Buffalo's Outer Harbor at the Bell Slip  Photo by Jburney
Buffalo's Outer Harbor at the Bell Slip  Photo by Jburney

GreenWatch Sunday TV: Protecting Our Assets

by / Mar. 20, 2016 8am EST

Today is the first day of Spring, the Spring Equinox. This is the day that the hours of sunlight and darkness are nearly equal. Because of the pecularities of the calendar and because this is a Leap-year this equinox, which officially occured at 12:30 am this morning, is the earliest spring equinox since 1896. 

We don’t always think of the natural world as one of our valuable assets, but it is. Perhaps the natural world is our most valuable asset. It supports our ability to not only live on the planet, but to thrive. We have opportunities and natural wonders here in our back and front yard that are and represent the deepest and most abundant wealth pools. These assets not only helped build our communities for generations, but sustain us and will profoundly characterize the quality of life for all generations that come after us. At a time when we are all facing the real emergency of climate change, when the quality of drinking water across the Great Lakes, our continent and nation, and across the world are in great decline, and when our future world is threatned by inappropriate energy and economic extraction decisions, we still have substantial opportunties here to protect, defend, and support our natural world. This is not so in every community, every region, or many places on earth. We are truly fortunate to be located at a place, this region, that has so many important and valuable assets.  These assets inlcude our Great Lakes waters and shorelines, including the Niagara River and its strait, the rivers, creeks, and streams all the way to the headlands forests, those forests, and the various unique and typical wetlands including vernal pools that help to define our geography. We still have abundant biodiversity,  native plants and and the wildlife that depend on our natuaral areas including fish, amphibians, birds, insects and pollinators. It is a wonderful circle of life, animals and plants working together to generate life and biodiversity, and utlimately help to provide the human species with clean water, clean air, and a still somewhat moderated climate. At least we can all survive in the climate that we enjoy right here in the Niagara Frontier. At least for now. These opportunities also come with the gift of special responsibilities. These responsibilities belong to us collectively and to each of us individually.

Nature about change. Human impacts on the natural world are causing changes that will continue to challenge the quality and quantity of human life and well being across the planet and in our area, from here until forever. As our departed friend Lester Milbrath said in his final book (illustrated by Tom Toles) , Learning to Think Environmentally While There is Still Time, -“nature bat’s last”.

Fortunately, we have a number of heros that are working to help to protect our natural assets including our lands, waters and wetlands, shorelines, forests, wildlife and other areas of great and quantifiable wealth.  You may be one of them. These heros include governments such as Erie County, which under the leadership of Mark Poloncarz and the County Legislature is working to protect our waters from platics pollution, including a new Poloncarz initiative to ban plastic bags in Erie County. The County Executive also announced new initiatives to help to alleviate lead contamination issues, a problem that is not going to go away until someone acts. Now the County Executive has. It is a great step. More needs to be done.

The County is also working with local organizations such as Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. Earlier this year the County, RiverKeeper, and The Nature Conservancy partnered to purchase and protect land in the headwaters forest of 18 Mile Creek.  RiverKeeper is also the force behind the Niagara River Habitat Conservation Strategy which outlines priorities and stratigies to protect critical habitats and identifies priority actions. This is stuff you should know about.

The Western New York Land Conservancy, which we wrote about yesterday, is also an emerging and increasingly powerful local and regional leader in land and water conservation issues. They are identifying critical land to protect, and with your help, they are doing it. Their recent acquisition of Stella Niagara, the largest publically owned and undeveloped parcel on the Niagara River and its ongoing transformation into a nature refuge is a huge win and investment for our community and our future. The Land Conservancy is also championing the creation of the Niagara River Ramsar designation, which is holding a public meeting this Tuesday night. To learn more, you should go.

Another emerging project is the community-based nomination of the Erie Niagara Marine Sanctuary to NOAA as one of several potential nationally recognized Marine Sanctuaries in the Great Lakes.  NOAA approached our region and asked that a community-based nomination for this essential area be created.  Organizers, including yours truly, are busy at work making this nomination come to reality. We wrote about this in The Public last November. There will be important news about this in the coming weeks and months.

Ineviatably, I come to Buffalo’s waterfront, and in particular the Outer Harbor. This very precious area is the home to Times Beach Nature Preserve, (one of the sponsors of Sunday Morning Television), and Tifft Nature Preserve. Buffalo’s Outer Harbor is one of the most valuable public assets that the people of our region own, and can appreciate in a recreational sense. It is not only the gateway to the Niagara River Corridor Globally Significant Important Bird Area, but it is our gateway to the lake and river waters, our access point to the wilderness that remains off shore. How we treat and develop this area will help determine in a real way, our economic vitality for years to come. If this area remains more or less wild, more or less a natural buffer along our waterfront, more or less an outdoor open space for all of us to enjoy, it will continue to drive up the real economic value of our city. If it turns into a sprawling privatly developed wasteland as some continue to profer, we will have lost a lot.  Our heart, our soul, our future. Our path to a sustainable future, clean water and a prosperous economy travels through the real crossroads of our outer harbor. Help it to remain a wild and publically accessible space. We could do a lot worse.

Todays Sunday Morning Television Celebrates the first day of Spring, the wild and natural Niagara, and it’s many champions. Thank-you if you are one of us. If you are Irish on this Day of Buffalo’s annual St. Patricks Day Parade, and everyone is Irish today, May Erin and the wild Niagara go bragh!


Sunday Morning Television is brought to you by GreenWatch, The Public, and the Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve.  Sunday Morning Television videos produced and photographed by Jay Burney. 

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See our archive of Sunday Morning Videos. 

The Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve is a Buffalo based organization dedicated to preserving and educating about critical habitat and species in the Great Lakes and at the downtown shoreline Buffalo preserve.