Lakes Article: Federal
act to protect Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior, other public
lands creates buzz
The Grand Rapids Press
April 06, 2009
has been years since I've heard as excited a buzz as I have this week. President
Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Act on Monday, which designates 2
million acres of wilderness across the country and protects rivers, national parks
In Michigan, that includes the 11,740-acre Beaver Basin Wilderness
at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior.
AP File PhotoNorth
Ridge hiking trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior.
last big thrill was in 1996 when President Bill Clinton made Utah's Grand Staircase
Escalante a National Monument. People were jazzed, including myself. That 1.9
million-acre parcel, with its magnificent cliffs, terraces and canyons was to
be protected for future generations.
It was President Lyndon Johnson who
signed the federal Wilderness Act in 1964, landmark legislation that defined the
term for the American public and created the National Wilderness Preservation
That act created 9 million acres of wilderness across the country.
It opened the door for the 1987 Michigan Wilderness Act and designation of 10
federally protected wilderness areas in the state.
This week's bill signing
gave us 11.
"It takes the options off the table," said Gregg Bruff,
the heritage chief for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. "There is no 900-pound
gorilla waiting over the hill, but it does assure that people get to enjoy a primitive
experience into the long-term future."
Bruff means there is no pressing
demand for development. But it could happen some time, and this week's wilderness
designation protects against that.
Users will not see much change at the
lakeshore, according to Bruff.
The acreage in the Beaver Basin Wilderness
has been managed like wilderness since 2004. That's when park staff released a
general management plan that identified the area as possible future wilderness.
users will continue to enjoy the park as they have. No roads will be closed. Electric
motors can be used on Little Beaver and Beaver lakes. Boats still can beach on
the Lake Superior shoreline and hunters still can chase their quarry.
old saying, 'We are not making any more wilderness' is true," Bruff said.
"Once the areas are gone they are hard to retrieve."
basis behind the 1,000-page federal document signed into law this week, more than
160 pieces of legislation.
"This legislation guarantees that we will
not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments and wilderness
areas for granted; but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity
for everyone to share," Obama said in his public address.
Park watchdogs are thrilled. Forty-six bills in the act targeted national parks.
They include the designation of the River Raisin National Battlefield Park in
Michigan and helping the Keweenaw National Historical Park with administrative
issues that have hampered its funding.
It protects the 250,000-acre backcountry
of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Zion National Park in Utah, among
others, which are experiencing development pressures.
made a determination in 1974 that much of the (Rocky Mountain National) park should
be wilderness," said Elise Russel Liguory, the legislative staff for the
National Parks Conservation Association. "And it has been managed that way
since, but we have hoped and pushed so that it would be put into law."
called Zion National Park, "an iconic park," for Americans. It drew
2.7 million visitors in 2008.
Wilderness protection was established there
for 125,000 acres and 165 miles of the Virgin River that runs through it.
act also protects 1,000 new miles under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers program.
It provides the National Park Service with the statutory authority it has lacked
to buy land from willing sellers adjacent to national trails.
the director for the North Country Trail Association, in Lowell, said that provision
long has been needed.
"It's the first of two steps," he said.
Getting Congress to authorize funding comes next.
The bill also recognizes
the authority of the federal Bureau of Land Management to manage the 26-million
acre National Landscape Conservation System.
That includes 924 of the nation's
most spectacular lands, including the Grand Staircase in Utah.
bill is potentially the most significant piece of conservation legislation since
the national parks were designated more than 100 years ago," said Seth Levy,
the policy and stewardship manager for the American Hiking Society.
moves to preserve and hold our natural resources as an opportunity and birthright
of future generations. It was inspiring to see it come to be."
is an air of excitement, indeed.