The Waquoit Bay Reserve on Cape Cod is composed of more than 2,700 acres of aquatic and terrestrial habitat, including open waters, barrier beaches, sand dunes, fresh and salt marshes, rivers, and mixed pine and oak forests. The Reserve includes South Cape Beach State Park, Washburn Island, the Quashnet Woods Area and several other areas which host miles of hiking trails. Much of the Reserve is located within the state-designated Waquoit Bay Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The Waquoit Bay Reserve is supported by the “friends group,” Citizens for the Protection of Waquoit Bay.
The Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is a component of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), a federal-state partnership of protected research sites.
The mission of the Reserve is to improve stewardship of the region's estuarine and coastal watershed ecosystems. Five goals describe the Reserve's integrated program areas:
- Improve the understanding of coastal ecosystems and the human influences on them.
- Improve environmental literacy in our communities to enable people to make conscious, environmentally-sustainable personal decisions.
- Demonstrate sustainable stewardship of the land and water ecosystems within the Reserve to serve as a model for community stewardship in the region.
- Foster dialogue and development of solutions to coastal ecosystem management issues through sustained engagement with communities.
- Improve the operations, infrastructure and stature of the Reserve.
The Research and Monitoring Program conducts and supports research to advance our understanding of coastal ecosystems and human influences on them. The Education and Training program draws upon research findings to develop and present a variety of educational programming for audiences as diverse as coastal decision-makers, community members, and school children. The Stewardship Program is responsible for managing Reserve lands and waters and serving as a model for coastal management in the region. Priority is given to the conservation and sustainable use of ecological resources, while balancing the needs of research and recreation. Stewardship decisions are informed by research and, conversely, stewardship activities help to further scientific understanding of coastal ecosystems.