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History and Formation
History
SSNERR commission members celebrate at the Interpretive Center dedication ceremony, 2002.
SSNERR Interpretive Center dedication ceremony, 2002.
On June 27, 1974, the organization that is now known as the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve was the first reserve designated under Section 315 of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. The designation of the "Estuarine Sanctuary", as it was originally known, resulted from the concerted efforts of many concerned citizens and elected officials who recognized the abundant resources and ecosystem values that distinguished the South Slough as a special place suited to the goals of the CZMA.
 
The history of the South Slough NERR began in 1971 when the Coos County Planning Department formed the Barview/Charleston Citizens Committee to assist with the development of a land use plan for the county. The Committee proposed a quarter-mile "buffer strip" protection zone around South Slough from Valino Island south, which was approved by the public and the Coos County Planning Commission. After touring the South Slough area, the Oregon Coastal Conservation and Development Commission (OCCDC) voted to support a moratorium on development south of Valino Island.
 
In 1972, Congress passed the Coastal Zone Management Act which, with subsequent reauthorizations, recognizes that resources of the coastal zone are of national significance and are rapidly disappearing. Section 315 of the CZMA of 1972 established the National Estuarine Sanctuary Program. Under this program, healthy estuarine ecosystems which typify different regions of the United States are designated and managed as sites for long-term research, and are used as a base for estuarine education and interpretation programs.
 
In 1973, the OCCDC formed a Sanctuary Committee to select a site along the Oregon coast to be nominated for designation as a sanctuary under this new program and South Slough became the leading contender. Of the twelve sites under consideration by NOAA, South Slough was chosen as the first site in what is now known as the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.
The State of Oregon was awarded $400,000 in federal funds for initial land acquisition and management of the newly created Sanctuary, which was matched 50-50 with state funds, private contributions, and discounted land sales. After completion of an Environmental Impact Statement, The Nature Conservancy coordinated and negotiated the purchase of property on behalf of the state. The federal guidelines for the program required that the area chosen to be part of the Sanctuary include "water and land units constituting a natural ecological unit" along with the ability to remain a healthy and viable system. By 1978, the Division of State Lands (now the Department of State Lands) had purchased 72.6% of the area originally proposed for the estuarine sanctuary.
 
In 1986, Congress reauthorized the Coastal Zone Management Act and changed the name of the program designated under Section 315. Consequently, South Slough Sanctuary became South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.

State Law
In 1974, Federal Grant In Aid No. 04-4-158-12001 created the partnership between NOAA and the State of Oregon for the initial major purchase of lands for the Reserve. The State agreed to acquire specific lands to create the Reserve, to enact state statutes to keep ecosystems on those lands intact, and to manage the lands acquired with those funds according to NOAA requirements for National Estuarine Research Reserves.
 
Oregon state law (O.R.S. 273.553 et seq.) complements and reinforces federal NERRS regulations by providing for the protection and maintenance of South Slough NERR’s resources through state policy. This set of state statutes established management policy for the Reserve and designates the South Slough NERR Management Commission as the Reserve’s immediate governing body. The statutes also provide that management of South Slough NERR is subject to any agreements between the State of Oregon and NOAA.

OR Department of State Lands
State statute defines the intent and purpose for the South Slough NERR and designates the Oregon Department of State Lands as the lead agency for the Reserve. The Department of State Lands is a state agency under jurisdiction of the State Land Board which is composed of the Governor of Oregon, the Oregon Secretary of State, and the Oregon State Treasurer. All administrative decisions at the Reserve must comply with the policies of the State Land Board. The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) holds title to the lands within South Slough NERR and manages them as assets of the Common School Fund for the State of Oregon. DSL provides oversight of the day to day management of the Reserve’s resources, programs, and operations. The director of the DSL (or a designee) serves as permanent chair of the South Slough NERR Management Commission.