May 30, 2014 at 7:09 am

Ceremony to dedicate Sleeping Bear wilderness land

Empire — A ceremony at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will dedicate more than 32,500 acres recently set aside as wilderness.

President Barack Obama signed a bill in March that made the designation. It drew bipartisan support, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Carl Levin and Republican Rep. Dan Benishek.

The dedication is scheduled for Friday afternoon at the head of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail.

The legislation’s enactment was the final step in a 13-year process to update the lakeshore’s general management plan. Sponsors said the goals were to protect unique wildlife habitat from harmful development while continuing public access to beaches, trails and streams.

Excluded from the wilderness designation were developed county roads and state highways, boat launches and many historical structures. Hunting, fishing and camping will continue.