The Takeaway: If successful, this proposal to establish a 30th U.S. estuarine research reserve — with public comment happening during National Estuaries Week — would be the first one in Connecticut.
In September 2021, NOAA and the state of Connecticut began to solicit public comment on a proposed Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve located along Long Island Sound. If approved, this site could become the 30th U.S. estuarine research reserve as soon as January 2022, and would help conserve valuable wetland habitat, consistent with President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative. The comment period is happening at the same time as National Estuaries Week, September 18 – 25, a celebration of estuaries when the public is encouraged to explore a wetlands world of sights, sounds, and adventures at one of 29 current research reserves.
To date, NOAA’s research reserves have protected more than 1.3 million acres of land and water while providing living outdoor classrooms for students and teachers, community training hubs, field sites for estuarine research, and one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures.
“NOAA is committed to establishing the Connecticut estuarine research reserve, because reserves inform and strengthen climate change resilience at national and local levels, help communities tackle critical issues — such as coastal flooding, invasive species growth, and nonpoint source pollution — and support the coastal ecotourism economy,” says Nicole LeBoeuf, assistant administrator of NOAA's National Ocean Service.
The U.S. coastal recreation and tourism industry generates an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion per year, and a large proportion of those activities take place in estuaries. These figures are likely to rise because, in 2019, Americans began to seek outdoor fun and adventure in record numbers.
From 2019 to 2020, American hikers grew by 8.1 million, campers by 7.9 million, and freshwater fishers by 3.4 million, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Overall, 53% of Americans ages six and over participated in outdoor recreation at least once in 2020, the highest participation rate on record.
To learn more about NOAA's engagement in the America the Beautiful initiative, visit America the Beautiful.
Estuaries: yours to explore. Hiking, birdwatching, swimming, fishing, hunting, kayaking, canoeing — nearly any outdoor adventure you can imagine is happening at a reserve somewhere.
At the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, a kayaker glides among picturesque American lotus blossoms. Along the way osprey dive for food, great blue herons linger along the banks, and an occasional beaver lodge can be spotted. Photo: Michelle Bock
A Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle hatchling struggles toward the ocean to escape predators. At the Amos Rehabilitation Keep, part of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, visitors learn about animals on the path to recovery at the sea turtle pool, raptor enclosure, and walking paths with interpretive signage. Photo: Jace Tunnell
Fall at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve features spectacular colors, and hikers all year round enjoy easy-to-moderate trails with views of saltmarsh, forests, grasslands, beaches, overlooks, and Mount Agamenticus. Photo: Sarah Smith
A nature guide and student prepare to cast a net in the waters of the Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve. Teachers and students often use the reserve’s dock, public boat access, and nature trail system for lessons in the field. Photo: Hansje Gold-Krueck
At the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, explorers visit the working Rush Ranch for birding and hiking, plus tours of a working blacksmith shop, nature center, restored 100-year-old barn, and a house built in 1932 using a kit from Sears, Roebuck & Company. Photo: Tom Muehleisen
Learning center visitors play interactive games to find out how their actions can help, or hurt, estuaries and other living things at the Delaware, Guana Tolomato Matanzas, and Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserves. Photo: NOAA Science Collaborative
At the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, overnight visitors enjoy 10 rustic campsites on Washburn Island, and day visitors take boating trips out to the island. Photo: Hansje Gold-Krueck
At the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a restored marsh pond and dock offer striking vistas. Photo: Milton Muñoz