Sand Dunes

Michigan contains over 225,000 acres of sand dunes, which is the largest collection of freshwater dunes on the planet. Their unique topography, vegetation, and conditions set them apart from other types of ecosystems and make them an incredibly valuable natural resource. Michigan’s sand dunes are home to a wide variety of plants and animals, including numerous threatened or endangered species such as the Piping Plover and the Pitcher’s Thistle.

Because these natural features are so important, Michigan has taken steps to preserve them, such as the Sand Dune Protection and Management Act (1976). In 1989 approximately 74,000 acres of the largest, most important, and most at-risk dunes were designated as “Critical Dune areas (CDAs).” (The red areas in the picture) Recreational activities, construction/development, and silviculture are further regulated within CDAs to protect their diversity and ecosystem function. Activities such as contour changes, construction, or even tree removal require a permit from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

What does the district do to care for sand dunes?

Ottawa County is home to many CDAs, and the Ottawa Conservation District does our part to help protect and enhance them. Follow the links below to see all the ways the district acts as a resource for the community concerning sand dunes, or Critical Dune Areas.

Vegetation Removal Assurances

These assurances are required for permits on Critical Dunes and we are happy to help landowners and businesses with their completion.

Native Plants

Planting native trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses help reduce erosion on sand dunes. Check out more benefits of planting natives!

Invasive Species

Handling invasive species on dunes can be difficult, and the district has professionals that can help. Find out more about invasives and our technicians. 

Outreach and Education

Hearing about sand dune ecosystems and critical dune conservation is a fascinating topic! We are able to provide workshops and seminars to a wide variety of audiences.