Niagara River Corridor
The Niagara River Corridor: A Ramsar Site
In 2019, after years of hard work by partner organizations and dedicated individuals, the American side of the Niagara River Corridor earned a prestigious designation as a Ramsar site. The designation includes the river itself, lake to lake, as well as the protected greenspaces along its sides. What does this mean?
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 Ramsar designation is voluntary and non-binding, and comes with no new regulations. The designation elevates the importance of the wetland to the global stage, recognizing them as the most important wetlands in the world. Ramsar-designated sites include the Amazon Estuary in Brazil and the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. Once the Canadian side of the river is designated, the Niagara River Corridor will be the very first Ramsar site to cross international borders in North America.
The Niagara River connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. 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 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 threatened Lake Sturgeon.
It 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 millions of people who visit Niagara Falls annually may not realize how far we have come. But each of us must play a role to keep the Niagara River Corridor healthy. The Land Conservancy continues to work with a team of steering committee members from the U.S. and Canada to nominate the Canadian side of the Niagara River as a Ramsar site.
To learn more about Ramsar, visit Ramsar.org.
To learn more about the Niagara River Corridor Ramsar site project and the team that made it happen, visit: law.buffalo.edu