The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), established in 1999, is managed by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) with a mission “to practice and promote informed stewardship of the Grand Bay NERR and Mississippi coastal resources through innovative research, education and training.”
The major partners of the GNDNERR include the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, Mississippi State University, The Nature Conservancy, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Southern Mississippi. Additionally, a Citizens Advisory Board has been established to assure that the concerns of the local citizens are adequately addressed by the Management Board.
Seventy-five percent of the property located within the reserve’s boundaries is owned by public agencies. Originally, the State’s portion of the Grand Bay NERR was designated as the Grand Bay Savanna Coastal Preserve. The federal portion of the reserve is made up of some of the lands that fall within the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge (see boundary map). This national refuge was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the early 1990′s to protect the nation’s last and largest remnant of wetland pine savanna habitat. The Grand Bay NERR is located completely within The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Grand Bay Savanna project area. Because of the great biological significance of this area, TNC has dedicated this bioreserve as one of its Last Great Places in America. This TNC program encourages communities to protect entire landscapes, not just selected areas of high biodiversity.
The lands within the Grand Bay NERR are classified as either core areas or buffer areas. The core area (outlined by yellow on the above map) consists of approximately 12, 800 acres of estuarine tidal marsh, tidal creeks or bayous, shallow, open-water habitats, oyster reefs, seagrass beds, maritime forests, salt flats, sandy beaches and shell middens. These protected core lands are extremely important to the functioning of the estuarine ecosystem; and include “ecological units of a natural estuarine system which preserves, for research purposes, a full range of significant physical, chemical and biological factors contributing to the diversity of fauna, flora, and natural processes occurring within the estuary”.