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NOAA, Wisconsin Officials Designate Lake Superior Research Reserve
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A 16,697-acre area of freshwater marshes, uplands and river on the shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin has become the 28th member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve System in a designation ceremony at Superior, Wisconsin on October 26.

Federal, state and local officials welcomed the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve to the system and celebrated with speeches and a social gathering for the public. The new reserve is located in Douglas County, in the northwestern corner of Wisconsin where the St. Louis River flows into Lake Superior.

Official designation of the Lake Superior Reserve culminates a six-year process beginning with site selection and continuing with development of an environmental impact study and a comprehensive management plan. This multi-year process was done in partnership with scientists, agency land managers, public officials and citizens representing local, regional, and tribal interests.

The designation means that the unique St. Louis River freshwater 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.

Research conducted at the Reserve could improve the health of local freshwater estuaries and assist other Great Lakes communities.  The Reserve’s educational programs will also allow individuals 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.

The reserve system 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 in the upper Great Lakes. Old Woman Creek Reserve was established in 1980 on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio.

The Lake Superior site was proposed by Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle in May 2008, after a two-year site selection process. The reserve will be managed by the University of Wisconsin Extension.

“Estuarine Reserves are living laboratories,” said University of Wisconsin-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.”

The University of Wisconsin-Extension has been working very closely with, and will continue to work with, the University of Wisconsin-Superior on establishing and developing the Lake Superior Reserve. These two University of Wisconsin entities will work in partnership to provide long-term facilities, staffing, and programming for the Reserve.

“Researchers, professors and students at the University of Wisconsin-Superior are eager to collaborate with the Reserve,” according to Interim Provost Faith Hensrud. “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.”

The 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 scientifically sound information to help communities and coastal managers deal with those impacts.” Freshwater estuaries are critically important habitats for a wide variety of wildlife, including many species of bird, fish, and plants.

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.

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