LaNERR: Frequently Asked Questions
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For the most current information on the Louisiana National Estuarine Research Reserve, please visit the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority project website at
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- What is a National Estuarine Research Reserve?
- What programs and benefits do research reserves offer?
- Why should Louisiana have a NERR?
- Will the state have to purchase land for a Louisiana reserve?
- Will a new reserve involve NOAA taking land from the State?
- Will the federal government run the reserve?
- Does the designation of a reserve bring more rules and regulations?
- If the reserve site is designated, will there be restrictions to the existing cultural, recreational or commercial activities that occur in the area?
- We already have a site in mind for our state. Is it necessary to go through the site selection process?
- Has NOAA identified priority areas for reserves?
- How long does it take to designate a reserve?
What is a National Estuarine Research Reserve?
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of protected areas representative of the various biogeographic regions and estuarine types in the United States. Reserves are established for long-term research, education, and interpretation to promote informed management of the nation’s estuaries and coastal habitats. A reserve represents a partnership program between NOAA and coastal states. NOAA will provide funding and national guidance, and each site is managed on a daily basis by a lead state agency with input from local partner.
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 nonpoint source pollution, habitat restoration and invasive species, 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 nationally 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 additional federal funding that is only available to designated Reserves. Here are some key facts compiled in 2017 by the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association, a non-profit Reserve advocacy group:
Reserves protect more than 1.3 million acres of coastal and estuarine lands that provide flood protection, keep water clean, sustain and create jobs, support fish and wildlife, and offer outdoor recreation.
Every year, programs offered at reserves attract more than a half a million visitors, and educate approximately 85,000 students and 3,200 teachers.
Decision makers from more than 2,500 cities and towns and 570 businesses benefit by reserve based science and technical expertise nationwide each year.
Reserves leverage additional funding for their surrounding communities. In some states, this can be as much as $1.5 million.
Reserve protection and management of estuaries keeps commercial and recreational fishermen successful. The national system contributes billions of dollars to the shellfish and seafood industry in states with a reserve, and tens of billions of dollars in ocean-dependent industries.
Why should Louisiana have a NERR?
The state of Louisiana offers both unique and diverse ecosystems. Louisiana falls within Mississippi Delta biogeographic region. This region provides a vast array of crucial natural habitats and resources both to the State itself and the entire nation. These resources provide commercial, recreational, cultural, and economic importance to our State. However, Louisiana faces many challenges such as: land loss, flooding, hurricanes, and sea level rise. Establishing a National Estuarine Research Reserve will provide targeted science, monitoring, education and outreach to help Louisiana be more self-reliant for said challenges.
A Louisiana-based Reserve could complement and extend the scientific, educational, and stewardship activities and needs of programs like the EPA National Estuary Program (Barataria National Estuary Program), the Louisiana Coastal Management Program, the Louisiana Sea Grant office, and various academic institutions through the addition of funding, resources, and expertise. Additionally, it could enable new directions and initiatives by leveraging nation-wide programs. The health of the Louisiana Delta ecosystem and the many human uses that depend on it would benefit from establishing a Reserve.
Will the state have to purchase land for a Louisiana reserve?
No. Louisiana is considering sites from existing publicly owned lands and adjacent public trust waters. Additionally, the LaNERR site could expand with municipal and non-profit property; and with donated or purchased land.
Will a new reserve involve NOAA taking land from the State?
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.
Will the federal government run the reserve?
LaNERR would be a partnership between NOAA and Louisiana. The state is responsible for the day-to-day management of a reserve. NOAA administers the entire reserve system. NOAA responsibilities include establishing standards for designating and operating reserves that benefit the entire system.
Does the designation of a reserve bring more rules and regulations?
The designation of a LaNERR would 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.
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 LaNERR site 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 designation.
We already have a site in mind for our state. Is it necessary to go through the site selection process?
Yes, the state is responsible for developing a site selection process that examines potential sites throughout the entire biogeographic subregion within the state and then narrows down the options to the best location.
Has NOAA identified priority areas for reserves?
NOAA is committed to completion of a system of reserves representing the diverse biogeographic and typological character of the estuaries of the United States and estuarine-like systems of the Great Lakes. However, it is constrained by limited funding and staff resources. For this reason, the priorities for accepting new nominations are as follows: First priority will be given to nominations that incorporate both a biogeographic sub-region and an estuary type not represented by existing or developing reserves. Second priority will be given to nominations that incorporate either a biogeographic subregion or an estuary type not represented by existing or developing reserves.
How long does it take to designate a reserve?
In the past, most site designations have taken an average of four to six years.