NERRA Endorses President’s Budget for NOAA
The National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA), which represents the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), strongly endorses the FY2022 President’s Budget Request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In particular, NERRA urges Congress to adopt the President’s request for $42.5 million for the NERRS FY 2022 Operations, Research, and Facilities budget—a $14 million increase over FY 2021—and appropriate $10 million for the NERRS Procurement, Acquisitions, and Construction budget.
The NERRS has shaped the management and protection of estuaries for nearly half a century. Coastal communities nationwide recognize Reserves as “go to” places for high quality, long-term monitoring data; science guided by local needs; training and technical assistance for decision makers and businesses; science education for teachers and students of all ages; and innovative approaches to habitat stewardship. The NERRS placed-based, integrative approach makes the System uniquely positioned to build on its current work to further advance climate resilience on the coasts.
By leveraging Reserve commitment to sharing local advances in research, education, training, conservation, and stewardship across a national network, the proposed FY2022 budget will catalyze a powerful magnifier effect that will benefit coastal communities around the nation. It will draw on decades-in-the-making trust communities have in Reserves and deliver immediate benefits to decision makers in critical need of strategies to adapt to a changing climate. The budget also will strengthen the robust partnership networks each Reserve has built to insure its local resources are more resilient in perpetuity. Most importantly, it will yield returns that benefit everyone, as the lands and waters that the Reserves protect support jobs, contribute to revenues, and build economic resilience.
With the proposed FY2022 budget, the NERRS will fulfill the blueprint drafted by the congressionally initiated Blue Ribbon Panel, which provided a vision for this time-tested, highly-valued program, as well as recommendations to optimize its effectiveness. This increased investment could not be more timely. As the impacts of climate change intensify, Reserves must be resilient and ready for the challenges to come. The proposed budget will enable Reserves to strengthen science, training, education, and monitoring programs that already serve local, regional, and national climate priorities. More specifically, it will build their capacity to work with NOAA partners to deliver the following:
- Expanded monitoring to understand the impacts of climate change and other disruptions on estuaries and communities. The NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program is the only national network to integrate management priorities with site-based monitoring to provide standardized measures of how coastal conditions are shifting over time. This capacity for long-term monitoring across a national system of representative habitats allows Reserves to detect early warning signals, inform proactive adaptation strategies, and share data to support estuary management nationwide. The budget will enhance NERRS ability to track sea level rise and changes in habitats, including salt marshes, mangroves, eelgrass and other submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), and freshwater coastal wetlands. It also will enable Reserves to track other climate change impacts on coastal habitats, including, for example, the interactions between SAV and ocean acidification.
- Expanded training, technical assistance, and tools that communities need to mitigate the impacts of climate change, recover from environmental disruptions, and continuously adapt to new normals. Currently, the NERRS provides training, technical assistance, and science to more than 13,400 people in more than 2500 coastal cities and towns and 570 businesses nationwide. The proposed budget will enable Reserves to bring these benefits to more communities and support them as they move beyond climate resilience planning into implementation.
- Critically-needed, collaborative science to advance community and environmental resilience, particularly in the fields of blue carbon, living shorelines, and the economics of adaptation. This investment will expand NERRS capacity to serve as a unique network of living laboratories for estuarine science. It also will strengthen flagship programs, such as the NERRS Science Collaborative, that deliver science and tools when and where they’re needed most. Through the Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which provides science to meet community needs related to nationally significant issues, the NERRS will continue to prepare the next generation’s coastal science and management workforce.
- Innovative stewardship to support habitat management and conservation, resilient built and natural infrastructure, and improved water quality. NERRS monitoring and science combine with 1.3+ million acres of estuarine lands and waters to create unique test sites for innovative climate adaptation strategies. The investment will support the restoration, acquisition, and maintenance work needed to conserve these places today and as the System expands. It also will support habitat change analyses, vulnerability assessments, and the development of resilience plans for Reserves and the habitats they help protect as they migrate in response to sea level rise.
- Education programs that engage more teachers, students, and citizens in real-world climate challenges, teach them to apply data and critical thinking, and empower them to be coastal stewards. Reserve education currently delivers field training, curricula, and local data to more than 90,000 students and 3,000 teachers each year. The investment will expand the NERRS Teachers on the Estuary Program to serve more schools, teachers, and students.
NERRS expansion as recommended by the congressionally directed NERRS Blue Ribbon Panel Report. With the proposed budget, the NERRS will welcome a 30th Reserve in Connecticut and continue to explore Reserve designation in Louisiana, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In addition, NERRA strongly supports the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and Services budget line under NOAA’s National Ocean Service to ensure that NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management continues to provide high quality data, tools, and technical support needed by the NERRS and other CZM Programs, including research fellowship programs and an accessible, useful Digital Coast Partnership.