Restore the Gorge

A fringed gentian, a critically imperiled species in New York State found only along the Niagara River and a portion of the St. Lawrence River. Managing invasive species populations should lead to increased habitat availability for specialist species.

About 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.

Project Status

May 2019 - Nearly $950,000 in additional Greenway Ecological Fund grants announced to further efforts to combat invasive plant species and cultivate native plants.

February 2018 - On-the-ground ecological restoration work to “Restore the Gorge” in Niagara Falls begins.

Fall 2020 update - Over the last three years, the Western New York Land Conservancy has made tremendous progress in restoring the natural habitats found within the Niagara River Gorge. This work has included the treatment of over 20 invasive plant species in an area spanning from the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center to Devil's Hole State Park. Following invasive species treatment, many areas have been subject to remediation via the broadcasting of native species seed or installation of native plants. To date, more than 450 lbs. of native plant species seed has been broadcast throughout the project area. Much of this seed was collected from local plant populations by Land Conservancy staff. In addition to seeding, approximately 4,200 small herbaceous plants and 1,600 trees have been used to supplement the natural plant community. This work is essential to protecting and/or providing habitat for the vast diversity of organisms found throughout the Gorge. The Land Conservancy will continue this work for the next several years, ensuring that the benefits of invasive species treatment and subsequent restoration persist for years to come. 

Enhancing the Visitors' Experience at Niagara Falls

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.