NOAA accepts letter of nomination for a National Estuarine Research Reserve site (NERR) along the bay of Green Bay


Acceptance of the nomination assists UW-Green Bay’s leadership in the state’s efforts towards NERR designation

Green Bay, WI – Another significant milestone has been reached in the process of designating a new National Estuarine Research Reserve for the bay of Green Bay. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reviewed the final nomination package submitted by the state of Wisconsin and determined that it meets all regulatory requirements for accepting the nomination of natural area sites for a NERR.

This nomination moves the bay of Green Bay one step closer to becoming a designated NERR site. Acceptance of the nomination will enable the state and NOAA to begin the next steps of designating the reserve: conducting public outreach, tribal engagement and developing a draft environmental impact statement and management plan. The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay leads the state’s efforts towards NERR designation.

“This nomination embodies the collaboration with partners and the public that is the backbone of the research reserve system,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “As we move through the designation process, NOAA is committed to hearing from partners about how research, education and stewardship opportunities can help make this estuarine ecosystem and Great Lakes communities more resilient.”

On December 29, 2022, Governor Tony Evers submitted a NERR site nomination package to NOAA, requesting that NOAA accept the nomination of a multicomponent site along the Bay of Green Bay.

“Conserving and protecting our natural resources and land continues to be a top priority for my administration, and I am thrilled to see this important effort to designate a site along the Bay of Green Bay as a new National Estuarine Research Reserve move forward,” said Gov. Evers in a statement released today. “I want to thank everyone at UW-Green Bay, NOAA, and all those involved in this effort, and I look forward to the continued progress to see this designation, which will bolster efforts to study and conserve this important regional ecosystem, realized.”

The Green Bay ecosystem is the largest freshwater estuary in the world, in the largest reservoir of freshwater on the planet, the vitality of which are critical to the current and future prosperity of the broader Northeast Wisconsin region and state.

NOAA’s selection of the nomination for the bay of Green Bay NERR is a significant milestone in the designation process and an advancement on bringing the water quality research, educational programming and technical expertise that come with siting a research reserve on the bay of Green Bay.

“This is an exciting next step for our region. UW-Green Bay is committed to studying, preserving and protecting the area that includes the largest freshwater estuary in the world,” said University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander. “The partnership that can happen by bringing in a national network of coastal research experts will provide information that is locally relevant and nationally significant and bring attention and support to the region to help solve some of the challenges facing our great waterways. This is an effort we are proud to lead.”

The designation of a bay of Green Bay NERR presents an opportunity to engage northeast Wisconsin more fully with the incredible natural resources of the Green Bay ecosystem. It will enhance the region’s economic, cultural, and recreational connections to our waters, while protecting and restoring the Green Bay water ecosystem. The NERR designation will bring national attention to the bay of Green Bay as an important waterway for the state and the Great Lakes region. Only publicly owned or lands open to the public are eligible to be included in the NERR and no new land will be purchased for the designation. The reserve will be a non-regulatory, state-managed entity, with program guidance and technical assistance from NOAA.

The site proposal is a culmination of several years of local, grassroots-support for a research reserve in Wisconsin. The proposed site[s] were selected following a comprehensive evaluation process that sought the views of the public, member of local communities and other interested parties. State and local agency representatives, tribal nations, estuarine experts, and industry representatives served as committee members and evaluated candidate site areas. Recordings from previous public meetings about the bay of Green Bay NERR designation can be found here.

To further inform the region, a joint public meeting will be held by NOAA and UW-Green Bay on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 to solicit comments on significant issues related to the development of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Bay of Green Bay NERR. A virtual meeting will be held at 10 a.m. via Zoom, and an in-person meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the STEM Innovation Center on the UW-Green Bay campus. More information on the public meeting will be released in February.

What is a National Estuarine Research Reserve?
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERR) is a national network of 30 sites across the coastal US, including the Great Lakes, designed to protect and study estuaries and their coastal wetlands. The mission of the NERR System is, “To practice and promote stewardship of coasts and estuaries through innovative research, education, and training using a place-based system of protected areas.” Established through the Coastal Zone Management Act, the reserves represent a partnership program between NOAA and the coastal states. NOAA provides funding and national guidance, and each site is managed on a daily basis by a lead state agency or university with input from local partners. For the Bay of Green Bay NERR, UW-Green Bay is the state lead for the designation process. At the local level, a Bay of Green Bay NERR will offer a coordinating force to manage, restore, and protect the Green Bay ecosystem, with a programmatic focus on four sectors: research, education, stewardship, and training.

About UW-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a school of resilient problem solvers who dare to reach higher with the power of education that ignites growth and answers the biggest challenges. Serving 10,300 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students as well as 67,500 continuing education learners annually, UW-Green Bay offers 200 academic degrees, programs, and certificates. With four campus locations in Northeast Wisconsin, the University’s access mission welcomes all students who want to learn, from every corner of the world. Championing bold thinking since opening its doors in 1965, it is a university on the rise – Wisconsin’s fastest growing UW. For more information, visit


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