Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness
“I believe we have a profound fundamental need for areas of the earth where we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment.” -Howard Zahniser
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is proud to be one of the nation’s newest additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Our wilderness designation means that not only will our beautiful land be open for recreation, but it is also protected forever. Read on to learn more about the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness Area, the Wilderness Act, and what wilderness means to us all.
What is Wilderness?
An area designated as wilderness is, according to the Wilderness Act “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Each wilderness area is different, and allows different actions according to the legislation that first protected it. However adding a wilderness designation ensures that protecting natural conditions is a priority. Read Wilderness and You for specifics on activities allowed in our wilderness area at Sleeping Bear Dunes.
In order to protect these natural conditions, the Wilderness Act outlines four conditions wilderness areas should try to meet:
How did we get the Wilderness Act?
While the Wilderness Act authorized legislatively protected wilderness areas, the first wilderness areas were created by the United States Forest Service. At the urging of the famous environmentalist, author, and then Forest Service employee Aldo Leopold, a wilderness area was created in the Gila National Forest (New Mexico) in 1924. In the years that followed the agency protected 14.6 million acres this way. However the protection was purely administrative-meaning new leadership could do away with it at will. As the 1950s progressed and timber harvests and tourism increased, many became concerned about the need to protect wilderness areas by law. This push was instrumental in bringing about the passage of the Wilderness Act.
Read more in Wilderness: Overview and Statistics
The wilderness area protects approximately 32,557 acres of dunes and forests, including areas on the mainland and portions of South and North Manitou islands.
Conventional ideas of wilderness often exclusively portray vast forests, however much of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness area protects incredibly fragile dune environments like this one INSERT PICTURE (Image files-Master files-Dunes, Dune Grass, DSCN5367
For more information about Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness visit
Wilderness and You
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act that created our wilderness specifically states that no changes will be made in terms of “management of fish and wildlife, including hunting and fishing within the national lakeshore.” All visitors will be able to enjoy the same recreation opportunities that exist here.
The wilderness area will forever be managed in a way to preserve it under the Wilderness Act so that “man is a visitor” and the beautiful qualities of this place will remain for years to come.
Learn more about how to visit and recreate in wilderness.
Last updated: April 10, 2015