domain. The promise, though, was that henceforth, all generations, no matter where they lived, could come to this special place and recreate. However, in 2002, we learned that the Park Service was finalizing a new General Management Plan (GMP) that would close the county roads to the beaches. The GMP would also wipe out the area’s human history. Local folks, including local businesses, were outraged. Not only would we lose access to our beloved Park, but also the tourism on which our economy depends. The Park Service said they were acting on a “mandate” from Congress. A little-known 1981 Wilderness Study had failed to achieve the approval of the Secretary of Interior. When, the next year, the Park’s enabling legislation was amended to address acquisition issues, some in Congress used that bill to convince their colleagues to give statutory weight to the unapproved Wilderness Study. The 1982 statute created “de facto” wilderness outside the procedures of the Wilderness Act. In 2002, our organization was founded and brought these problems to our elected officials, who put pressure on the Park Service to withdraw the offensive GMP and begin listening to folks. In 2006, the Park Service began a new Wilderness Study. To their credit, they created a new process that genuinely solicited public input, more than had ever been done anywhere in the history of the Park Service. It worked. In 2009, a new GMP and Wilderness Study were adopted with the enthusiastic support of the Park’s stakeholders. However, the new Plan cannot be fully implemented until Congress removes that 1982 mandate by designating the access-friendly Wilderness boundaries of H.R. 163. The bill is a win-win for those who like wilderness and those who want public access and varied recreation. The local economy needs this bill. The business community joins our citizens’ group in urging your support. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. Written Testimony