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.