Changes on the Land: The Early Management of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 1971 to 1977
†††† On a blustery March night in 1971 the Sleeping Bear Dunes were remadeónot by congressional mandate or according to a developerís schemeóbut by natural action.† Twenty-acres at the northern end of the bluff tumbled without warning into Lake Michigan.† It was only the second time in the century that such a major shift occurred in the face of the great sand plateau.† Environmentalists tried to use the incident to make the point that the dunes were a mysterious and fragile resources that required careful management and protection.† Those who had opposed the creation of the lakeshore, with equal validity, drew an opposite lesson: no amount of federal regulation can control nature.† Yet the remarkable thing about the incident was that on the eve of a controversial change in the way land was owned and managed in the Sleeping Bear country, nature gave its own object lesson.† The sands which had been piled on the east shore of Lake Michigan since the Pleistocenewere no more permanent than the hunting grounds of the Ottawa, a Homesteaderís certificate, a summer home ownerís deed, or a congressional mandate.† In time the sands will shift and the dune will consult no management plan or seek no easement.† In human affairs and in natureís order change is the only constant.
†††† The National Park Service came to the Sleeping Bear not to stop change but to try and manage it.† In itself that was an audacious assignment.† It was made manageable only to the extent Public Law 91-479, which created the national lakeshore, and the established procedures and traditions of the National Park Service provided guidance for the women and men who would take up the challenge.† The administrative history of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore is the story of the actions and decisions those people undertook, within the perameters of public law, bureaucratic procedure, and in interaction with a dynamic natural environment. †It is a story of a remorseless yet farsighted policy, of foibles familiar and human, of creativity under constraint, and failures balanced by successes.† It is a story that will continue as long as there is a will to manage environmental interactions in the Sleeping Bear country.† It is a story that begins in 1971 with Julius Martinek.†
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