GreenWatch: Stella Niagara, Times Beach Nature Preserve, and the New York State Great Lakes Action Agenda
Several events and announcements have taken place in Western New York during the past week that champion the environment and help connect conservation, stewardship of critical shorelines, and the Great Lakes and the Niagara River strait.
The Western New York Land Conservancy, a regional not-for-profit land trust, that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York, has completed it’s $3.2 million acquisition of the 29 acre Stella Niagara Preserve formerly owned by the Sisters of St. Francis. The site is situated on the shoreline of the Niagara River in the Town of Lewiston. The new preserve is the largest privately-owned, undeveloped property along the entire Niagara River strait and has a quarter mile of shoreline.
The preserve is both the home to a spectacular history and an almost unequalled place of nature. According to a release by the WNY Land Conservancy “The preserve is the precise place where the British landed to capture Fort Niagara in the War of 1812, and has trees old enough to have witnessed these battles. For centuries, Native Americans launched canoes from its shores as they hunted, fished, and traded along the river. Home to the Sisters of St. Francis since 1907, the property features several enchanting statues, as well as a chapel and a peace shrine adorned with sgraffito murals crafted by well-known Polish artist and former Niagara Falls resident Józef Sławiński.
The Preserve is located in the Niagara River globally significant Important Bird Area.
According to the press release, the preserve “supports threatened species of plants and animals, like the Bald Eagle and Lake Sturgeon. Its shallow off-shore area supports critical spawning habitat for freshwater fish.”
Town of Lewiston Supervisor, Dennis Brochey, said, “The Town of Lewiston is very excited about the creation of the Stella Niagara Preserve and we are grateful to the Land Conservancy, the Sisters of St. Francis, and every supporter of this project. The Stella Niagara Preserve provides an exceptional place for our residents and visitors alike to connect with our region’s history and experience our unique natural environment.”
The Western New York Land Conservancy continues to raise funds for stewardship of the property and continues to solicit donations for that purpose. They have engaged Darrel Morrison, an internationally known ecological landscape designer to support the native savannah landscaping restoration and conservation plan.
Morrison is the lead designer of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas,
Video Link/Youtube- A Conversation with Darrel Morrison
The Stella Niagara Preserve is not yet open to the public but will be later this summer. The preserve will have walking trails, fishing access, and a kayak launch. The Land Conservancy will also enhance the property’s critical wildlife habitat, protect its historic structures and art, and carefully steward the property for future generations.
Times Beach Nature Preserve
At the other end of the Niagara River strait and one of the jewels of Buffalo’s outer harbor is Times Beach Nature Preserve. This 55 acre preserve is located on Fuhrman Blvd. in downtown Buffalo and is nestled between the Coast Guard Station, the historic Buffalo Lighthouse, and Wilkeson Point Park. It is also directly across the Buffalo River from Canalside.
This summer the new bike and pedestrian ferry connects the inner harbor at Canalside and the outer harbor with a short $1 boat trip that docks across the street from the Nature Preserve.
Times Beach Nature Preserve is a significant ecological site located at the confluence of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and the Buffalo River. Times Beach Nature Preserve is the Western gateway to the Niagara River globally significant Important Bird Area.
The Nature Preserve attracts and supports migrating and breeding birds and native pollinators including native bee’s and the Monarch Butterfly which is currently in rapid decline and is being evaluated for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
For the past four years a partnership between Erie County, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the City of Buffalo, and the Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve has engaged in an invasive species removal and native species restoration project. This spring and summer the preserve and its partners and consultants including Ecology and Environment, Inc., have entered into important planting projects that involves all of the five recognized ecological zones found at the Nature Preserve.
The preserve, which is open to the public, has many visible signs of the new planting strategies. If you visit you will notice several wood and wire cages that are protecting new plantings from the large white-tail deer population that likes to dine on the fresh greens that are being planted.
The Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve is leading an effort to restore pollinator habitat at the preserve and throughout the Outer Harbor area. This past week the Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve, The Alliance for the Great Lakes, and Erie County sponsored a new planting near the main entrance. This demonstration garden is the first Pollinator Conservation Area (PCA) at Times Beach Nature Preserve. The PCA innovation is developed by the Friends of times Beach and this demonstration garden project was made possible by a relationship between the Great Lakes Alliance and Capco. Capco is a local business sponsor who provided material and volunteers for the garden project. The Pollinator Conservation area that has been created by this partnership includes many late summer and fall flowering plants that are designed to provide nourishment to late season migrants including the Monarch Butterfly that depend on shoreline habitat after the migratory flight across Lake Erie and the Niagara River. For more information
It must be noted that new pressures on the nature preserve including easier outer harbor access by more people and by potential development priorities by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation continue to put the Times Beach Nature Preserve and the biodiversity and wildlife populations that it protects at risk. These issues require substantial public engagement and education about the preserve. It is important to note also that having more people on the outer harbor, and more people exposed to Times Beach Nature Preserve is a good problem to have, but there are issues including promoting a recognition that the site is a nature preserve and not a park. It is designed to be a place for wildlife. Because of this, The Friends of Times Beach ask that people recognize that bicycles and dogs are not allowed inside the nature preserve. Please be respectful at all times of the wildlife at Times Beach Nature Preserve.
The New York State Great Lakes Action Agenda (GLAA)
Speaking of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation-An important series of meetings were begun last week by New York State about the future and resiliency of of New York’s Great Lakes shorelines. The meetings are hosted by The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and the NYS Department of State. The Great Lakes Action Agenda is designed to improve New York State projects taking place within the NYS Great Lakes basin. The GLAA is desinged to help make sure that projects benefit communities and ecosystems. These are described by the Action Agenda as “communities of animals, birds, fish, plants and peoples that all live in the same area and interact with each other.” The concept is to engage ecosystem-based management (EBM) strategies that consider the health of the entire ecosystem. The NYS Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act of 2006 calls for state agencies to consider the following EBM principles in their work.
-Protection of ecosystem structure, function, and key process
-Interconnectedness within and among systems
-Integration of ecological, social, economic, and institutional perspectives
-Sustainable human use of the ecosystem
-Scientific foundation for decisions making
The first meeting of this initiative, The Lake Erie Work Group, was held at Tifft Nature Preserve’s new facilities on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor this past Tuesday June 2, 2015. The many stakeholders present generally applauded New York’s initiatives. However it must be noted that Empire State Development and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, agencies that are the state’s forces behind Buffalo’s outer harbor development, and whom have come under tremendous criticism for announcing a series of plans for the outer harbor, where not present at this meeting. They do not appear to be engaged in this process.
The ECHDC outer harbor development plans have been soundly criticized for not paying any attention to the critical ecological nature and public access contexts of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor in the development plans which the Great Lakes Action Agenda specifically address. At one of the break-out sessions focusing on Resilient Communities and Sustainable Development, which includes coast and community resiliency, public access, climate change adaptation, Smart Growth, and recreation and tourism, one of the stakeholders decried the absence of ESD and ECHDC representatives at the meeting. “These two state sponsored organizations, whom seem to represent bankers, lawyers, and developers, should be at this table. Their current plans which are in flux do not represent collaboration, are not resilient, are not reflective of climate adaptation, do not promote recreation and tourism or public access, and certainly are not smart growth oriented.”
This column notes that is critical to bring ESD and ECHDC into the Great Lakes Action Agenda conversation