Plovers, Swans, and Deer: Resource Management, 1984-1995
Probably the least controversial aspect of the history of the National Park Service at Sleeping Bear Dunes has been the management of natural resources within the lakeshore. That is not to say that there have not been challenges, rather the work of protecting and managing the plant and animal communities of the Sleeping Bear has always been less volatile than issues relating to property and people. Like most national park units personalities and chance have shaped the development of the natural resources management at Sleeping Bear. The Sleeping Bear lacked the influential congressional sponsorship that won for a few select parks in the region, like Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a sizable, independent scientific research staff. At Sleeping Bear the determining factor in the development of its program was continuity. Virtually since the creation of the lakeshore natural resource Max Holden has attended to management issues. A former Wildlife Ranger, Holden initially worked on Sleeping Bear issues as a member of the scientific staff of the Midwest Regional office. In that capacity he helped to prepare the initial wilderness plan for the lakeshore and advised Superintendent Martinek on resource management issues. After 1978 Holden was based at Sleeping Bear as a Resource Management Specialist. While natural resource research at many national parks waxed and waned based on personnel fluctuations, Sleeping Bear has had a consistent, steady program that helped the park to develop a solid environmental record of the national lakeshore area. 
Managerial continuity was enhanced by the baseline of scientific studies of the Sleeping Bear area inherited by the National Park Service. Large dune complexes were among the earliest and most intensively studied natural phenomena in Michigan. Beginning in the 1880s the study of Lake Michigan dune plant and animal communities by biologist Henry C. Cowles played a significant role in the development of modern ecological science. Studies and publications sponsored by the Cranbrook Institute of Science, the Michigan Academy of Sciences, and state universities continued the investigation of the areas during the period before the creation of the lakeshore. While research questions, to say nothing of methods, have changed considerably over time, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has benefited from a more rich and varied set of longitudinal data about its geology, flora, and fauna than most new park units.
The task of utilizing this data and conducting new studies of the Sleeping Bear has been shaped by important institutional strictures common to all national parks. The most important of these has been the movement toward ecological management. Since the 1960s, an overt struggle had been waged within the service between management based upon the principles of scenic preservation and tourist supervision and a management philosophy grounded in the realization that park areas were complex natural systems. With the latter perspective came the recognition that detailed studies were necessary to guide management as well as the will to restore lands transformed by human action. Also important was a new set of federal environmental procedures. The National Environmental Policy Act established a review process to ensure no federally funded or licensed activities would be undertaken without taking into account the impact upon the environment. The act also created the Environmental Protection Agency, which has raised awareness of issues of pollution and toxic contamination throughout the country. Also formative has been the Endangered Species Act, which elevated the importance of identifying, monitoring, and protecting plants and animals in danger of extinction.
The challenge of ecological management was most visibly seen in the resource management decisions relating to wildlife within the lakeshore. In spring of 1989, for the first time in the twentieth century, there were no seabird nests at South Manitou Island's Gull Point. When Congress created the lakeshore, the gull colony on South Manitou Island numbered in the thousands. The importance of the declining rookery for the threatened ring-billed gull was a significant consideration in the selection of the island for inclusion in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore proposal. In the past the loss of the rookery while the island was under park service control would have been chalked up as a major failure by park management. Indeed, during the early years of the lakeshore the National Park Service did step in to try and save the gull nesting grounds. It was scientific evidence, gathered by park service sponsored research projects, which changed the agency's view of the decline of the rookery from being a resource management problem to a necessary and inevitable ecological action.
