01/02/2013 05:11 pm ET

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan National Lakeshore, Could Receive Federal Wilderness Protection

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, one of Michigan's most scenic landscapes, could soon be getting a special conservation protection designation from Congress.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill Sunday that would preserve about 32,000 of the park's 71,187 acres as a wilderness area. Similar legislation is now being considered by the House.

If the measure is approved, the site would be covered under the highest level of federal conservation protection. Hunting, fishing, hiking and camping would still be allowed in developed areas, the Associated Press reports. The bill would also update the lakeshore’s general management plan.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes park encompasses 65 miles of lakeshore hugging the coastline of Lake Michigan, with sandy bluffs towering as high as 400 feet above sea level. It's also home to many inland lakes, woodlands, streams and two islands.

Sen. Carl Levin co-sponsored the legislation with fellow Michigan Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

“The Senate’s action is a big victory for all those who have worked to protect this precious slice of Michigan’s natural and cultural heritage,” Levin said in a release. “It is a reward for years of effort by local officials and thousands of concerned citizens whose input helped shape this balanced land management plan. And it ensures that these woods, waters and beaches will be unspoiled for countless generations to enjoy."

The dunes, which are located in the northwestern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, were chosen as the "Most Beautiful Place in America" in a public contest on ABC's Good Morning America in 2011. Chef and author Mario Batalli praised what he called the "Sahara Desert dunes" and their "Caribbean-blue waters" in a blog post about his favorite holiday locale for The Huffington Post.



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