Reserves Benefit Local Economies

Reserves Benefit Local Economies

Through a partnership with Rising Tide Explorers, the Rookery Bay Reserve attracts more than 13,000 visitors who generate more than $1 million in revenues annually. Photo courtesy Rookery Bay Reserve.

National Estuarine Research Reserves are a positive influence on local economies, according to a 2020 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management (NOAA OCM) and the Eastern Research Group, with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The team calculated the economic contributions of Reserves in Florida, Oregon, and New Hampshire in 2019 and 2020. They found that each Reserve makes positive economic contributions to local communities by supporting jobs and increasing local revenues.

Economic contribution is the economic activity that happens in a community as a result of spending related to a program or project,” explains Pete Wiley, NOAA economist and study co-author. “This study showed the spending that happens as a Reserve carries out its work has a ripple effect that touches many people and businesses. What makes a Reserve’s economic contribution particularly powerful is that it’s paired with activities that people love to do and places that they care about for many reasons.”

The study found that Reserves directly and indirectly support jobs in many industries— including tourism, construction, restaurant, real estate, fishing, retail—in the counties where they are located. For example, spending by visitors to Florida’s Rookery Bay Reserve supports approximately 104 jobs, not only in those businesses where visitors actually spend money, but also in others. The restaurant where a family buys lunch might depend on the local farmers cooperative for produce and engage employees who like to visit a nearby bowling alley after work. 

Through programs and partnerships, the study also showed that Reserves contribute to revenues that sustain the resilience of businesses and communities. For example, through investments in staff salaries, facilities maintenance, operations, and partnerships, Florida’s three Reserves increased local revenues by $45 million on average in 2019 and 2020.

Investments in Oregon’s South Slough Reserve staff salaries, facilities maintenance, operations, and partnerships enhanced local revenues by $5.3M in 2019. Photo courtesy, South Slough Reserve.

“Reserves make a significant contribution to their local economies, and these, coupled with the substantial benefits realized through their positive influence on the environment, result in an enormous value to their states and to the country,” says Wiley.

“This study verifies what we have always known—having a Reserve in your community makes significant contributions to the local economy,” says Rebecca Roth, executive director of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association.

“Even beyond the studies that show the work that Reserves do to protect and manage their piece of the coast can make economic contributions, we know these places  provide many valuable benefits to natural resource-dependent industries, as well as communities and the public.”

For example, New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve partners to protect and restore the salt marshes, eelgrass meadows, and oyster beds that help make the waters of the Bay fishable, swimmable, and drinkable. Restoring these habitats could save up to $24 million in annual wastewater treatment costs and increase commercial fishermen revenues by $1.9 million each year.

New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve partners with Reserves around the country to develop tools to advance the resilience of salt marshes in the face of rising seas. Photos courtesy of the Great Bay Reserve.

Coastal Resilience Briefing: April 8, 2021

Coastal Resilience Briefing: April 8, 2021

Join NERRA president Keith Laakkonen on Tuesday, April 8th from 2:00-2:30 EST for a virtual briefing on coastal resilience.

The briefing is co-sponsored by NERRA and other National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) partners, including the Coastal States Organization (CSO), the Integrated Ocean Observing System Association (IOOSA), the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation (NMSF) and the Sea Grant Association. Together, these organizations work to provide tailored data and science, planning and management resources, education and outreach, and protection of lands and waters to comprehensively support coastal community resilience.

In addition to Mr. Laakkonen, speakers will include James Chang from the office of Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI); Tara Owens, coastal processes extension specialist with Hawaii Sea Grant; and Steve Couture, administrator for the New Hampshire Coastal Program.

Register here.

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Rookery Bay Offers Nation’s Best Kayak Tours!

Rookery Bay Offers Nation’s Best Kayak Tours!

The Rookery Bay Reserve’s eco-tour program has snagged the #1 spot for best kayak tours in the nation! There’s a history of award winning here, with Rookery Bay earning a #1 spot on Trip Advisor and Best of the Gulf Shore for Water Sports Recreation. 

The Friends of Rookery Bay partner with Rising Tide Explorers on marketing, customer service, access, and providing educational training programs to Rising Tide staff, who in turn lead all tours and manage rentals.

“This is a win-win for everyone,” says Athan Barkoukis, director of the friends group. “This makes Rising Tide’s capacity that much greater, and we can educate more people while bringing in funding to support the Friends and Reserve.” 

Science Solutions at Rookery Bay

Science Solutions at Rookery Bay

The Science Solutions planning team meets with a group of featured speakers: Adam DiNuovo, biologist with Florida Audubon; Brad Cornell, Audubon of the Western Everglades policy director, and Keith Laakkonen, Rookery Bay Reserve director. The link to a recording of their talk can be found here.

With their new virtual Science Solutions series, Florida’s Rookery Bay Reserve has not skipped a beat in serving up science-focused estuary education and training. 

Originally planned as an in-person symposium, the program’s premise was to give Rookery Bay friends, fans, and partners the skills and opportunity to do more with the Reserve’s long-term monitoring data. 

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted  Rookery Bay’s staff to pivot to a virtual platform, allowing more than 350 people from Florida to Alaska to connect and learn from the Reserve in the first half of the series.

Each month, the team hosts a webinar to share a success story from the Reserve and a virtual skill-building workshop on topics including shorebird protection, mangrove restoration, social science, science communication, and ecosystem services modelling. 

