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Nearly 16,700 acres of marshes, uplands, rivers and Lake Superior shoreline in Douglas County were designated the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve in a ceremony Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
The designation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration means the St. Louis River estuary will serve as a site to study natural resource management techniques and apply what is learned to problems facing coastal communities, such as maintaining clean water, protecting wildlife habitat, and preventing and controlling invasive species. The reserve's educational programs will enable people to experience freshwater estuaries and their unique resources, making it a community asset and a destination for students and visitors.
"As the first reserve in the upper Great Lakes, the Lake Superior Reserve adds significant value to the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and broadens the opportunities to study, understand and manage America's coastal ecosystems," said Dr. Larry Robinson, assistant secretary of commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, who represented NOAA at the ceremony.
Designation of the reserve caps a six-year process that involved NOAA's partnership with scientists, agency land managers, public officials and citizens representing local, regional, and tribal interests. The Lake Superior site was proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle in May 2008 after a two-year site selection process.
The University of Wisconsin-Extension is the lead state agency in the project and will manage the reserve. UW-Superior is a partner in the project along with the city of Superior, Douglas County, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
"Estuarine Reserves are living laboratories," said UW-Extension and University of Wisconsin Colleges Interim Chancellor Marv Van Kekerix. "The University of Wisconsin is proud to add its considerable expertise to the important work of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System."
UW-Extension will continue to work with UW-Superior on establishing and developing the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve. The two entities will work in partnership to provide long-term facilities, staffing, and programming for the reserve.
"Researchers, professors and students at UW-Superior are eager to collaborate with the reserve," said Dr. Faith Hensrud, the university's interim provost. "Our facilities and programs, such as the Lake Superior Research Institute, create a perfect match for working together in partnership with the Lake Superior Reserve."
Scientists at UW-Superior expressed enthusiasm about the opportunities the reserve may bring for university faculty and student researchers.
"The fact that we're so close is going to be helpful," said Dr. Ralph Seelke, chair of the Department of Natural Sciences. "I see it as a very useful, very win-win situation for us having it here."
"It opens up grant opportunities and creates a framework where people can contribute their information and be in contact with one and another so research results can be disseminated," said Dr. Nick Danz, assistant professor of botany.
The estuary reserve includes land and water in four separate sites in the area where the St. Louis River enters Lake Superior: around Wisconsin Point and Allouez Bay; along Pokegama Bay; the Pokegama-Carnegie Wetlands; and the Red River Breaks in western Douglas County.
All the land and water in the reserve already is owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, city of Superior, Douglas County or the University of Wisconsin. No additional regulations will placed on the use of the sites in the reserve.
Designation of the research reserve will result in creation of seven jobs in Superior and bring more than $700,000 to the community to support research and education programs.
With designation of the Lake Superior Reserve, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System now comprises 28 estuarine locations in 22 states and Puerto Rico that are protected for research, education, outreach and stewardship. The Lake Superior Reserve is the second to be established in the Great Lakes and the first on the upper Great Lakes. Old Woman Creek Reserve was established in 1980 on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio.
The Lake Superior Reserve will attract scientists and students from across the nation to study at the site, including up to two national graduate research fellows funded annually by NOAA. Reserve designation ensures access to federal funding for research and education programs, environmental monitoring and science-based training programs for coastal managers and decision makers.
"The upper Great Lakes region has a number of features that will help in understanding the unique nature of freshwater estuaries," said Lake Superior Reserve Acting Manager Patrick Robinson. "The research and monitoring programs here will help us understand the potential impacts of climate change on these important ecosystems and will provide critical, scientifically sound information to help communities and coastal managers deal with those impacts."
Laurie McGilvray, chief of NOAA's Estuarine Reserves Division, said, "The Wisconsin reserve will expand our national reach into an unrepresented biogeographic area. It offers local communities an incredible resource to help them monitor their estuary, provide educational programs and advance the state of knowledge around this important natural resource."
NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System is part of the National Ocean Service. Estuarine research reserves are managed by state agencies and/or universities in partnership with NOAA, which provides funding and national program guidance.
NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.
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