A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted May 25th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Here’s a reality check for anyone who thinks government reps on the Ontario side of the Niagara River care more about protecting the environment than their counterparts on the American side of the border.
While the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has been wasting valuable amounts of the public’s time and money on the Ontario side obsessing over doing something called “biodiversity off-setting” to bulldoze over provincially significant wetlands for developers, a Congressman in Western New York has sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C., asking for his support for designation the binational Niagara River Corridor as “a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) pursuant to the Ramsar Convention.”
“This nomination” wrote Buffalo, New York area Congressman Brian Higgins in a May 23rd, 2016 letter to the Fish & Wildlife Services’ director Daniel Ashe, “is especially unique as it is the first transboundary Ramsar site in North America boosting the importance of the Niagara River Corridor as an international symbol and an environmental treasure with distinct ecological character deserving celebration.”
“This nomination,” continues Higgins in his letter, “is especially unique as it is the first transboundary Ramsar site in North America boosting the importance of the Niagara River Corridor as an international symbol and an environmental treasure with distinct ecological character deserving celebration.”
Higgins’ letter is heartening to read after several months on the Ontario side of the Niagara River watershed, watching growing numbers of citizens butting heads with directors of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority – NPCA for short) – over their interest in applying to the provincial government for permission to try something called “biodiversity off-setting” to remove a wetland in one place and grow another one someplace else.
The NPCA has been particularly interested in piloting this idea on 13 acres of wetland designated by the Ontario government as “provincially significant.” This wetland is located on about 500 acres of land that hosts what many locals refer to as the Ramsey Road forest in the southwest end of Niagara Falls where a China-based developer just happens to want to build a billion-dollar-plus ‘Thundering Waters/Paradise community,’ complete with residential and commercial amenities for future inhabitants and visitors alike.
NPCA directors have expressed little interest in experimenting with constructing something comparable to an old-growth wetland somewhere else before taking any more of the few real ones we have left in the region out.
In fact, in the middle of all of the mounting public opposition the NPCA has been getting to its offsetting illusions, Bruce Timms, a St. Catharines regional councillor appointed by a majority on Niagara’s regional council to serve as the Conservation Authority’s board chair, was on a CHCH Hamilton TV news segment this past April, professing his belief that any provincially significant wetland dozed over in the Ramsey Road area ccan be replaced by one grown somewhere else in a couple of years.
“We believe you can restore a wetland, a slough forest, within a few years,” said Timms on the news clip. “It’s a matter of five years you’ve got the quality that you had before.”
As much as Timms is want to accuse critics of the NPCA’s biodiversity off-setting dreams and other schemes of trading in “myths” and “misinformation,” I count myself among many who have yet to find one credible expert who might support his claim that you can grow anything approximating a centuries old wetland in five years or even 50.
Unless Timms has access to archives of science the rest of us have yet to discover, there are more compelling reports around using DNA and cloning knowledge to bring back carrier pigeons and other extinct species.
So given that and all the other non-sense we’ve been hearing from the NPCA in recent times, its apparent interest in designating the Niagara River watershed as a wetland area of international importance, as approved by its board a year ago this spring, rings pretty damn hollow.
Niagara At Large will be posting more on the ongoing biodiversity off-setting follies and related misadventures on the Niagara, Ontario side of the Niagara River in the days and weeks ahead. Stay tune.
What follows is U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins’ entire May 23rd, 2016 letter to Washington, D.C. on a wetland designation for the Niagara River corridor.
May 23, 2016
Mr. Daniel M. Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 1849 C Street NW, Room 3358, Washington, D.C. 20240-0001
Dear Director Ashe:
I am pleased to add my support for the Niagara River Corridor Ramsar Site Steering Committee’s application to designate the Niagara River Corridor as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) pursuant to the Ramsar Convention. This nomination is especially unique as it is the first transboundary Ramsar site in North America boosting the importance of the Niagara River Corridor as an international symbol and an environmental treasure with distinct ecological character deserving celebration.
History comes alive in the water and along the shores of this Corridor as the story of decades of industrial degradation and overuse continues to be found, juxtaposed with increasing signs of vibrancy and life as hundreds of thousands of waterbirds and more than 100 species thrive in the same environment.
As the congressional representative for much of the area along the Niagara River Corridor, I continue to fight for protection of our waterways and waterfront development. The federal funding made possible through the GLRI (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative) and the efforts of strong public, non-profit and civic partners including the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York State Department of Conservation, WNY Land Conservancy, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeepers and Niagara Greenway Commission continue to help ensure sustainable use of resources.
The Ramsar Convention’s mission of promoting the conservation and prudent use of wetlands as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world is certainly consistent with the efforts taking place in Western New York. I understand a Ramsar designation does not impact the current or future use of land or water but that it would bring greater international recognition and ecological appreciation to attractions and repurposed former industrial lands along the Niagara River.
Recognizing the critical importance of the Niagara River for restoring our region’s ecosystem and economy, I endorse this nomination as it would strengthen the international cooperation between the United States and Canada, increase awareness of the corridor’s natural treasures, encourage recreation and promote tourism. I commend the Ramsar Site Steering Committee for advancing this initiative and look forward to hearing the progress in designating the Niagara River Corridor as a Wetland of International Importance.
Sincerely, BRIAN HIGGINS, Member of Congress
Congressman Brian Higgins is a sixth term member of the United States House of Representatives serving New York’s 26th congressional district, which includes portions of Erie and Niagara Counties.
For more information, visit Congressman Higgins’ website at – http://higgins.house.gov/contact/offices/washington-dc-office .
If you would like to view the April 12th, 2016 CHCH TV news clip where Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board chair Bruce Timms makes his claim about growing back wetlands, click on – http://www.chch.com/niagara-wetland-worries/ .
To learn more about the Ramsar Convention click on – http://www.ramsar.org/ .
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