Lansing – A new report, The Best of America Under Threat from Underfunding, released today by Environment Michigan showed that visitorship to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is on the rise. But even as Sleeping Bear Dunes draws more and more visitors, it could face budget cuts in the coming year- leaving it with fewer resources for maintenance, upkeep and stewardship.
“Last year, visitors poured into Sleeping Bear Dunes to explore the 65 mile stretch of shoreline and overcome the Dune Climb,” said Nicole Lowen of Environment Michigan. “Yet just as its popularity grows, Sleeping Bear Dunes is under threat from underfunding.”
Kerry Kelly, chairman of the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, commented on how volunteers are essential in the upkeep the park:
“Sleeping Bear Dunes takes full advantage of the thousands of hours of volunteer labor each year and donations by groups like the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, but additional budget funding would really help preserve and protect this beautiful land and the resources our visitors enjoy.”
Sleeping Bear Dunes relies on its operating budget to hire park rangers, for programs like ranger-led hikes to historical farmsteads and to maintain general facilities and trails. The proposed National Park Service budget for the coming fiscal year calls for cutting Sleeping Bear Dune’s operating budget by $96,000. With nearly 16% more people going to the park in 2009, budget cuts will make it harder for park stewards to keep up with increased usage.
Tom Ulrich, Deputy Superintendent of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore released a statement on the need for park funding:
“The park managers at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will continue to preserve the amazing resources here for visitors to come and enjoy. We have, however, identified several areas in which we could do an even better job, and we have prepared funding requests to that end. If our highest priority requests were granted, we would feel more secure about our efforts to protect water resources and native plant and animal communities, operate the historic village of Glen Haven, and provide more complete interpretation and environmental education to our visitors.”
“Now is the time Sleeping Bear Dunes should be best protected,” said Ms. Lowen. “Instead, Sleeping Bear Dunes could be facing painful cuts, which could force parks keepers to delay maintenance, hire fewer rangers or cut back on programs.”
The threats facing Sleeping Bear Dunes are also being seen around the country. Environment Michigan’s report reveals that nationwide, two-thirds of national parks, including parks in nearly every state, saw visitorship climb. However, almost three-quarters of parks that saw this increase in visitors last year face budget cuts in the coming year.
In addition to operations and maintenance funding, national parks are threatened by overdevelopment and pollution on lands adjacent to or within its boundaries. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established to give parks grants for land acquisition as privately-held parcels of land near the park come up for sale. Unfortunately, many parks never receive these funds.
“Just like Sleeping Bear Dunes, parks throughout America are becoming more popular destinations. Parks still offer affordable family vacations and are ideal places for people of all ages to explore the great outdoors,” said Ms. Lowen. “We need to give our parks resources to ensure they are just as majestic in 2999 as they were in 2009.”
Environment Michigan urged the Obama administration to prioritize national park preservation in their America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Advocates also called on Senators Levin and Stabenow to secure funding for the National Parks Service.
The Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative aims to protect America’s greatest places and reconnect Americans with the outdoors. Here at Sleeping Bear Dunes, we see that happening everyday as more and more families come to climb the dunes and enjoy the trails and beaches.
We thank Senators Stabenow and Levin for their commitment to Sleeping Bear Dunes, but now is the time to persuade their colleagues to fulfill the promise of America’s national parks,” said Ms. Lowen. “We urge our leaders to fully fund the National Park Service and permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund so we can enjoy what is truly the best of Michigan for generations to come.