A three-year long Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper strategic initiative assessing and identifying the critical habitats for the more than 900,000-acre Niagara River watershed was recently completed through the Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The completed strategy serves as a regional blueprint for habitat restoration and conservation, identifying best-bet opportunities to positively impact water quality.
From the strategy, a 230-acre tract of forested land at the source of Eighteenmile Creek was identified as a key implementation priority. This land will connect 1,000 acres of forest that functions as a filter for drinking water and a critical habitat for clean water indicator species like native trout and salamanders.
"The Eighteenmile Creek acquisition presents a rare opportunity to provide direct ecological and community benefits to Erie County and the Niagara River watershed," said Kerrie Gallo, director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper's ecological programs. "Protection of remaining forested headwater landscapes of this size is critical for improving water quality and establishing climate change resiliency within the Niagara River watershed."
A primary goal of Riverkeeper's completed Niagara River habitat conservation strategy is to restore the functional parts of the active river area in each of the 11 sub-basins of the entire watershed, with priorities focused on headwater forests and the first and second order streams they nurture. Headwater forests are an essential part of a functional river landscape, which includes the aquatic habitats needed to sustain and rebuild fresh water fisheries and improve the quality of drinking water sources.
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is partnering with globally renowned conservation leader The Nature Conservancy to adapt models for watershed protection for this region. Riverkeeper also is working with The Nature Conservancy to raise the necessary $300,000 to purchase this tract of land at the headwaters of Eighteenmile Creek.
"Protecting water is a top priority for The Nature Conservancy in this region," said Jim Howe, The Nature Conservancy's Central and Western New York director. "Erie County faces many potential water quality problems because of its geology and mix of urban, agricultural and suburban areas. Healthy and intact forests are crucial for keeping these waters plentiful and clean. We're excited to be working with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to protect the headwaters of Eighteenmile Creek for people and nature."
"Global finance leaders like HSBC and JP Morgan are investing in large-scale conservation efforts to protect biodiversity, clean air and clean water," said Jill Jedlicka, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper executive director. "Through Riverkeeper's three-year effort to develop this conservation strategy and our collaborative partnership with The Nature Conservancy, our region now has the opportunity to be a model of leveraging private sector investment for ecosystem and social benefit."
Riverkeeper said that, in the face of climate change, these forests offer watershed resiliency, protecting communities from increasingly severe storms and rising costs in damages from extended periods of drought or flooding. Initiatives like this build on governmental investments being made in the Great Lakes, which funded Riverkeeper's Niagara River habitat conservation strategy. By the end of 2019, the federal government will have spent $3.2 billion on restoring the Great Lakes through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which could be considered the world's largest investment in clean water and blue economy.
For more information, visit www.bnriverkeeper.org/Niagrara River Habitat Conservation Strategy.