The Texas National Estuarine Research Reserve : site nomination and application for predesignation assistance : October 15, 2003




University of Texas Marine Science Institute
Montagna, Paul A.
Morehead, Sally
Hyde, Larry

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This document describes the process and outcome of the work to nominate a site within the Texas coastal zone for the of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). The NERRS program is administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as authorized under Section 315 of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972. The overall mission of this program is to promote stewardship of the nations estuaries through science and education using a system of protected areas. Although national in scope, individual sites are state owned and managed with oversight and coordination provided by NOAA. The selection of a candidate Texas National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) site was initiated by the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI). The University of Texas at Austin sought the assistance of the Texas General Land Office (GLO) to coordinate the site selection process and prepare the site nomination package. The site selection process was accomplished through the work of two standing committees, tasked with identifying, evaluating, and selecting a candidate site, as well as developing appropriate local, state, federal, and private partnerships that will ultimately define the NERR. The Site Selection Committee (SSC) provided overall guidance to the process and the Site Evaluation Subcommittee (SES) provided technical guidance in evaluating sites. Membership in both committees included individuals from state and federal agencies, state, federal and local public officials (state officers and legislators), academic institutions, private groups (e.g., private industry and environmental groups), and the general public. The process also included a public hearing to solicit comment and input from local residents and landowners in Rockport, Texas. The proposed Texas NERR site was selected from a group of 65 sites, within the Western Gulf of Mexico biogeographical subregion of the Louisianian Biogeographic Region, that represent key estuarine areas within the state's coastal zone. The proposed site (236,641 acres) consists of a combination of approximately 166,131 acres of state-owned coastal habitat, including estuarine intertidal marsh and shallow open-water bottoms and approximately 66,718 acres of estuarine marsh and non-tidal coastal plain habitat that is part of the Aransas and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge. The site also encompasses the Buccaneer Ranch Cove Preserve (279 acres), a 257 acre parcel under conservation by The Nature Conservancy (Johnson Ranch), and a 3,256 acre private parcel (Fennessey Ranch) bordered on three sides by the Mission River that is proposed by the owner as a conservation area. The entire proposed site includes a diverse suite of estuarine and non-estuarine habitats (many of high quality) that form an intact coastal watershed. The site also includes a number of archaeological sites (i.e., indian middens) and supports significant faunal and floral components. The site is relatively rural with limited industrial and community impacts. Upon acceptance of the Texas NERR nomination by NOAA, UTMSI will proceed with development of drafts of an Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan for the site. It is anticipated that appropriate management agreements will be developed during this phase of site designation to address the educational, research and management objectives of the NERR. The overall goals, objectives, and policies of the Texas NERR will be scoped during the Environmental Impact Statement process and addressed in the Management Plan. Landholding partnerships in the Texas NERR are anticipated to include: USFWS (federal), GLO, TxDOT, TPWD, Coastal Bend Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and the Fennessey Ranch. Local administrative partnerships in the Texas NERR are anticipated to include: Aransas County, and the City of Rockport



site nomination and application

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