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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

UW-Green Bay on the path to host National Estuarine Research Reserve

Green Bay viewed from Bayshore County Park.
Ken Lund
Flickr Creative Commons
Green Bay viewed from Bayshore County Park.

UW-Green Bay is on the path to host the nation’s 31st NERR, or National Estuarine Research Reserve, which brings with it federal dollars to protect and study estuaries and adjacent wetlands.

Most NERRs are located on the east and west coasts. Green Bay holds the distinction of being the world’s largest freshwater estuary.

>>UW-Green Bay Is Working To Become A National Estuarine Research Reserve

The NERR brings together NOAA and local partners to designate one or more natural areas within the estuary and construct what most people who’ve heard about NERR are excited about: a visitor and education center.

Sturgeon Bay is just one of the communities promoting itself as the right choice. But for now the focus is on choosing natural areas that will be folded into the reserve.

"That’s sort of the heart of the NERR system is these, and all the programming builds out around that,” says Matt Dornbush. He’s dean of UW-Green Bay’s business school and a NERR committee member.

Nine natural areas are being considered — from islands off Door County, Green Bay’s southwest shore, to the Peshtigo River and Marinette.

A NERR committee is considering nine natural areas along the estuary as potential elements of the Reserve.
UW-Green Bay
A NERR committee is considering nine natural areas along the estuary as potential elements of the Reserve.

“Once we are complete with this step then we’ll work with NOAA to determine that location of the built infrastructure, and I know that's what a lot of folks are primarily interested in, because it’s something that's easier to imagine — certainly the economic development multipliers that would come with it,” Dornbush says. “Trust me, I get it.”

Emily Tyner, who’s coordinating the process from the UW-Green Bay end, told attendees in a Tuesday webinar that she expects the reserve to be up and running in 2025, “with programs and personnel. We may not have a building up, but we can still be up and running," she says.

Tyner says personally she’s excited about the resulting hands-on and experiential learning starting with kindergarten students.

“Just really having more experiences with nature and being able to use and see the value of the water. As for graduate students, I think it will a real seamless integration into our water science program,” Tyner says. “There’s also a fellowship. It provides funding for graduate students to conduct research at our reserve, and that’ available to students all over the country that could come to our reserve too."

Tyner says public feedback is critical.

Another webinar is being offered Wednesday at 6:30 pm. Next week people interested in more of an in-depth discussion can tune into an online Q&A conversation.

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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