Based on long term studies made by Northwestern Michigan College faculty, by a multiyear National Park Service contract conducted by Northern Illinois University scientists, and most important of all, research on the human history of the island, the lakeshore management staff concluded that the decline of the gull nesting grounds was a natural phenomena. During the nineteenth century the gull had chosen as a nesting ground the stony tipped end of South Manitou harbor. At that time the island was near its peak of human activity. Numerous farms dotted the island, small-scale commercial logging took place, as well as commercial fishing. Local farmers all kept broods of chickens for eggs and meat. Predators like the red fox were trapped or poisoned as a threat to livestock. The decimation of natural predators like the fox made Gull Point an ideal location for a rookery, as the young hatchlings could mature in safety. As farming on the island declined and the park service began to administer the island, the fox population rebounded. Crossing over the ice of frozen Manitou Passage, the fox reinhabited the island. As the number of predators increased the gull colony was hit hard. For several years the rangers on the island actually live-trapped red fox to reduce their nocturnal depredations among the baby gulls, helplessly pleating among the rocks. Over time, however, it became clear that what was taking place on the island was natural and that when predatory pressure became too great the gulls would simply relocate their rookery to one of the many small rocky islets that made up the Lake Michigan archipelago. The trapping of the fox was ended, and over the course of the decade of the 1980s the gull population relocated to a less vulnerable site.
The gulls themselves acted as predators, preying on an endangered species within the lakeshore, the piping plover. The white and sand colored shorebird is known for its darting dashes across the sand and its melodious, whistling song. The piping plover was well on its way to extinction due to the loss of beach habitat when several pairs returned to North Manitou Island in 1980s. Beaver Island and Hat Island further up the archipelago also saw a return of the birds. The lakeshore cooperated with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in forming a Piping Plover Recovery Team. Beaches on North Manitou Island as well as at mainland locations outside the park, particularly Cathead Bay and Waugoshance Point were closed to the public to protect plover nesting sites. Two nests of the rare bird became a fixture on North Manitou while a third nest was established at the mouth of the Platte River beginning in 1994. The latter site posed a greater challenge to lakeshore resource managers because it was one of the busiest recreational beaches in northwestern Michigan. Fortunately, the erection of a barrier around the nesting area and the posting of park rangers in the area allowed the birds to successfully hatch their young at the improbable site. Another endangered bird species to make its way into the lakeshore was the bald eagle. In 1995 a pair of bald eagles built a nest on North Manitou Island. The return of the national bird to the island after an absence of twenty years was an endorsement of the contested decision to manage North Manitou as a wilderness.
Not all bird species, however, were welcome at Sleeping Bear. In 1919, the mute swan was introduced as a domestic species in Charlevoix County, Michigan. They soon escaped into the wild and spread to fourteen northern Michigan counties. During the late 1970s and early 1980s the mute swan population in the lakeshore dramatically increased. Previously limited solely to the Platte River and the wetlands around Otter Creek, the swans began to inhabit most of the inland lakes within the national lakeshore. The swans were bad neighbors. They frequently attacked native Canada geese, scattering family groups and leaving the young goslings isolated and vulnerable. At first park visitors were thrilled to see the large, graceful birds. Picnickers at Little Glen Lake would often feed the birds pieces of bread, only to be rewarded with a nip as soon as they turned around. Less graceful in flight than when floating majestically on a pond the swans would also occasionally fly into the side of a canoe the birds felt threatened nesting sites. More than a few surprised canoeists capsized, blaming the swans for attacking them. The aggressive birds were even known to harass swimmers. In 1983 park rangers removed several swans that were fouling the beach at Glen Lake. Thereafter, Resource Management Specialist Holden developed a formal management plan to deal with the feral species. The plan, approved by the region in 1984, concluded that the presence of the swans was "inconsistent and incongruous with the management principles of maximum protection of the natural environment." Developed in consultation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the plan called for the removal of thirty swans from the lakeshore. The birds were to be live-trapped, their wings fixed, and then removed to Boardman Lake, where local residents maintained an artificial feeding program. The policy was in keeping with a statewide initiative to limit northern Michigan's swan population to no more than 1,000 birds.
While the policy was still under review at the regional office, and prior to any formal public comment, a minor controversy erupted when rangers trapped several particularly troublesome swans. Those who enjoyed the presence of the swans and those who were simply suspicious of any park action disputed this action. "Why do they go sneaking around without telling residents what's going on," complained a Glen Lake resident who found park rangers placing a trap near Little Glen Lake. The plan was later released for public comment, which was favorable, and adopted.
