NOAA 99-R411
Contact: Theresa Shearer


Final designation for the 25th National Estuarine Research Reserve has been approved by the U. S. Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This adds 55,000 acres of publicly-owned tidal wetlands, estuarine lagoons, uplands and offshore seas in east Florida to a network of reserves that are dedicated to the study and preservation of estuaries-­the delicate environments where rivers meet the ocean.

Named for the three rivers whose estuary systems and uplands comprise the site, the Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) will help protect the natural, historic and cultural integrity of the region. Even before the NERR designation, all areas included in the reserve enjoyed significant protection as property of various local, state and federal entities. Reserve status will strengthen the protection of the area and create a new emphasis on education and research by promoting and providing a platform for scientific studies and developing environmental public education programs.

"As a native of Jacksonville, Fla., I am excited to see the Guana, Tolomato and Matanzas estuaries join NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System," said NOAA Deputy Administrator Terry Garcia. "This new reserve will advance the understanding and protection of valuable natural resources of the area and provide wonderful opportunities for partnership among state, federal and local government and citizens of St. Johns and Flagler counties. Creating this reserve is an excellent way to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy and understand this environment as I have."

NOAA administers the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, but individual reserves are operated by state agencies. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas, which already manages two other reserves in the state, will oversee the GTM NERR.

Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection David Struhs said, "I applaud the efforts of all who have worked so diligently for the past eight years toward the designation of this reserve. I am very proud that the Department of
Environmental Protection was a major player in this effort. Private citizens and representatives from state, local and federal agencies spent a lot of time and energy bringing this to a reality.

"Through similar partnerships, about 300,000 acres of estuarine ecosystems are managed in Florida's other two national reserves, Apalachicola and Rookery Bay. Both offer innovative environmental education and scientific research programs. Our goal is to continue to work in this cooperative manner and develop the nation's 25th reserve into another model program. The natural and cultural resources of St. Johns and Flagler counties are national treasures that warrant our most ambitious efforts to ensure their preservation for future generations."

Geographically, the new reserve is separated into a northern and southern section that is divided by the populated areas of St. Augustine, St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach. The northern section includes portions of the Tolomato and Guana
rivers, and the southern section includes a portion of the Matanzas River.


Within the northern section resides the Guana River Marsh Aquatic Preserve, Guana River State Park, the Guana River Wildlife Management Area and the Stokes Landing Conservation Area. The land is composed of salt marsh, brackish water
impoundments, mesic flatwoods, oak hammock, scrub, freshwater lakes and marshes, hardwood swamp and cypress swamp.


The southern undisturbed uplands section of the reserve includes Pellicer Creek Aquatic Preserve, Faver-Dykes State Park, Washington Oaks State Gardens, Princess Place, Moses Creek Conservation Area and Fort Matanzas National Monument.

A dedication ceremony for the GTM NERR will be held later this year.