A new honor for the Niagara River Corridor 

James Neiss/staff photographerA view of the Niagara River and migrating waterfowl from Gratwick Park in North Tonawanda. The Niagara River Corridor has been designated a Wetland of International Importance.

One of the Western New York region’s most significant natural assets has a new designation. 

The Niagara River Corridor has officially been designated a U.S. Wetland of International Importance under the world’s oldest environmental treaty, the Ramsar Convention.

To be designated as a part of the Ramsar Convention, a wetland must meet at least one of nine criteria, including hosting more than 20,000 shorebirds at a time, serving as fish nursery habitat and supporting threatened species. The convention emphasizes a wise-use principle, the maintenance of wetland’s ecological character, which is achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches within the context of sustainable development.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has emphasized the overlapping priorities of jobs, recreation, education and conservation in the wise use of wetlands. Designation of the Niagara River was approved by USFWS and the US Department of State.

Representatives of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, USFWS, University at Buffalo, the binational Niagara River Corridor Ramsar Site Steering Committee, New York State Parksvand New York State Department of Environmental Conservation joined U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and other local officials and community members in celebrating the designation Thursday on Goat Island. 

“Anyone who has spent time around the Niagara River Corridor understands it is arguably one of the most incredible places in the world,” Higgins said. “This Ramsar designation formally solidifies, and highlights for the world, the Niagara River Corridor’s standing as a site of international significance. I commend the local stewards who sought out and secured this designation.” 

Visited by millions of people, and the source of electrical power for vast populations of two countries, the Niagara River is vital to North America’s economy, officials noted. The river also is a laboratory for research and education and serves as a model of successful conservation and restoration in the midst of large cities.

“The Niagara River has captivated American and global citizens alike as a national symbol, a cultural landmark and as a milestone in America’s modern conservation movement,” said Steve Guertin, USFWS deputy director.

The Niagara River Corridor joins 39 other U.S. wetlands, including the recently designated Elkhorn Slough, and more than 2,300 other wetlands around the world to become part of a network formed as a result of the treaty, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971.

The Niagara River Greenway Commission spearheaded the river’s nomination along with the binational Niagara River Corridor Ramsar Site Steering Committee, which was formed in 2014.

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