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A New Marine Sanctuary for our Waterfront?

This is an important proposal that would recognize the significance of the habitat at the eastern end of Lake Erie and along the Niagara River corridor, and could work well in conjunction with other things that the community would like to see happen on the Outer Harbor — like a large, Olmsted-inspired park. Last semester I helped with reviews of Sean Burkholder’s graduate-level UB studio class that studied the Outer Harbor from a park-first, habitat-first perspective, which gave me a much better appreciation for the outstanding ecological value of the Outer Harbor and its surroundings. On August 15, the 21st Century Park group will be showing some of that studio work at Hallwalls, along with a discussion of the Outer Harbor. Stay tuned for details. – Alan Oberst

The following article was written by Jay Burney (Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve)

Imagine if you will, a place in Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and the Buffalo River that is a dedicated to preserving, protecting, and promoting nature, biodiversity, and cultural heritage. Imagine this water based and onshore sanctuary that focuses on ecosystem protection, fish, bird and other wildlife habitat, native aquatics, cultural heritage, recreation, education, research, and the kind of economic development that this place would create.

Located at the Eastern end of Lake Erie and based in the urban city of Buffalo NY the Erie Niagara National Marine Sanctuary could become a place for visitors, students, researchers and scientists, and ecotourists alike to visit and work.

 Erie Niagara National Marine Sanctuary Boundaries


Boundary follows the international border between Canada and the U.S.

Northeast boundary just above tip of Grand Island in the Niagara River and encompasses Buckhorn Marsh, Beaver Island State Park, Strawberry Island, and Squaw Island.

Follows Buffalo River (heritage sites) to South Park Bridge.

Proposed Visitor Center Located adjacent to Times Beach Nature Preserve.

Southwest boundary at approximate Woodland Beach.

Lake to Lake Greenway/Pollinator Conservation and Recreation Trail(s) from Woodlawn to Fort Niagara (not shown)

United States Marine Sanctuaries

In response to a growing awareness of the value of our coastal waters, Congress passed the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act in 1972. Title III of the Act authorized the Secretary of Commerce to designate certain areas as National Marine Sanctuaries, with the objective of protecting significant waters and securing habitat for aquatic species, sheltering historically significant shipwrecks and other cultural resources, and serving as valuable spots for research, fishing, wildlife viewing, boating, and tourism. Sanctuaries could be designated anywhere in the marine environment, which Title III defined as: “…those areas of coastal and ocean waters, the Great Lakes and their connecting waters, and submerged lands over which the United States exercises jurisdiction, consistent with international law….”

The National Marine Sanctuaries Program is administered by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Most of the Sanctuary operations are directed by the individual Sanctuary managers and staff, in collaboration with the community and other federal, state, and local government agencies.

Currently in The U.S. there are 14 protected areas encompassing more than 150,000 square miles of waters including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, and locations from Washington State to the Florida Keys. Some of these sanctuaries are dedicated to biodiversity and natural ecological conservation, and others are designated as areas designed to conserve heritage resources including cultural and historic artifacts such as shipwrecks.

There is currently only one in the Great Lakes located at Thunder Bay on Lake Huron.

The Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary is dedicated to cultural heritage and shipwrecks and encompasses 448 square miles. By all accounts this sanctuary has become an economic engine for the Thunder Bay/Duluth/Alpena area. Alpena recently decided to adopt the slogan, “Sanctuary of the Great Lakes” because of its proximity to the Marine Sanctuary and because of its economic impact on the community.

Marine Sanctuaries are designed to promote conservation while allowing compatible commercial and recreational activities. They are designed to be tools to increase pubic awareness of our marine heritage, scientific research, monitoring, exploration educations programs and outreach.

This end of Lake Erie has biodiversity, culture, history, and is situated to take advantage of economic development by promoting conservation, eco, historic, and cultural tourism with a focus on a national marine sanctuary.

Fast Facts

  • The Great Lakes contain fully 1/5 of the world’s fresh surface water.
  • 1/10 of the U.S. population and 1⁄4 of the Canadian population live within the Great lakes basin.
  • The quality of the sweetwaters of the Great Lakes is threatened. A community such as Buffalo can be positioned to seize a leadership role for a sustainable economic and ecological approach to the next Century of the international resource that is the Great Lakes.
  • Ecotourism is the fastest growing section of the largest industry in the world, -tourism.
  • Marine Sanctuaries are beneficial to local communities because they increase attention to important stewardship needs, and because they promote tourism, recreation, education, and research.

The Times Beach Nature Preserve located at the western gate of the Niagara River Corridor “globally significant” Important Bird Area (NRIBA) in the lower Great Lakes (Lake Erie) believe that the Erie Niagara National Marine Sanctuary and Visitor Center located adjacent to our Nature Preserve is both a good idea and an accomplishable task. We can attract tourist and investments in a strategy that embraces conservation as an economic development tool. Combined with important globally recognized designations including the NRIBA, and the United Nations designated “Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve” which transects the Niagara River. The next step is a National Marine Sanctuary right here. This kind of conservation effort could help propel our region into an internationally recognized leader in sustainability.


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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