“The past few months have been tough for everyone in our community, from students and teachers to volunteers, scientists, and community leaders,” says Brita Jessen, research coordinator at the Reserve. “We highlight the success stories to reflect on how much good work this community has accomplished and to explore the ingredients and steps to build successful partnerships.”

Dr. Mike Savarese (right), who presented at the July Science Solutions webinar on building alliances between coastal scientists and decision makers, in the field.

Science Solutions is for anyone interested in learning about Rookery Bay’s environment. Along with students, scientists, and environmental professionals, the series has been popular with Reserve visitors and friends.

“We get a lot of retired ‘snowbirds’ at our Reserve,” says Jessica McIntosh, coastal training program coordinator at Rookery Bay. “With this series, they’ve been able to take part and stay connected with the Reserve, even if they aren’t currently at their Florida home.” 

“Part of my role as education coordinator is to plan events to spread the word about the Reserve to a variety of audiences, from K to gray,” says Sarah Falkowski, the Reserve’s education coordinator. “In this remote world, virtual webinars have actually been a boost in our reach—in numbers, types of audiences, and geography. Never underestimate the power of sharing your story far and wide!”

The series also has helped the Reserve better understand the needs of the local community and use that information to adapt their programs.

“We wanted to create opportunities for our community to keep moving forward through professional training,” says Jessen. “The webinars highlighted certain steps taken in those success stories that were then explored in the trainings. This is our affirmation that the coastal science community is resilient, just like our natural resources!”

“Through the series, I’ve gained practical skills and tools for thinking about whom to bring to the table and how to more effectively engage in discussions about resource management issues,” says Marcy Cockrell, a biological administrator with Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Science Solutions participant. “The skills and tools from the series immediately apply to my work, and I plan to use them for both current and future projects.”

Interested in hearing the good word from Rookery Bay Research Reserve? Check out the upcoming and archived Science Solutions here.

Students Virtually Explore Rookery Bay

Students Virtually Explore Rookery Bay

To better serve their community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s Rookery Bay Reserve is taking student and family programming online every day in April and May.

Students “staying at home” can continue to learn about the 110,000 acres of land and water that Rookery Bay protects, as well as the wildlife that live there. Each week of has a theme—from shark research to water monitoring to coastal resilience—and comes with videos, tours, downloadable activities and quizzes, which are all available on the Rookery Bay Reserve website.

In 2019 more than 12,000 community members visited the Reserve’s Environmental Learning Center, and 1,400 students participated in their programs. By taking that engagement online, the Rookery Bay Reserve is connecting people with their estuary while keeping the community safe.

Connecting Art & Nature at Rookery Bay

Connecting Art & Nature at Rookery Bay

At the Rookery Bay Reserve, art inspires the public and promotes the Reserve’s mission of research, stewardship, and education.

Rookery Bay Reserve protects 110,000 acres of water, wetlands, and wildlife in southwest Florida, but many community members aren’t aware of the incredible estuary in their own backyard. A partnership between the Rookery Bay Reserve and the local art community is helping people discover nature in ways that get their hands—and paintbrushes—dirty.

“Naples has a large arts community, and through the arts we can bring people from all parts of the region to our Reserve,” says Amy Gray, the Reserve’s communications coordinator. “When people attend an exhibit or a watercolor painting class, they are also exploring and learning more about the work of Rookery Bay Reserve, as well as its waters, land, and wildlife.”

A participant in the Brush Strokes class paints a Florida Manateeone of the many marine animals residing in Rookery Bay waters.

“People come interested in art and leave knowing more about their own backyard and feeling more responsible for it,” says Sarah Falkowski, education coordinator at the Reserve. “Our programs promote what people can do themselves—become a birder, work with native plants, recycle—we touch on all those ways through the experience of art.” 

Rookery Bay hosts annual painting and photography exhibitions focused on local flora and fauna, and each year, they feature local artists. For 2020, featured local artist Dora Knuteson painted a large environmental mural for the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. Dora also donated $3,500 of the proceeds from a recent exhibition to sponsor an intern in Rookery Bay’s Sea Turtle Program.

Art students from Marco Island Academy, a public charter school, paint an educational mural in Rookery Bay’s outdoor classroom.

Photography and painting classes are also offered in partnership with other local artists. New this year is the Brush Strokes watercolor class led by Naples artist Jan Deswik. With Jan’s guidance, anyone inspired by nature has the opportunity to paint the beauty of the Reserve. Each month Brush Strokes spotlights a subject from shells and wildlife to local waterways. Before each class, a Rookery Bay naturalist gives a short presentation about the topic, often with real-life props or visuals. 

For more than 10 years, Rookery Bay has worked with Collier County Public Schools and local private schools to host student art exhibitions. A mural at the Reserve’s outdoor classroom was recently painted by students and is used as a teaching and engagement tool by the Reserve’s educational programs. Creating art with an emphasis on waters and wildlife gives local students the opportunity to learn about Rookery Bay and the coastal estuary environment. 

Jan Deswik, local Naples artist, teaches Brush Strokes watercolor class.

Dora Knuteson, Rookery Bay’s 2020 featured artist, poses with the mural she painted in the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center.

Art students from Marco Island Academy, a public charter school, paint an educational mural in Rookery Bay’s outdoor classroom.

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