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Critical Dunes Program

Please visit the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Website for the most up to date information regarding necessary permits for critical dune areas:


MDEQ Website - Click Here


Michigan's majestic sand dunes along the coasts of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior are one of the state's most defining natural features.  Coveted for their beauty, recreational, and industrial benefits, dunes serve as a crucial transition zone from Great Lakes to inland areas.  In the Eastern Upper Peninsula we are fortunate to have some of most scenic and rare sand dune areas in the world.  These extraordinary dune features set the stage for a distinctive mix of ecological communities that support rare and endangered species, irreplaceable habitats and dynamic biological interactions.

If you are planning to develop property in an area designated as Critical Dune or High Risk Erosion, you must first obtain appropriate permits for the type of work you plan to undertake.


Critical Dunes and High Risk Erosion Maps

dune1.jpgBay Mills Township  (Critical Dunes)

Brevort Moran Township (Critical Dunes)

Moran Township (Critical Dunes)

Whitefish Township (High Risk Erosion)

Moran Township (High Risk Erosion)

Soo Township (High Risk Erosion)

Superior Township (High Risk Erosion)


Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment Permit Process

In order to support local communities and individual landowners in creating sustainable development, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment utilizes a permit process to regulate activities in critical dunes areas and assure the protection of these irreplaceable natural resources for present and future generations.  As part of this permit process, the Department identified three measures to increase observance of the Sand Dune Protection and Management Act.  These measures may require associated fees, and include:

1.  A Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control (SESC) Permit (when applicable).  The SESC permit can be obtained through the Chippewa/Luce/Mackinac Conservation District.  Click here for a Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Application.

2.  A proposed on-site sewage treatment permit from your local county Health Department (when applicable).

3.  A written assurance that the cutting and removal of trees and other vegetation.


Michigan Conservation District's

Vegetation Removal Assurance in Designated Critical Dunes Areas

The Critical Dune Areas (CDA) program is administered under the authority of  Part 353, Sand Dune Protection and Management, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended.  The CDA program protects the extremely fragile areas of Michigan’s dunes by promoting the use of design and construction techniques to minimize impacts of uses on the dunes.  As defined in part 353, “use” means “a developmental, silvicultural, or recreational activity done or caused to be done by a person that significantly alters the physical characteristic of a critical dune area or a contour change done or caused to be done by a person.”  

A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permit is required for any use within a CDA.  Regulated activities include construction of buildings, septic systems, water wells, driveways, all excavation and filling, and vegetation removal within the CDAs.  These areas are identified in the “Atlas of Critical Dune Areas” dated February 1989, and adopted by the Michigan Legislature under Part 353.  Section 35313(c) requires that all applications for permits for the use of a CDA include in writing: “assurances that the cutting and removing of trees and other vegetation will be performed according to the instructions or plans of the local soil conservation district.  These instructions or plans may include all applicable silvicultural practices as described in the “voluntary forestry management guidelines for Michigan” prepared by the Society of American Foresters in 1987.  The instructions or plans may include a program to provide mitigation for the removal of trees or vegetation by providing assurances that the applicant will plant on the site more trees and other vegetation than were removed by the proposed use.”

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This page last updated on 10/28/2016.
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