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Green Bay NERR


In 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration selected the greater Green Bay Ecosystem as the site for a National Estuarine Research Reserve. A National Estuarine Research Reserve, or NERR, is part of a network of coastal areas dedicated to the study of estuarine systems. Freshwater estuaries occur in the Great Lakes where rivers meet the lake, creating unique habitat for many species of birds, fish, and other animals.

There are currently 29 NERR sites located in coastal areas throughout the country. Each site is funded through a combination of federal and state monies and provides a “living laboratory” for research, outreach and education. Communities that house NERR sites enjoy the following benefits:

  • An exemplary visitor center that provides international exposure and is a powerful tourist draw
  • Increased research dollars
  • Assistance stewarding local aquatic treasures
  • Educational resources
  • Unique recreational opportunities
  • Local economic development

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is currently engaged in the site selection process for the Green Bay Ecosystem NERR.  Selection for a NERR site is competitive. In the coming months, the City of Sturgeon Bay will be building its case for becoming the nation’s next NERR site.

View Sturgeon Bay's final NERR Prospectus.

Why Sturgeon Bay?

  • The City of Sturgeon Bay is at the center of some of the highest aquatic biodiversity anywhere in the Great Lakes because of its proximity to both Green Bay and Lake Michigan -- from agricultural and industrial impacted areas of the Fox River to near-pristine bays and estuaries along the northern shores of Door County.
  • Sturgeon Bay and Door County have demonstrated a passion for healthy ecosystems and the quality of life they provide through the work of nonprofits like the Ridges Sanctuary, the Nature Conservancy, the Door County Environmental Council, the Door County Land Trust, and Crossroads at Big Creek, among others.
  • Door County is home to 29 State Natural Areas and has more than 26,000 acres of protected land to support the fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Door County has strong connections to institutions of higher education. Research programs developed by UW-Green Bay, UW-Milwaukee, the Smithsonian, and Shedd Aquarium, and others, investigate how to protect habitat for species such as the endangered dwarf lake iris, Hine’s emerald dragonfly, and the Pitcher's thistle.
  • Maritime history runs deep in Door County. Sturgeon Bay is a designated Coast Guard City and supports sustainable sport and commercial fishing. The City also provides a safe port of call for visiting research vessels like the R/V Neeskay from UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences and offers them the same maritime infrastructure and services that support its working waterfront and recreational boating.
  • Sturgeon Bay and Door County attract two million visitors annually and promote sustainable eco-tourism that includes evaluation of sustainable initiatives from both resident and environmental perspectives. This tourism economy, along with agriculture and industry, allows Sturgeon Bay to offer big-city infrastructure in a quaint, walkable town atmosphere.
In early 2020, the City of Sturgeon Bay established an Adhoc Committee for the purpose of attracting water research organizations; more specifically, to support the establishment of the Green Bay NERR research and tourism related facility in Sturgeon Bay.
Ad Hoc NERR Advisory Committee: Co-Chair Mark Holey, Co-Chair Caitlin Oleson, Laurel Hauser, Gregg Meissner, Matthew Peter, Charlie Henriksen.
Ex Officio Members: Marty Olejniczak, Steve Jenkins, David Ward, Josh VanLieshout, Pam Seiler.

Letters of Support:  
Helpful Information:
PRESS RELEASE: Sturgeon Bay Prepares Bid to become NERR Site
Green Bay NERR Fact Sheet
Office of Coastal Management National Estuarine Research Reserve
Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve 
Lake Superior NERR