The most high-profile wildlife management issue was the lakeshore's management of the North Manitou Island deer herd. The deer were introduced to the island in 1920 and because of a special winter feeding program, the population soared to more than 1,000. The herd suffered a pathetic crash when the Angell Foundation stopped the feeding program during the protracted condemnation suit to purchase the island. A multiyear study by University of Michigan wildlife biologists indicated that deer were seriously overbrowsing the island. Immature maple and pine trees as well as violets, trilliums, and other wildflowers were all but eliminated from the island by the deer. To restore the island's vegetation the park service in 1985 adopted the goal of reducing the white-tailed deer population to about 300 head, then after the natural vegetation had a chance to recover let the population rise again to a sustainable level of ten deer per square mile. In the fall of 1985, in an effort to bring the deer quickly under control the park service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources raised the individual limit on deer from one per hunter to three. The news of this bonanza for hunters was widely reported, although it was tempered by the report that all North Manitou hunters would have to obey the strict wilderness guidelines that governed activity on the island. Nonetheless, more than 700 hunters were attracted to the challenge and opportunity of the island. The herd was trimmed by 825 deer. But this was not enough to prevent a large die-off the following winter. Perhaps as many as 200 deer died before the advent of spring. The large fall hunt and the disastrous winter which followed went far to bringing the Manitou deer population under control. Deer hunting continued on the island in subsequent years, with normal bag limits in place. By 1988 Resource Management Specialist Holden could report that the island's vegetation was beginning to make a comeback. At the same time the surviving deer were much healthier. By 1995 the lakeshore superintendent was able to conclude his report on the once grim deer situation by observing that the animals "continue to be large and healthy (the hunters look pretty good too)." 
The management of hunting in the lakeshore became an increasingly sensitive issue during the late 1980s. As recreational developments grew outside the park an increasing number of urbanites began to make their homes in northwest Michigan. Many of these newer resident's shared the traditional interest in field sports such as hunting. Others, however, were uneasy with the continued use of high-powered firearms each fall, both in the increasingly densely settled townships of Leelanau and Benzie as well as within the national lakeshore. "I feel like I am living in the suburbs, instead of living in the country," said one resident of Glen Arbor township. Indicative of a rising tension between old traditions and new values was the 1990 clash between a hunter and an animal-rights advocate. On November 14 of that year Larry Hayward was bow-hunting within the lakeshore near Alligator Hill. His opportunity to bag a deer was disrupted, however, by Barbara Anderlik, a retired teacher who was in the area lighting firecrackers to warn deer of the imminent arrival of the firearm-hunting season the next day. Hayward was furious and he "accosted" her in the forest and later brought her up on charges of violating Michigan's hunter harassment statute. Anderlik was found innocent of that charge, but she was found guilty by a district court jury of illegal possession of firecrackers. She fumed as she was slapped with a two-year probation, a week of community service, and a $150 fine. Anderlik responded with a civil suit against Hayward, which despite the involvement of the National Rifle Association, ended in an abject apology from the hunter and a cash payment to the animal-rights activist.
The issue moved closer to a management concern in 1995 when a group was formed called "People For A Safer Park." Founded by Ananda Bricker, who lived near the Dune Climb, the group's goal was to restrict hunting from the lakeshore's busiest public use areas, a total of about 13,000 acres. Bricker was motivated to launch the effort when she found a rifle slug in the tree next to her house. There had been a couple of incidents of people being accidentally shot within the lakeshore during the deer hunting season, but all of the people involved had been hunters, no casual park visitors or residents had been hurt by hunters. Bricker, with the help of Barbara Anderlik, stunned long-time residents of the area when she was able to collect and present to Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) a petition in favor of the ban signed by 7,300 people. Hunters responded with a petition drive of their own. The lakeshore responded to the dueling petition drives by reviewing its hunting management policy, which already restricted hunting from several small areas, such as Pierce Stocking Drive. Although additional closures was a policy that resonated with a portion of the public, the lakeshore determined that there was no indication that visitor safety required further closures.
