A portion of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Coastal Basin, an area rich in plant and wildlife biodiversity and the site of two actively growing deltas, could soon gain federal designation as a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) is supporting nomination of a site within this 1 million-acre basin to become the state’s first NERR after a two-year process that considered three areas representing some of Louisiana’s most expansive and distinctive coastal landscapes.
The Pelican State has the fifth-longest coastline in the U.S. and the country’s largest area of coastal wetlands. It’s the only coastal state without a NERR. The reserves are designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and managed by the states with a goal of conserving estuaries—areas where freshwater flowing from rivers and streams mixes with ocean saltwater—and estuarine-like ecosystems for research, education, training, and stewardship. NOAA administers the reserve system nationally, with states and local entities overseeing day-to-day management of sites. All NERRs receive federal funding and technical support and are protected by state laws and regulations.
In a statement announcing the nomination, Gov. Bel Edwards said, “[T]he Atchafalaya Basin is home to a unique and cherished culture and history” along with “two active, land-building river deltas and an extremely vibrant estuary.”
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