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FAQs


Frequently Asked Questions about the NERR System


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What is a National Estuarine Research Reserve?

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 29 protected areas representative of the various biogeographic regions and estuarine types in the United States. Reserves are established for long-term research, education, training, and stewardship, and to promote informed management of the nation's estuaries and coastal habitats. A reserve represents a partnership between NOAA and coastal states. NOAA provides funding and national guidance, and each site is managed on a daily basis by a lead state agency with input from local partners. The reserve system covers 1.3 million acres and focus on four key sectors: Research, Education, Stewardship, and Training.


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What programs and benefits do research reserves offer?

Reserves apply science and education to improve the management of estuaries. They do this by working with communities to address natural resource management issues, such as coastal erosion, emerging contaminants, and changing water levels, on a local scale. Each reserve brings together local stakeholders, scientists, land management professionals, and educators to understand coastal management issues and generate local, integrated solutions. In addition to collecting and disseminating national and locally relevant data, reserves also provide the trainers and educators needed to bring the reserve-generated data and information to local citizens and decision makers. Reserves further benefit their surrounding community by leveraging existing NOAA resources and bringing in federal funding that is only available to designated sites. 


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Why should Green Bay have a NERR?
 
Green Bay is the world's largest freshwater estuary with significant cultural, economic, commercial, and recreational benefits derived from the water and coastal features of the Bay. However, the Bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan face many challenges, such as: changing water levels, flooding, coastal erosion, and harmful algal blooms. Establishing a National Estuarine Research Reserve will provide resources to help Wisconsin address these challenges with targeted science, monitoring, education and outreach. A Green Bay-based Reserve will complement and extend local coastal programming like the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, Wisconsin Sea Grant, and various academic institutions through the addition of funding, resources, and expertise. Additionally, hosting a Reserve could enable new initiatives in Northeast Wisconsin by leveraging nation-wide programs. The health of the Green Bay ecosystem and the many human uses that depend on it would benefit from establishing a National Estuarine Research Reserve. 

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Will the state have to purchase land for a Green Bay reserve?

No. Wisconsin is considering sites from existing publicly owned lands and adjacent public trust waters. Additionally, the Green Bay NERR site could expand with municipal and non-profit property; and with donated or purchased land.


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Will a new reserve involve NOAA taking land from the State?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) does not own or manage the land within a reserve, nor does the designation of a reserve add new state or federal regulations. Memoranda of Agreement are used to articulate roles and responsibilities between relevant partners and landowners in the state, and NOAA. 


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Will the federal government run the reserve?

The Green Bay NERR will be a partnership between NOAA and the state of Wisconsin. The state is responsible for day-to-day management of a reserve. State responsibilities include land ownership and management; reserve staff members; program implementation; and 30% of funding for the reserve operations. NOAA administers the entire reserve system. NOAA responsibilities include establishing standards for designing and operating reserves; national policy and program guidance; technical assistance; program coordination; and 70% of funding reserve operations.


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Does the designation of a reserve bring more rules and regulations?

The designation of a Green Bay NERR will not add any new regulations. NOAA will examine whether a proposed site is adequately managed for long-term research and education by existing state authorities. There are no federal regulations imposed as a result of reserve designation.

                         
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If the reserve site is designated, will there be restrictions to the existing cultural, recreational, or commercial activities that occur in the area?

No. Designation of a Green Bay NERR does not preclude existing uses and does not result in the total preservation of the area. Recreational and cultural attributes of a NERR are important to the designation. 


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How long does it take to designate a reserve?

In the past, most site designations have taken an average of four to six years. 


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What is the difference between a National Estuarine Research Reserve and a National Marine Sanctuary?

National Estuarine Research Reserve sites are operated by a state partner (i.e., state agency or University) in partnership with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management with a 70-30 funding match for annual operations support using cooperative agreements. National marine sanctuaries are managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. In some instances NOAA works closely with state co-managers in national marine sanctuaries that include state waters, but as part of a national marine sanctuary, the areas are under federal protection. National Estuarine Research Reserves are established under the Coastal Zone Management Act, while National Marine Sanctuaries are established under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. National Estuarine Research Reserves generally consist of state lands and waters and may include uplands, beaches and dry land associated with the estuaries. Marine sanctuaries may include state and federal waters and the submerged lands under them but do not include any dry land. Although the systems do have different legislation and purposes, they serve similar goals of place-based conservation, fostering science-based management, and working on the ground with local communities. Within the National Ocean Service, these programs are increasingly working together to share lessons across the two systems.

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How is a National Estuarine Research Reserve site nomination different from the Sanctuary nomination process?

National Estuarine Research Reserve site nominations and National Marine Sanctuary nominations are two different processes run under different authorities (Coastal Zone Management Act and National Marine Sanctuaries Act). The National Estuarine Research Reserve designation process begins with a specific nomination request from the Governor of a state to NOAA. An interested state conducts a detailed site-selection and nomination process with community input to identify the most appropriate sites for a future estuarine research reserve. The Governor of the state would then submit the nomination of a proposed reserve site to NOAA for consideration. If the NERR nomination is accepted by NOAA, the state then develops a management plan for the site and NOAA completes an environmental review of the proposed designation, culminating in designation of a new National Estuarine Research Reserve. Marine sanctuaries may be either nominated by the public or established by Congress through legislation (e.g., Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary). The Sanctuary Nomination Process is a community-based, grassroots process that allows interested individuals and organizations to nominate marine and Great Lakes areas for NOAA to consider as a national marine sanctuary. The Governor of a state or a state agency may be part of the community that submits a national marine sanctuary nomination. Once a Sanctuary Nomination is received, NOAA will review to consider whether to add the nominated site to an inventory of areas for possible national marine sanctuary designation through a public process outlined in the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. Green Bay is in the process of designating a National Estuarine Research Reserve. 


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