Niagara River Corridor Ramsar Site

We are pleased to announce that the Niagara River is now a Ramsar-designated site! Click here to read the press release.

The Niagara River, which connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, is an environmental treasure. It is home to more than 700 species of plants, 300 bird species, 100 fish species, and many more mammals, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, and insects. More than fifty of these species are endangered, threatened, or protected in New York State.

The river is an incredibly important corridor for migratory birds, especially songbirds, winter waterfowl, and gulls. In fact, it is designated as a globally significant Important Bird Area, on par with places like Yellowstone and the Everglades. It is also an important nursery for spawning fish, including the endangered Lake Sturgeon.

Ramsar

The Niagara River has not always been this healthy. Decades of industrialization left the river polluted. Urban development and highways along its shores degraded wildlife habitat. Although we are still dealing with the legacy of these problems, the river is on a rebound. The thousands of people who fish, boat, and watch birds there are a testament to this change.

The millions of people who visit Niagara Falls annually may not realize how far we have come. The Ramsar designation celebrates this turnaround.

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty that promotes the sustainable use of the world’s wetlands. According to Ramsar, wetlands can include almost all water-based habitats, including rivers, but to be a Ramsar site they must meet certain ecological criteria, like sustaining endangered species, migratory birds, or rare ecosystems. The Niagara River meets nearly all of these criteria.

With this designation, the Niagara River Corridor becomes the 40th Ramsar site in the United States, but it is the first that crosses international borders. The designation includes the river itself as well as protected greenspaces, like the Stella Niagara Preserve. It does not include private properties along the shore.

Ramsar is voluntary and non-regulatory. The designation cannot be granted without permission of all landowners within the site, public or private, and does not impose new restrictions on land use or development. Instead, it celebrates the importance of the site, can attract outside funding for projects, and encourages better management of natural resources.

The Land Conservancy worked with a team of steering committee members from the U.S. and Canada to promote the Niagara River Corridor as a Ramsar site.

Jajean Rose-Burney, our Deputy Executive Director, co-chaired the committee of New York and Ontario volunteers who steered the proposal that has brought Ramsar designation to the Niagara River. In addition to Rose-Burney,  hundreds of locals participated in the process including government officials of the cities and towns along the river as well as environmentalists. The other steering committee members were Jocelyn Baker (Ontario co-chair with Jajean), Corey Burant (Niagara Parks Commission), Joseph Gould and Jeanne Beiter (Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper), Tim Heinmiller and Liette Vasseur (Brock University Environmental Sustainability Research Unit), Ryan McPherson (University at Buffalo Chief Sustainability Officer), Kerry Mitchell, Tom DeSantis, Alicia Perez-Fuentetaja (SUNY Buffalo State College Biology Department and Great Lakes Center), Patrick Robson (Niagara College), and Lynda Schneekloth (University at Buffalo Regional Institute). Legal support was provided by Kim Diana Connolly and her students of the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Law. Students from UB’s Architecture and Planning school also helped. The Niagara River Greenway Commission, led by Greg Stevens, served as the nominator for the Ramsar designation.

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