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Environmental Politics and the Creation of a Dream

Establishing the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Harold C. Jordahl

Publication Year: 2011

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a breathtakingly beautiful archipelago of twenty-two islands in Lake Superior, just off the tip of northern Wisconsin. For years, the national park has been a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike, but the remarkable story behind its creation is little known. In Environmental Politics and the Creation of a Dream, Harold Jordahl, one of the primary advocates for designating the islands as a national park, discloses the full story behind the effort to preserve their natural beauty for posterity. He describes in detail the political and bureaucratic complexities of the national lakeshore campaign, augmented by his own personal recollections and those of such prominent figures as Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and President John F. Kennedy. Writing in collaboration with Annie Booth, Jordahl recounts how activists, legislators, media, local residents, and other players shaped the islands’ future establishment as a national park.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

I first experienced the Apostle Islands region in the late 1940s while on a vacation traveling through the northern Great Lakes region. While there, I took the excursion boat around the islands. The boat made frequent stops at fishing camps to collect fish for the commercial markets. We docked at Rocky Island for a splendid fish lunch. I fell in love with the beauty of the archipelago. ...


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pp. xiii-xv

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xvii

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pp. 3-7

The Apostle Islands are located in Lake Superior off the tip of the Bayfield Peninsula in northern Wisconsin. Historians generally believe that the French explorers named the islands the Apostles, given their initial belief that there were only twelve islands, and following their custom of giving names of religious significance (the indigenous peoples, of course, had their own names, which the newcomers simply ignored). Twenty-two islands form the...

Part One: The National and State Context for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

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1. The Apostle Islands in Historical Context

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pp. 11-23

When the U.S. Congress passed the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Act in 1970, it was done with an implicit recognition that the islands were largely undeveloped and as a consequence would have high public recreational values. These conditions were the result of generally benign human use from the postglacial era to the highly developed industrial society of the 1960s. Other than mining the sandstone for building blocks, most impacts...

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2. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Political Context: State and Federal Initiatives

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pp. 24-48

The 1960s was an excellent time for the proposal for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to appear. It fit within a series of incrementally changing, occasionally inconsistent policies that had been enacted to create a national system of parks, monuments, seashores, lakeshores, trails, and wild, scenic, and recreational rivers. These areas would be administered primarily by the National Park Service (NPS). The building blocks for a vastly expanded...

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3. A New Era in Wisconsin: Gaylord A. Nelson and Conservation

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pp. 49-66

The 1958 election of Gaylord Nelson to the governorship marked a turning point in Wisconsin conservation and would be crucial for the fate of the Apostle Islands. Nelson was born in Polk County in northwestern Wisconsin. His parents were active in Progressive politics, and he would follow in their footsteps. After World War II, in which he served, and the demise of the Progressive Party, Nelson became active in Democratic Party politics. He was...

Part Two: Establishing the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

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4. The 1960s Road to a Lakeshore: The Decade of Planning, Bureaucratic Obfuscation, and Politics

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pp. 69-99

Both federal and state governments flirted with the idea of creating some form of park in the Apostle Islands for some time before truly coming to grips with the concept in the 1960s. The debates of the previous decades, however, set the stage for renewed interest during the 1960s in preserving the Apostle Islands. This interest focused both through the era’s emerging federal and state leadership in the conservation arena and the election in 1958 of...

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5. The Blowup—Or, Do We Have a Lakeshore?

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pp. 100-116

President Johnson, in his 1967 message to Congress, “Protecting Our Natural Heritage,” said, “I recommend that the 90th Congress . . . establish the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, to add a superb string of islands to our National Seashore System.”1 In spite of this highest level of support, hurdles to the lakeshore remained. The change in presidents to a Republican, Richard M. Nixon, and new debates, including those over...

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6. Long Island at Last

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pp. 117-146

In the original proposal for the lakeshore, Long Island had been included as a part of the Kakagon–Bad River Sloughs unit. When the debate in the House of Representatives Committee on Interior and Insular Aff airs became fractious, George Hartzog, director of the National Park Service, had, in a few short sentences, recommended that Long Island be excluded. It was. His reasons for this recommendation were valid. However, for equally valid reasons, ...

Part Three: Issues and Policy Studies

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7. Planning the Lakeshore

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pp. 149-165

In the process of developing the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore several forces were significant factors in the eventual outcome. In the next several chapters, the focus is turned more closely upon certain issues and policies that played a formative role and are essential case studies for those seeking to understand the forces shaping local, state, and federal responses to the lakeshore. In this chapter the strategic role that planning at various levels played...

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8. The Role of Politics in Establishing the Lakeshore

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pp. 166-184

Obviously to set aside an area of land and water the size of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore would impact private ownership, Native American lands, both tribal and allotted (alienated to non- Native or private owners), as well as local, state, and federal government lands. The proposed use of that land would be fraught with political considerations, both partisan and practical. This was reflected in the debates that occurred at the local, ...

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9. The Sellers of Dreams: The Role of the Media in Supporting the Lakeshore

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pp. 185-206

The media played a huge role in establishing the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. While politicians and conservationists argued over the future of the Apostle Islands, all in the name of the people of Wisconsin, those most responsible for bringing the Apostles to the attention of the average Wisconsin citizen were the newspaper writers. The first time that many people in...

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10. The Local Citizens and the Lakeshore

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pp. 207-218

The very nature of a park proposal will inevitably cause friction with the local citizens with well-established patterns of land use, which will be affected. Lands will be removed from tax rolls, which are a major source of local government budgets. Some residents will be forced to sell or give up their private property through condemnation. “Outsiders” will be the new users of the land and will be resented and viewed with suspicion by residents. The...

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11. The State and the Apostle Islands

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pp. 219-254

The state of Wisconsin was frequently hostile toward and uncooperative with federal interests in the Apostle Islands. In part this was due to the state’s own interests in acquiring some or all of the islands as a state forest or park, interests that the state pursued during the 1950s. This initiative failed, largely due to financial constraints. After Congress established the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore the state continued to show its displeasure by...

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12. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and the Native Americans

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pp. 255-294

On May 10, 1962, a resolution of the Bad River Tribal Council requested that the secretary of the Interior and the governor of Wisconsin initiate studies into the feasibility of “the establishment of a National Shoreline-Recreational Wildlife Area consisting of approximately 20,000 acres of land within the Bad River Reservation north of the Village of Odanah and U.S. Highway 2.” The resolution opened up a complex series of legal, institutional, ...

Part Four: Conclusions

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13. Reflections

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pp. 297-317

The long effort to establish the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was instructive. The Apostle Islands had intrinsic natural and social values worthy of becoming an addition to the National Park System. Timing, continuity, planning, media coverage, and strong local, state, and national support were critical elements in securing enactment of lakeshore legislation. Also, insights might be gained from the experience of working with two sovereign...

Appendix One: A Chronology of Significant Events Regarding the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

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pp. 319-322

Appendix Two: Identification of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Participants

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pp. 323-327

Appendix Three: Bills on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

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pp. 328-329


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pp. 331-377


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pp. 379-399

E-ISBN-13: 9780299281939
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299281946

Page Count: 399
Publication Year: 2011