Restore the Gorge
The Western New York Land Conservancy has been leading the initial efforts to restore and enhance the natural habitat on 37 acres of land along the gorge with an initial $1 million in funding from the New York Power Authority via funding from the New York Power Authority via the Niagara Greenway Commission Ecological Standing Committee. With the addition of $1 million from Buffalo Billion II in January 2017, as well as funds from New York Sea Grant and the Verizon Media Community Benefit Fund for Niagara County (formerly the Oath Community Fund), the Land Conservancy has been able to expand the initial phase of removing invasive species, and is working to restore an additional 48 acres within the gorge and along the rim in Whirlpool State Park. A second $950,000 installment of Greenway Ecological Fund grants will further advance the project. Land in the project area is owned by the New York Power Authority and by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
As one of the most biologically diverse places on the Great Lakes, the Niagara Gorge is home to unique ecological communities, including many rare plants, and is part of a globally significant Important Bird Area. The lower Niagara River rapids are important spawning grounds for freshwater fish including threatened Lake Sturgeon. The health of this sensitive environment has been harmed by many factors, especially non-native invasive plants. The Land Conservancy has hired Applied Ecological Services to remove harmful invasive plants like Norway maple, common buckthorn, tree-of-heaven, and phragmites for the first phase of the project. These invasive species are being replaced with beneficial natives like oak trees, ninebark shrubs and Canada anemone.
This project will control invasive species and plant native trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers in the Niagara Gorge from the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center to Devil’s Hole State Park. The project complements Governor Cuomo’s $70 million revitalization of Niagara Falls State Park and other strategic state investments to strengthen the tourism industry in downtown Niagara Falls. This project will transform the ecological health of the Niagara River Gorge and Rim and enhance the visitors’ experience at Niagara Falls.