Summary of Primary Research
Motivated by an increased interest in Michigan coastal dunes following legislative changes to the state critical dune law in 2012, Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) began discussions with many of the state’s leading academic researchers in late 2013, with the idea of developing a funding proposal to the Michigan Coastal Management Program. The result of those conversations is the project, “Bringing the Latest Science to Management of Michigan’s Coastal Dunes.”
Bringing the Latest Science to the Management of Michigan’s Coastal Dunes
Download The Project Summary Report
- Appendix A: Results of Local Government Survey
- Appendix B: Local Government Phone Interviews
- Appendix C: State Coastal Dune Management Comparison
- Appendix D: Compiled References
Michigan Dune Inventory GIS application
"Understanding Michigan Dunes” Journal Map Theme
The Emerging Science of Coastal Sand Dune Age and Dynamics: Implications for Regulation and Risk Management in Michigan
Financial assistance for this project was provided, in part, by the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program, Office of the Great Lakes, Department of Environmental Quality, under the National Coastal Zone Management Program, through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.
The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Environmental Quality and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Michigan’s world-class coastal dunes provide ecologic, geologic and economic value to our state’s coastal communities. They attract new residents and millions of visitors to our shorelines. In the process, they challenge us to weigh our enjoyment of the dunes against the need to protect them and live in greater harmony with their dynamic, evolving character.
While not explicitly calling for new dune research, Public Act 297 of 2012 recognized the importance of science for effective dune management, specifically calling for the application of “the most comprehensive, accurate, and reliable information and scientific data available” in fulfilling the Act’s purpose.
This initiative is a direct response to that call, intended to make science a fuller partner in the management of our dunes. In the decades since that passage of Michigan’s first law dealing with the coastal dunes was adopted, scholars have certainly advanced the state of scientific knowledge about Michigan’s world-class coastal dunes, including sharpening our understanding of when and how dunes formed, their role in supporting native species and natural features, and some of the factors influencing their highly dynamic nature.
Our efforts here are intended to better equip Michigan with this information, summarizing the best and most up-to-date picture of the dunes themselves, pushing the science forward, and finding the best, most useful, and most interesting innovations among the various management programs and systems in place to support dunes in Michigan and elsewhere, allowing the state and its coastal communities to engage in true, science-based management of this unique and vital coastal resource.
Goals and Outcomes
The team sought to advance that cause and improve our understanding of our dune resource by:
- Creating a systematic digital inventory of Michigan’s dunes using Geospatial Information Systems approaches;
- Developing ecological models to help assess likely impacts of various potential dune development approaches, including exploration of the potential for mathematical modeling to assist in estimating likely future impacts;
- Conducting a historical, legal and comparative review of management approaches, including a comparison of other state programs and a survey of local officials; and
- Scanning emerging research on dune age and dynamics and their implications for risk and resilience related to development in the dune context.
Additional Documents and Related Links
Key Studies and Reports in the History of Michigan Dunes Management
(Documents larger than 5 MB are noted)
- NPS Shoreline Opportunities (1959) • (PDF - 89 MB)
- Michigan Dunes: A Geologic Sketch (1962) • (PDF - 11 MB)
- Geologic Sketch of Michigan Sand Dunes (1971) • (PDF - 13 MB)
- PA 222 of 1976
- Investigation 20 Economic Study of Coastal Sand Dunes Mining
- Buckler 1979 Dune Inventory and Barried Dune Classification Study
- Wyckoff 1986 - Managing Development Report • (PDF - 77 MB)
- Beede et al 1987 - Sand Dune Management Project • (PDF - 68 MB)
- Boven et al 1988 - Handbook for Managing Endangered Dunes • (PDF - 133 MB)
- Atlas of Designated and Critical Sand Dune Areas • (PDF - 6 MB)
- PA 146 and 147 of 1989
- Lusch 1996 - Evaluation of Critical Dune Areas
- Final report of the 1996 Sand Dune Review Committee
- Gast 1997 - Letter to Russ Harding
- Harding 1998 - Letter to Senator Harry Gast
- PA 297 of 2012
Sampling of Historic and Current Court Cases Related to Michigan Dune Law
- White River Township, Muskegon County, 1999
- Pentwater Township, Oceana County, 2001
- Muskegon County, 2005
- Onekama Township, Manistee County, 2005
- Port Sheldon Township, Ottawa County, 2006
- New Buffalo Township, Berrien County, 2008
- Empire Township, Leelanau County, 2008
- Grand Haven Charter Township, Ottawa County, 2009
- Port Sheldon Township, Ottawa County, 2016
Additional Links and Resources
Michigan Association of Conservation Districts has assembled a host of useful materials to assist with responsible management and development within the designated critical dune areas of the state, including:
- How to Protect Critical Dunes: Practical Guidelines for Site Development and Management in Michigan’s Critical Dune Areas (2010)
- Living in Michigan’s Critical Dunes
MEC would like to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of the following experts, each of whom provided project guidance, review and comments on methodologies, and review of project deliverables. Again, much of this work was done pro bono, or with minimal financial support.
The Advisory Committee for this project included: Alan F. Arbogast (Michigan State University), Steve DeBrabander (Michigan Department of Natural Resources), Elizabeth Brockwell-Tillman (P.J. Hoffmaster State Park), Brad Garmon (Michigan Environmental Council), Alisa Gonzales-Pennington (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality), Christopher Graham (Michigan Natural Areas Council), Edward C. Hansen (Hope College), Richard K. Norton (University of Michigan), John J. Paskus (Michigan Natural Features Inventory), and Robert B. Richardson (Michigan State University)
The impressive cast of academic experts and practitioners contributing to this project leveraged their scientific/technical expertise with minimal financial support, many making substantial in-kind contributions to the project through discounted hourly rates or significant pro bono work to the project. We are grateful and extend our sincere thanks to the following researchers, collaborators, and contributors:
Coastal Dune Inventory/MDI GIS
Deanna van Dijk (Workgroup lead)
Dept. of Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies
Dept. of Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies
Dune Management History
Tanya Cabala (lead) Great Lakes Consulting
Ecological Impact Modeling
Suzanne DeVries-Zimmerman (Workgroup lead)
Geological and Environ. Sciences Dept.
Charles F. Davis, III
Davis Assoc. Architects & Consultants, Inc.
Department of Mathematics
Bradford S. Slaughter
Conservation Scientist, Botany Lead
Michigan Natural Features Inventory