by Natalie Johnson, Executive Director, Save the Dunes
On August 15, a subcommittee to the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a legislative hearing to receive testimony on a number of bills, including co-sponsored Senate Bill 599 to rename the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park. Unfortunately, National Park Service Deputy Director, Mr. P. Daniel Smith, listed Bill 599 in addition to eight other proposals with the recommendation not to advance. In a written statement, Smith states:
"Our preference is that the designation of “national park” be reserved for units that contain a variety of resources and encompass large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources, and that in general, similar types of units have consistent designations. Indiana Dunes has more in common with the other Great Lakes national lakeshores—Apostle Islands, Pictured Rocks, and Sleeping Bear Dunes— and with the National Park System’s many other national seashores and national recreation areas, than with most national parks." (Click here for the full testimony.)
This news was disheartening to many who feel that the renaming effort would fulfill the effort to name this area as a National Park which began in 1916 under the first Director of the National Park Service, Mr. Stephen Mather. At over 15,000 acres, the Indiana Dunes is nearly three times of the size of Hot Springs National Park and twice as large as the National Park of American Samoa. Even recently, the St. Louis Gateway Arch was re-designated as a national park at roughly 100 or so acres. The dunes, the birthplace of Ecology, is deserving of this honor.
Yet, there's still an opportunity to effect change. The subcommittee hearing was to gather feedback which will later be presented to the full committee at a later date (this meeting has yet to take place). Those wanting to voice their support for the name change are urged to contact the members of the Energy and Natural Resources Senate Committee to consider the public support for the name change of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to the Indiana Dunes National Park.
There's no easy way to quickly email all individuals in bulk. We recommend clicking on the above names and visiting the "Contact" page. Don't forget to communicate with Senators Donnelly and Young that you are doing so! They'll want to know, too!
Act Now. According to the Committee's rules, "the Committee shall meet on the third Thursday of each month while the Congress is in session for the purpose of conducting business, unless, for the convenience of Members, the Chairman shall set some other day for a meeting." It's possible that this meeting is coming soon.
Like Senator Donnelly and Senator young, we at Save the Dunes believe that the Indiana Dunes deserve top recognition as a National Park because of its unparalleled biodiversity and cultural heritage. It is our hope that by retitling the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to the Indiana Dunes National Park, we will see increased awareness and appreciation of this beautiful landscape. Though this effort that we ask of you may seem tedious, it is one that may pay off in the long run. Be it email, phone, or letter-- please consider sharing your support!