Restore the Gorge

The Niagara Gorge is comprised of unique ecological communities and is one of the most biologically diverse places in the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, the gorge is being overrun by non-native invasive plants species. To address this problem, the Land Conservancy is leading “Restore the Gorge” project, a multi-year effort done in collaboration with many partners to maintain and enhance the ecological diversity of the Niagara Gorge.

The Niagara Gorge is home to the majority of the plant species found in the Niagara Frontier, many of them very rare. It is also part of a globally significant Important Bird Area and the lower Niagara River rapids are important spawning ground for freshwater fish, including the threatened Lake Sturgeon. Unfortunately, the health of this sensitive environment can easily be harmed by many factors, especially the threat of exotic invasive plant species.

To fortify the gorge and restore its health, the Land  Conservancy will remove invasive plant species, and replace them with native trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers. Funding from NY Sea Grant will allow us to improve the health of wetland seeps at the base of the gorge walls. These are some of the most diverse features in the gorge.

The first phase of Restore the Gorge is funded with nearly $1 million from the Niagara River Greenway Ecological Standing committee. This phase of work will take place over three years, from 2017 to 2019, and will focus on portions of the gorge and its rim owned by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) between the Niagara Falls Railroad Bridge and the Discovery Center.

This project is supported by $1 million from Buffalo Billion Phase II, nearly $1 million from Niagara River Greenway Commission’s Greenway Ecological Standing Committee, a $100,000 grant from Oath Community Benefit Fund for Niagara County by the Empire State Development, and a $25,000 grant from NY Sea Grant.

Restore the Gorge was featured on WGRZ’s 2 the Outdoors.
Click here to watch now!

The Land Conservancy will begin by removing harmful invasive plants like Ailanthus and oriental bittersweet and replacing them with beneficial natives like oaks and ninebark shrubs.

The Land Conservancy will also bring in botanical experts and famed landscape designers Darrel Morrison and Nancy Aten to create a small native grassland along the rim of the gorge. Seeds of local grasses and wildflowers will be collected for planting at the grassland site. The native grassland will showcase for visitors ways that they can improve the health of our region right in their own yards and communities.

The gorge is home to ancient white cedars that are over 1,000 years old. (Photo from Niagara Escarpment in Ontario)

The Niagara Gorge is an international tourist destination, so the Land Conservancy is also planning to add interpretive signage and provide educational programming at the site to enhance visitors’ understanding of and appreciation for this unique place and the plants and animals that call it home. The project will not be affected by planned changes to the Robert Moses Parkway.

This project is being completed in partnership with NYPA, New York State Parks, the City of Niagara Falls, the Niagara River Greenway, and the community. The Land Conservancy is also looking forward to working with the community to help guide the restoration and enhancement work. The public will have numerous opportunities to provide input on the project in the year ahead.