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Senator Baldwin’s Apostle Island Measure Moves Forward

Preserves the history of the iconic Ashland harbor

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin applauded the inclusion of a measure to preserve the history of the iconic Ashland harbor in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The measure, introduced by Senator Baldwin in bipartisan legislation earlier this year, transfers the Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light from the Coast Guard to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

“Maintaining our public lands, including our National Parks, is not only important to preserving our history, but is crucial for economic development, outdoor recreation and education in our communities,” said Senator Baldwin. “The Ashland Light is a public treasure and distinctive marker of Ashland’s role in the region. I’m proud to help preserve the lighthouse so that visitors can continue to experience all of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.”

The U.S. Coast Guard has been looking for an organization to take over management of the Ashland Breakwater Light, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service, the only public or private entity to express interest in obtaining and maintaining the Ashland Light, is not able to accept a transfer of the property without legislation to provide a boundary adjustment.

Baldwin’s measure included in the NDAA allows for the transfer of the lighthouse from the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard to the National Park Service, which already manages eight light stations on six of the Apostle Islands.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the NDAA this week and the U.S. Senate will take up the measure next week.

Baldwin serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee which has jurisdiction over the National Park Service. In August of 2013, Baldwin toured the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and met with National Park Service staff to discuss the impact of sequestration on the park, management of the land, historic preservation and tourism.

Background on the Ashland Light and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

  • The Ashland Light was built in 1915 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

  • All of the other (six) light stations within the boundaries of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) were transferred to the NPS from the  US Coast Guard (USCG) in 1986 as a result of PL 99-497.  All six light stations, which include eight standing light towers, are listed on the National Register.

  • The Ashland Light was not included in the 1986 transfer because it was not inside the park boundary, the USCG was actively maintaining it, and its future was not at issue at the time.

  • The APIS lights, including the Ashland Light, were historically managed by the US Lighthouse Service, then the USCG, as a group.  Renowned lighthouse historian F. Ross Holland, Jr.  described the lights within the national lakeshore as “the largest and finest single collection of lighthouses in the country.”  (Great American Lighthouses, 1994)

  • In the 2011 APIS General Management Plan, the NPS identified seven significance statements for the park which describe the park’s distinctiveness and importance to the nation’s natural and cultural heritage. One of these echoed Holland:  “The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has the largest and finest collection of lighthouses in the country.”

  • The exteriors of all of the historic lights within APIS are publically accessible, and many are open for public educational tours during the visitor season.  The NPS provides abundant personal, printed, and electronic information on all aspects of the historic lights and their importance to the nation as part of the park’s public education / visitor enjoyment mission.

  • APIS is the premier place in the National Park System for lighthouse historic preservation and education. Incorporating the Ashland Light within APIS would enhance the park’s significance because it would then include all of the nationally-significant historic lights in the region.