The management of plant species within the lakeshore attracted less public attention but still made significant strides during the late 1980s. In 1981, the lakeshore contracted with the University of Michigan to inventory the area's plant life. That report, completed after seven years of fieldwork, documented over eight hundred species of vascular plants at Sleeping Bear. It became the baseline for vegetation management. Eight threatened species were identified by the botanists, including the calypso orchid and the walking fern. The report gave the park service greater confidence in restoring the numerous dwelling sites it purchased. Following the removal of all structures, selected exotic plant species would be uprooted and when possible natural tree and vegetation cover would be planted. Budgetary limitations prevented a rigorous restoration of the presettlment landscape. Had all exotic species been removed erosion would have occurred because the lakeshore did not have the funds to replant all sites with native species. A top priority were former gravel pit sites, which required heavy equipment to recontour the landscape and replace lost topsoil. At some sites plantations of non-native Douglas Fir and remnants of fruit orchards were cut down to prepare the land for natural plant succession. Of course, orchards were part of the cultural landscape of the area so there was no wholesale campaign to remove them from park lands. The fruit trees challenged resource managers to look at issue of vegetation restoration and preservation in a new light. Sleeping Bear, like many parks created out of former agricultural lands inherited many trees that were of biological/historical significance. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a wide variety of fruit trees were cultivated, each with their own distinctive characteristics. During the last half of the twentieth century, however, the national market in agricultural products enforced a conformity on growers in favor of varieties such as Macintosh apples that retained freshness longer. The identification, and in some cases the protection, of historic varieties of fruit trees became part of the increasingly complex job of managing a landscape both wild and historic. 
Invasive exotic plant species such as purple loosestrife, baby's breath, and garlic mustard were particularly vexing to resource mangers. The purple loosestrife, an attractive flowering plant introduced from Europe, became a problem in the Platte River area in the late 1980s. Favoring wetlands the perennial became established in dense clusters that made it very difficult to eliminate. Park personnel and volunteers initially tried pulling up the plant from areas where it grew in profusion, but this proved impossible because of the thick tangle of roots. Quickly reaching a height of five to six feet, the purple loosestrife would, if left unchecked, eliminate all native plants in its vicinity by overshadowing them and poisoning the ground. Picking the seed heads before they ripened was adopted as a short term control measure. Research contracts sponsored by the Midwest Regional Office were looked to for a long-range solution to what remains a growing problem at Sleeping Bear. Park personnel also removed garlic mustard, spotted knapwood, and baby's breath. The latter, with a root system up to twelve feet in length, was a particular problem on Nature Conservancy lands near the lakeshore. The lakeshore cooperated with the Nature Conservancy's efforts to bring the attractive but fast spreading exotic species under control.
Baby's breath originated in Turkey, but the plant favored the same sand soil as Pitcher's thistle, a native dune plant unique to the sandy shores of the Great Lakes. By the 1980s the Pitcher's thistle was categorized as a threatened species in the United States. To protect pitcher's thistle habitat the lakeshore nixed proposals to place boat-launching facilities on Platte Bay and at Glen Haven. The National Park Service had a special responsibility to protect the native dune cover because Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore had the largest remaining concentration of the Pitcher's thistle. Yet even at the lakeshore exotic species like the spotted knapwood and baby's breath were making deep inroads. At the nearby Point Betsie Preserve baby's breath established itself as eighty percent of the dune cover. With each of the plants capable of producing 14,000 seeds it spread over the landscape at a rapid rate. Baby's breath's dense root system and attractive flower made some people question if it was a threat. As a dune cover it actually did a superior job of holding the sand in place than did the native Pitcher's thistle, which requires shifting sand to thrive. In combating baby's breath, some people speculated that the National Park Service risking the long-term best interest of the sand dunes to protect a native plant.
