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Great Lakes Article:

Gov. Granholm Proclaims Sand Dune Day May 19
Conservationists Urge Michiganians to Learn More About Protecting Globally Unique Dune System
PRNewswire
Published May 11, 2005



-- For the third year in a row, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm has proclaimed May 19 as Sand Dune Day in Michigan.

This year, the Alliance for the Great Lakes (formerly the Lake Michigan Federation), the Michigan Dune Alliance, community-based organizations, educators and parks with dune habitat will sponsor hikes and educational activities in celebration of the dunes. The governor's proclamation declares that "all citizens are encouraged to join in celebrating and caring for these natural resources."

A number of activities are scheduled on and around the week of May 19 in celebration of the dunes and to raise awareness about the need for their protection. Activities range from dune hikes open to the general public to school activities using the dune system as a living laboratory for students.

"Without our dune system, the ecology of our Great Lakes would dramatically change," said Jamie Morton, manager of outreach programs for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "We hope Michigan residents will participate in Sand Dune Day to help us educate others on their importance and inspire people to help protect this globally unique natural resource."

Michigan is home to the largest concentration of freshwater sand dunes on Earth. The dunes provide habitat to unique plant and wildlife species, but many maintain it is their beauty that draws millions of visitors each year and helps boost Michigan's economy. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore receives over 2 million visitors each year, while smaller dune parks like P.J. Hoffmaster Sate Park annually welcome about 5,000 people annually.

In Michigan, only 70,000 of the 275,000 acres of dunes are protected. Threats to dune habitat includes non-native species, incompatible development, sand dune mining and recreational damage.

"It's hard to believe that these magnificent giants are actually quite vulnerable," said Melissa Soule, spokesperson for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan, a member of the Michigan Dune Alliance. "While we are fortunate to live in this great state along with the dunes and Great Lakes shoreline, it's up to us to protect these vital ecological systems now not only for ourselves, but for future generations."

The Michigan Dune Alliance, a partnership of land trust and other organizations interested in dune protection, was formed in 1999 to explore ways to keep Michigan's dune system intact. Dunes are not only made up of sandy hills, but are actually a system of wetlands, coastal forests, backdune areas and bluffs. The Dune Alliance recently completed a series of fact sheets on the significance of our dune system and also a brochure on protection options for private landowners.

For more information on activities around Sand Dune Day or on Michigan's dune system, visit http://www.greatlakes.org/

Source: Michigan Dune Alliance

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