Rare Spotted Bee-balm at the Bell Slip
Rare Spotted Bee-balm at the Bell Slip

GW:Sunday Morning TV Buffalo's Bell Slip

by / Apr. 2, 2017 11am EST

Many of you know that as one of the founders of both the Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve and the Our Outer Harbor coalition I have a strong interest in protecting Buffalo’s Outer Harbor from inappropriate development.  This does not mean that I am against all development on the Outer Harbor but I am interested in preserving special places, green and open space, and important areas of habitat and envronmental integrity. This often means that I engage with the pro-development community on issues and ideas that are central to my perspectives.

Over the recent years I have worked hard to prevent condo development around the Times Beach Nature Preserve, which would seriously and negatively impact the preserve and the animals that depend upon it. This includes migrating birds, pollinators, and plants and animals that are essential to that place, and that are fundamental foundations for environmental protections that promote human health both locally and globally.  So far, so good, but it is a constant stuggle.

Our location in the Great Lakes and at the nexus of Lake Erie, the Niagara and Buffalo Rivers, and at a spot that has been characterized by urban and industrial development make the kinds of discussions that I promote, pretty fundamental and important to our conservation strategies.  For instance, the Outer Harbor is the western gateway to the Niagara River Corridor Globally Significant Important Bird Area. (IBA)

This IBA is designed to protect birds and habitat that have significant global impact and includes paying atttention to the effects on threatend, endangered, and at risk species of birds and other plants and wildlife that form essential habitat for wildlife and local and planetary health. yes our location and our conservation strategies are important to the health and well-being of life on earth, including our own.

Just down the coast from the Times Beach Nature Preserve is another significant green jewel. The Bell Slip is an area that has recieved millions of dollars of public investment that has been designed to protect and enhance wildlife including fish habitat, and other valuable wildlife.  Interestingly, this entire area is mostly reclaimed land.  Just adjacent to the Bell Slip, and part of the Bell Slip, which once was a entrance canal during the heyday of the Port of Buffalo, is a reclaimed area, filled mostly with sand. This sand may have been dredge from the shoreline, or the Bell Slip Canal, or it may be a commercial remant from sand operations from a century ago.  In any event, at one point our shorelines from Hamburg to Grand Island was once both marsh and sand dunes and barrens.  This ecology which was an essential anchor to local, Great Lakes, and global biodiversity has all but vanished.  Today, at the Bell Slip we have a sand barren habitat that is reminiccent of what was once here, but has now vanished throughout the Great Lakes. Interestingly enough there are plants that are here that were once here. A native seed bank has endured.  This includes emerging forest, grasslands (very rare in 2017) species of willow, aspen, sedges, many species of native grasses, and Spotted Bee-balm.  Spotted Bee-balm is a beautiful and rare plant that is almost extirpated from our region and the Great Lakes.  This kind of habitat once supported the now endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.

Today this place is under threat from development by the State of New York.  There are plans to turn this area into more of a recreational area including a possible visitor center with parking, a mountain bike trail, and parking for a permanant festival and concert grounds which is slated this summer to include the Italian Festival, moved to this area form Hertel Avenue.

We are concerned.  Inappropriate use of this space could destroy what is left of this precious place. Why dont we work instead to protect this place?  We know that we can work with the State of New York to encourage the protection of this place, on the shores of Lake Erie. We need your help.  Pease take a look at this video that I was able to introduce last week at an event that included several of our elected officials and representatives of goverment staff that will help make decisions, this spring and summer that will impact the Outer Harbor for generations to come.  We want public access and enjoyment of this site. We just do not want wholesale destruction of habitat and species of birds, butterflies, other pollinators, and plants that we will not be able to recover.  We will have a call to action in the coming weeks and months that will seek to recruit your help. Stay tuned to this space.

I will be hosting a “Hard Hat” tour of the Bell Slip in conjunction with Preservation Buffalo Niagara on Tuesday April 4, 6-7pm.  Please join us and make a reservation by clicking HERE

The Bell Slip Preserve