The Niagara River Corridor joined some elite company on Thursday at a ceremony on Goat Island in Niagara Falls. The corridor was recognized as an international wetland of importance by the Ramsar Convention, an independent, intergovernmental environmental group dedicated to wetlands conservation.
The Niagara River Corridor becomes just the 40th site in the United States to be recognized by Ramsar. Other U.S. sites include the Florida Everglades, Chesapeake Bay Estuarine Complex and the Bolinas Lagoon, north of San Francisco.
A lot of effort went into getting the corridor this recognition. 33 student’s in the University at Buffalo’s School of Law Environmental Advocacy Clinic put in over 1,000 hours of legal and policy pro bono work. Kim Connolly is Vice Dean for Advocacy and Experimental Education at the school of law. She has studied and written about the Ramsar Convention for nearly two decades. She said the original signatories of the convention would be proud of this particular recognition.
“They believed in a collective commitment to honoring and protecting places like the Niagara River,” she said. “This is a win-win-win for the ecosystem itself, for the people and communities who rely on it, and for the non-humans who depend on the preservation of this.”
Many keynote speakers talked about the importance of the Niagara River in ecological terms. Western New York Land Conservancy Deputy Executive Director Jajean Rose-Burney explained why the area was so deserving of the Ramsar recognition.
“We have great migrations of birds. Ancient and massive fish. Incredible, protected, endangered rare species of plants and animals,” he said. “The birthplace of hydroelectric power. Millennia of indigenous cultures.”
All of those reasons, Rose-Burney said, are categories which Ramsar celebrates and believes are important. He also mentioned the river itself is the cleanest it has been in generations.
Rose-Burney said everyone in the region should take pride and take care of the river corridor for today, and for the next generations.