“An (internationally recognized) Ramsar designation is exciting and something to be proud of; we are lucky to live near and share an ecological setting like the Niagara River Corridor worthy of such an honor.” – New York State Senator Sean Ryan
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted March 22nd, 2021 on Niagara At Large
In an open letter to Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley, a New York State senator has expressed his hope that the people of Niagara, Ontario will finally join their American neighbours in celebrating the designation of the Niagara River as “a wetland of international importance.”
The letter from New York Senator Sean Ryan is dated March 10th and has been included in Niagara Regional Council’s agenda package before members o fhe council meet this coming Thursday, March 25th to vote on a motion for such a designation under a framework 170 nations around the world, including Canada, signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971.
Since the signing of what has become known as the “Ramsar Convention,” more than 2,300 waterbodies around the world have been designated as “wetlands of international importance,” including the United States side of the Niagara River where representatives from federal, state and municipal governments gathered with citizen groups on the American side of the in October of 2019 to celebrate the designation.
But parties on the Niagara, Ontario side of the border – much to the disappointment and dismay of our American neighbours – have continued to drag their heels based on a lack of information or on misinformation they are receiving from critics, including rural farmers and landowners, and developers that want nothing to do with anything that might sound like wanting to protect and preserve healthy wetlands.
Among those bodies dragging their feet on this are the City of Niagara Falls, the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and most curiously, the Niagara Parks Commission, which was founded in Ontario more than a century ago with a mandate to protect and preserve, as much as possible, a natural Niagara River corridor.
Among the significant supporters of a designation on the Niagara, Ontario side are the Town of Fort Erie and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
Another significant supporter could be Niagara, Ontario’s Regional Council and a major step in that direction was finally taken earlier this March, 2021, when members of the Region’s Planning and Economic Development Committee – every member but Niagara-on-the-Lake Regional Councillor Gary Zalepa – voted to endorse a Ramsar designation for the Niagara River.
At the March 10th committee meeting, Zalepa twice repeated; “Good for you if this is something that makes you (meaning supporter of the designation) feel good. He also suggested that those on the regional committee who voted “yes” for the designation were somehow showing a lack of respect for Niagara-on-the-Lake and whatever fears some of its rural residents may have over such a designation.
Niagara At Large will have more to say about Zalepa’s stance on this in the days ahead, but in the meantime, a letter from New York State Senator Sean Ryan is one more indication that our American neighbours hope that after more than seven years of a group of dedicated volunteers on the Ontario side supporting this opportunity to celebrate the Niagara River as the natural jewel it is, a majority on Niagara, Ontario’s Regional Council will vote this coming Thursday, March 25th to do the same.
So here is the text of Senator Sean Ryan’s open letter to Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley –
Dear Chair Bradley; In anticipation of the March 25th, 2021, Regional Municipality of Niagara meeting discussing Ramsar designation for the Canadian portion of the Niagara River, I write to express my environmental values, my support for Ramsar designation, and my hope that the United States and Canada will soon partner in establishing the first trans-boundary Ramsar Site on this continent.
As a State Senator from Western New York, I am well aware of the ecological importance, cultural heritage, and personal pride that the Niagara River Corridor holds for Americans and Canadians in our shared region.
Last fall, I was awarded a fourth consecutive perfect score from the non-profit Environmental Advocates Action, an organization that tallies the environmental votes of all state lawmakers during each legislative session.
As such, my record reflects how deeply I care for the environment and how environmental degradation may affect people, animals, plants, and places.
Furthermore, as a member of the State Committees on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business and on Housing, Construction, and Community Development, I can attest that a Ramsar designation in no way hinders development and, in fact, only encourages growth, tourism, and regional pride.
A Ramsar designation is exciting and something to be proud of; we are lucky to live near and share an ecological setting like the Niagara River Corridor worthy of such an honor.
I applaud the Niagara Region for their efforts thus far, and stand ready to assist in whatever way I can to move toward a formal decision to nominate the Canadian side of this ecosystem for Ramsar designation.
Sean Ryan, New York State Senator
To read Senator Ryan’s full letter, complete with official heading, here it is –