Landowners Still Need Approval to Dig Up Beaches

Jul 5, 2012

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation recently that allows Great Lakes property owners to use tillers to dig up plants on the shoreline as long as they get a federal permit. But another fight is brewing over relaxing environmental rules to make it easier for developers to build on sand dunes.

Michigan has very stringent rules that prohibit building on environmentally sensitive dunes. Developers say it is possible to build on dunes set back from the shoreline without harming the view, or causing other environmental damage.

The measure to relax those rules stalled just before the Legislature took its summer break, but negotiations continue in an effort to break the impasse.

James Clift with the Michigan Environmental Council says there may be some room to relax the rules, but he says the state needs to ensure the Great Lakes shoreline is protected.

"So, if the state of Michigan isn't stepping up, these are dunes that are globally rare resources that are going to be under development pressure," he says.

Clift says the dunes are a draw for tourists and also serve as habitat to rare or threatened species.