Critical Dunes

Critical Dunes in Michigan

Lake Michigan sand dunes are part of the largest system of freshwater dunes in the world. In Michigan, there are about 225,000 acres of sand dunes. In 1989 the tallest, and most spectacular of these dunes (roughly 74,000 acres) were designated as “Critical Dune,” and are protected by state regulation.

Permits for Critical dunes & High-Risk Erosion Areas

Required for earth moving, vegetation removal, and/or construction

Michigan law, Part 353, Sand Dune Protection and Management, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended, requires landowners to get a permit from Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) for projects that involve earthmoving, vegetation removal, and/or construction. If you are planning a project in critical dunes or high risk erosion area, contact EGLE for information about a per-permit meeting.

Visit EGLE’s Critical Dunes Program Page for more information:

EGLE – Critical Dunes Area Program (

What the District Can Offer

The Ottawa Conservation District is a local resource for information about Michigan’s sand dunes, including Critical Dune and High-Risk Erosion Areas. We can provide public education and outreach, technical assistance related to dune management, and services to help landowners navigate the Critical Dunes regulatory process.

Sand Dune Information & Education

  • Public programs for schools, libraries, community events, etc.
  • Landowner consultations related to dune erosion, invasive species, native plantings, and habitat improvement.
  • The OCD provides many native Michigan dune species at our annual Tree Sale and native plant sales.

Vegetation Removal Assurances (VRAs)

Michigan law requires a “Vegetation Assurance” form to be completed as part of EGLE Critical Dunes permits. This form documents all vegetation removal including plants, trees, and groundcover as part of the construction process, and lists recommendations to stabilize and re-vegetate the site. The OCD can provide:

  • Assistance navigating the EGLE permitting process
  • Completion and submission of the Vegetation Assurance form with site recommendations


Michigan EGLE – Kate Lederle, 517-290-2757

Port Sheldon and Grand Haven Township:
(616) 204-1708

City of Grand Haven, Ferrysburg, Spring Lake Township:
(616) 204-1752

Park Township:
(616) 401-1641