Welcome Connecticut!

Welcome Connecticut!

A big welcome to the newest member of our national network—the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve!

After decades of effort by many organizations and volunteers, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) officially designated the Reserve today. It protects 52,160 acres in the southeastern part of the state, where the Connecticut and Thames rivers flow into Long Island Sound.

“A Connecticut Reserve makes congressional investment in our national System more powerful, while serving the needs of Connecticut communities,” says Rebecca Roth, NERRA’s executive director. “It enhances our ability to deliver the essential science, education, and technical assistance to support coastal industries and help protect people and infrastructure from sea level rise and flooding.”

Prior to this designation, Connecticut was one of only two ocean-bordering states lacking a Reserve. (Louisiana, where plans are underway to designate a site, is the other.) The Reserve protects an area with the region’s highest diversity of fish, including Atlantic salmon, and the endangered shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon. It also encompasses areas recognized as ‘wetlands of international importance’ by the Ramsar Convention and opportunities for public access at several preserves and state parks.

The Reserve will be managed as a partnership between NOAA and the State of Connecticut. Its research and monitoring programs will support the state’s communities in understanding and adapting to warming waters and sea level rise, which threaten habitats that promote climate resilience and support commercial fish and other wildlife. Like other Reserves, it will serve as a living laboratory where scientists and stakeholders collaborate to develop nature-based solutions to understand, restore, and conserve these natural areas so they can benefit all members of local communities for generations.

The area surrounding the Reserve includes North America’s oldest Indian Reservation, the Mashantucket Pequot, as well as ethnically diverse cities like New London.

“This Reserve was designated through a process that fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Roth. “Like every other Reserve, the Connecticut team will rely on these principles to ensure its programs receive insights from all community members and provide opportunities for everyone to participate, particularly underserved groups and those who have faced environmental injustice.” 

A public event to mark the Reserve’s designation is planned for this spring. Additional details will be posted on the research Reserve website at noaa.gov.

National Estuarine Research Reserve System—now serving communities across 24 coastal states and Puerto Rico. 

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NERRA Endorses President’s Budget for NOAA

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.

Growing to Meet the Climate Challenge

Growing to Meet the Climate Challenge

Our soon to be 30th Reserve in Connecticut Reserve will help protect the state’s greatest natural resource.

As the federal government strives to slow climate change by conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030, efforts to expand the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) could not be more timely. The addition of three new Reserves in Connecticut, Louisiana, and Wisconsin will build on the 1.3+ million acres Reserves currently help protect, much of which is publicly accessible. It also will grow the network of NERRS programs that rely on the principles of locally-led conservation, as described in a recent report to the National Climate Task Force.

“Saving land is critical, but putting management in place to care for it in perpetuity is just as important,” observes Rebecca Roth, executive director of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA). “I was happy to see the report call out NERRS expansion—the creation of new Reserves by Congress. Reserves not only support the administration’s goals for conservation, they are the gold star for how it should be done.”

A Growing National Estuarine Research Reserve System

 

In addition to the Reserves in the designation process, a request has been submitted to NOAA to consider a Reserve in the U.S. Virgin Islands. New Reserves will expand the NERRS network of living laboratories, across which scientists and practitioners collaborate with stakeholders to test and share innovative approaches to habitat restoration and management. They will widen and deepen the impact of education and coastal training programs designed to meet local and regional needs, including those of tribal nations.

“When a Reserve is established, it brings with it a national community of practice, dedicated to working collaboratively to evolve tools and strategies  to advance estuarine  science, monitoring, stewardship, education, and training,” says Roth. “This approach creates tangible economic benefits for states and communities, and promotes the equitable distribution of the benefits that Reserves provide.

#30 - Connecticut

The Connecticut Reserve will contribute science and monitoring to support management strategies for a healthy and productive Long Island Sound, which contributes $7 billion annually to the regional economy.

Alongside research into how habitats and species have changed in response to centuries of development in the Sound, the Reserve will provide a unique understanding of the interplay of big river systems and receiving waters. It also will deepen our collective knowledge of the connection between oysters, eelgrass, and water quality, and protect critical habitats for hundreds of species of migratory birds and fish, including the endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon.

Louisiana

Home to diverse natural resources of commercial, cultural, and economic importance, Louisiana faces some of the greatest challenges of any coastal state in terms of land loss, flooding, hurricanes, and sea level rise. A Reserve would help protect the health of the Louisiana Delta, while providing targeted science, monitoring, education, and outreach to support the state, including its underserved communities, in being more self-reliant in the face of these challenges.

“This could be the highest and best use for the port ever,” said South Tangipahoa Port Commissioner Bill Joubert, adding that regardless of where the Reserve is placed, it’s a win for Louisiana and the port.

Currently, three regions are under consideration for designation, and the search committee anticipates one site will be selected and submitted to NOAA for approval by the end of 2021. Louisiana is currently the only coastal state in the U.S. without at least one Reserve. Learn more about their selection process.

Wisconsin

For centuries, Green Baythe world’s largest freshwater estuaryhas been vital to how Northeast Wisconsin lives, works, and plays. To help preserve the Bay for future generations, supporters are pushing to designate it as a Reserve. 

Although the Bay of Green Bay is slowly bouncing back after generations of abuse that degraded water quality and habitat, much work remains. Supporters of the Bay hope that a Reserve will spur further research and identify new solutions to existing and emerging problems.

Site selection is currently underway for the Green Bay Reserve and is expected to complete by the end of 2022. Learn more about what’s happening with this Reserve.

U.S. Virgin Islands

The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) submitted a letter of interest in establishing a Reserve in December 2019. NOAA found the request compelling, but did not have the capacity to provide funds to engage in the site selection process at that time; they will reconsider the request in January 2022.

The Territory’s tropical estuaries are experiencing rapid changes as the climate shifts. In the wake of extreme storms, including Hurricanes Irma and Maria, USVI partners are studying how to support the resilience of these natural systems, and the surrounding communities, as they recover from large disturbances. They also are exploring how to diversify the Territory’s economy and invest in greater food security, including fishing and aquaculture.

Given the majority-minority population (76% African-American, 17% Hispanic and Latino), a Reserve in the USVI will increase diversity, equity and inclusion within the NERRS and be a valuable addition to the the System’s understanding of how to engage different communities—especially those from underserved and historically underrepresented groups in the STEM fields—in coastal science and coastal decision-making.

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