It's a little-known designation, a Ramsar site, but it's coveted because the 2,200 around the globe are among the most important waterways in the world. Supporters want the Niagara River added to that list.
The list of Ramsar sites includes the Nile and the Everglades. UB Law School student Jeffrey Shalke says the designation is important.
"A Ramsar nomination can have numerous and long-lasting benefits. A nomination increases the funding opportunities, publicity and prestige for a site. It creates increased tourism and investment for the region. It supports the wise use of the site and the surrounding area. And, it can lead to further scientific studies including land and water," Shalke said at a forum Tuesday evening.
Jocelyn Baker, project manager for the Niagara River Remedial Action Plan with Ontario's Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, has been working through the lengthy Ramsar application process.
"Putting together the background information about the criteria took an immense amount of work," Baker explained.
"I think it's an Excel table and it has over 140 pages."
Baker was speaking Tuesday night at a meeting hosted by the Niagara River Greenway Commission and the Niagara Corridor Ramsar Site Steering Committee in the Atrium@Rich's. The meeting was set for Tuesday because it was World Water Day.
Jajean Rose-Burney, co-chair of the Niagara River Ramsar Steering Committee, stressed the importance of the designation.
"It's one of the most incredible and important places in the entire world. We have natural wonders, Niagara Falls. It's incredibly ecologically diverse, flora and fauna, wildlife, fish and birds. There's just a lot here that's really worth celebrating and recognizing understanding," Rose-Burney said.
After years of work in both New York and Ontario, supporters say they hope to apply as a Ramsar site early next year. While a nomination is required to meet at least one of the nine criteria, the American side of the river meets eight and the Ontario side nine because of a rare salamander.
The goal is to receive the designation from the Swiss organization which runs the program next February.