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What is a National Estuarine Research Reserve?


The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERR) is a national network of 29 sites across the coastal US, including the Great Lakes, designed to protect and study estuaries and their coastal wetlands. The mission of the NERR System is, “To practice and promote stewardship of coasts and estuaries through innovative research, education, and training using a place-based system of protected areas.” Established through the Coastal Zone  Management Act, the reserves represent a partnership program between NOAA and the coastal states. NOAA provides funding and national guidance, and each site is managed on a daily basis by a lead state agency or university with input from local partners. For the Green Bay NERR, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is leading the designation process. At the local level, a Green Bay NERR will offer a coordinating force to manage, restore, and protect the Green Bay ecosystem, with a programmatic focus on four sectors: research, education, stewardship, and training.

NERR LogoA Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve   

Green Bay is the world's largest freshwater estuary and the concept of siting a NERR in the Bay has been in discussion for some years. New National Estuarine Research Reserves are designated through a six step process that typically takes 4-6 years to complete. The first step was taken with a letter from the Governor’s office to NOAA on March 25, 2019. A response from NOAA was issued July 19, 2019, advancing the initiative and completing step one of designation. The Green Bay NERR is currently in step two of the designation process, the evaluation of potential sites. This stage includes broad-reaching public outreach and stakeholder engagement; establishing the criteria used to select a site; the determination of candidate sites; and the nomination of a final site to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). See the Site Selection & Timeline for more details.

Upon designation, the Green Bay NERR would be the third National Estuarine Research Reserve within the Great Lakes, and the sole representative for the Lake Michigan-Huron biogeographic region. Existing NERRs within the Great Lakes include the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, established in 2010 and located in Superior, Wisconsin, and Old Woman Creek NERR, established in 1980 along the Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie. 

We would like to introduce you and your organization to plans for the Green Bay NERR. Visit the Get Involved page for more information or to submit a request for a virtual presentation.