Dunes National Park Act Clears House

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -

An act designed to make the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a national park is moving on to the U.S. Senate. The legislation, written by Congressman Pete Visclosky (D-1), was approved by unanimous consent Wednesday in the House of Representatives.

Visclosky says the legislation is being backed by every member of the Indiana delegation.

He urged full approval of the act, saying "it is incumbent that we do everything possible to encourage citizens and travelers from around the world to visit the park to learn, recreate, and simply enjoy the sublime environment of the Northwest Indiana lakeshore. H.R. 1488 helps to achieve this goal."

During testimony on Capital Hill Wednesday, Visclosky said:

I would like to thank Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member Grijalva of the Committee on Natural Resources for their work on this legislation, as well as Chairman McClintock and Ranking Member Hanabusa of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation we are considering today would retitle the 'Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore' as the 'Indiana Dunes National Park.' While this is a small change, it would have an enormous benefit of rightly placing the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore where it belongs as the nation’s 60th National Park and the first National Park in the State of Indiana. Located along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes are a natural wonder and home to a vast array of rare plants and animals. According to the National Park Service, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is the seventh most biologically diverse National Park Service unit.

This legislation completes an effort that began over 100 years ago when Stephen Mather, the first Director of the National Park Service, first proposed establishing the southern shore of Lake Michigan as 'Sand Dunes National Park.' I believe Mr. Mather said it best when he stated in his 1917 report to Congress, 'The sand dunes are admittedly wonderful... No national park or other Federal reservation offers this phenomenon for the pleasure and edification of the people, and no national park is as accessible. Furthermore, the dunes offer the visitor extraordinary scenery, a large variety of plant life, magnificent beaches, and splendid opportunities to camp in the wild country close to nature.'

Unfortunately, Mr. Mather's effort to establish Sand Dunes National Park was abandoned with the onset of the First World War. Then, in 1966, thanks to the efforts of concerned citizens, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was established on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Since that time, the park has been expanded by Congress on four different occasions. These expansions nearly doubled its original size so that the Lakeshore currently encompasses roughly 15,000 acres of wetlands and marshes, beaches, oak savannahs, and sand dunes. It is clear that the title of 'Indiana Dunes National Park' is fitting for such a unique and beautiful natural resource.

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