Preserving the dunes from ever-increasing visitor use was an important resource management concern during the early 1990s. In 1991, the lakeshore was the focus of a high visibility attack on its resource protection program by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Richard L. Jameson, executive director of the conservation organization, issued a public letter in which he denounced Sleeping Bear as "the worst managed park I have ever seen." He chastised the National Park Service for not better controlling the visitor access to the fragile dune slopes. At any one time Jameson correctly charged "hundreds of people were hiking helter-skelter all over the dunes." The combined effect of this usage, Jameson maintained, was the destruction of plant communities and the erosion of the dune face. The lakeshore's administration was aware of the erosion problem and already had a study underway to better understand the damage done by hikers striking off on their own. On the other hand the lakeshore was reluctant to be too strict in its enforcement of signs requesting hikers to stay on the marked paths. In the face of the critique the lakeshore prepared a dune protection plan which recommended improved signage to better channel visitors along established walkways and to alert them to the damage that could result from unrestrained pedestrian movement. The plan did not, however, recommend severely restricting visitor mobility. As the superintendent commented "walking in the sand is an integral part of the[dune] appeal."
While the footprints left in the sand by park visitors were the most obvious human impact on the Sleeping Bear environment, atmospheric pollution was the least visible. Beginning in 1981 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore included the monitoring of acid levels in precipitation as part of the regular resource management program. The results of this program were shared with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. The shocking findings, after five years of study, indicated that the acidic content of rain in the lakeshore had increased by a factor of twenty-three. The source of this pollution was remote smokestack industries burning high sulfur fuels. Fortunately the glacial soils of the lakeshore counteracted much of the unnatural acidity before it could cause significant damage. Nonetheless, in 1990 the lakeshore initiated an extensive water quality-monitoring program to chart both atmospheric pollution, contamination from run-off, and ground water pollution. While there was nothing save public education lakeshore managers could do to combat airborne pollution, there were other toxic problems at Sleeping Bear that required immediate resource management action.
The most extensive toxic clean-ups within the lakeshore both revolved around faulty petroleum storage. In 1989, after a drawn-out ten-year condemnation procedure, the National Park Service completed its purchase of Casey's Corners, a canoe livery and gas station located on the Platte River near M-22. In making the purchase the lakeshore got more than they bargained for when it was discovered that underground fuel tanks had leaked into the surrounding soil and ground water. Although the Casey's property was less than an acre in size, the cleanup required the removal of several tons of contaminated soil and thousands of gallons of toxic water. The soil was excavated and thermally treated, in an effort to burn off the hydrocarbons. The polluted water, however, could not be treated onsite and was trucked across Michigan to Saginaw where the municipal wastewater treatment plant could dispose of the contamination. The clean up cost more than $500,000 and led to a wide-ranging investigation of possible toxic sites within the park. A total of sixty-two possible fuel storage sites were identified, some former gas stations, others farms with fuel storage areas. Dealing with these sites became the major focus of resource management time and dollars during the early 1990s.
As if the lakeshore did not have enough problems with toxic leak sites, an accident occurred in May of 1989 that added to their difficulties. Carelessness by park personnel and the lack of backup safety features caused several hundred gallons of fuel oil to spill from a storage tank on North Manitou Island. The oil had just been brought to the island to fuel the generator at the ranger station. It was an embarrassing and costly error. Historic buildings were immediately and temporarily relocated from the vicinity of the spill. Ironically only a week before Superintendent Peterson had recommended putting a leak containment wall into the storage building although there were no funds to do the job. For the cleanup, however, the Environmental Protection Agency provided funding for an experimental effort to treat the contaminated soil through bioremediation. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of ground water were treated at the site through the use of carbon filters. Even so, the park service had to pay to have 370 barrels of contaminated soil transported from the island. The cleanup and monitoring of the spill site stretched out over four years before the Michigan Department of Natural Resources removed the North Manitou ranger station from its list of contaminated sites. The incident led the lakeshore to the installation in 1995 of a photovoltaic array to generate electricity from solar power, which greatly reduced the need for fuel oil on the island.