Thursday, July 8, 2010

Letter to the Editor

"The song birds that brighten spring mornings have been in decline since the 1960's, having lost 40% of their numbers. Birds that breed in meadows are in even more trouble. Once common species such as the northern bobwhite, eastern meadowlark, field sparrow, and grasshopper sparrow have declined 82, 72, 68, and 65%, in total numbers, and are completely absent from many areas that used to support healthy populations. For most of us, hearing such numbers triggers a passing sadness, but few people feel personally threatened by the loss of biodiversity.

Here is why every one of us should feel threatened. Here is why it matters. Losses to biodiversity are a clear sign that our own life-support systems are failing. The ecosystems that support us-that determine the carrying capacity of our Earth and our local spaces--are run by biodiversity. It is biodiversity that generates oxygen and clean water, creates topsoil out of rock, buffers extreme weather events like droughts and floods, pollinates our crops, and recycles the mountains of garbage we create every day." (Doug Tallamy. Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware, author Bringing Nature Home, Wild Ones member)

Grasslands, like those at the Lewiston Plateau Wildlife Refuge, provide valuable ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, storm water control, water filtration, absorption of air pollutants, oxygen production, habitat for rare birds and butterflies and agricultural pollinators. Grasslands also provide social benefits through enhanced recreational and tourism opportunities and education.

Wild Ones Niagara advocates for open space preservation and stewardship, biodiversity through local ecotype preservation (native plant communities), and Creative Tourism. Our region’s grasslands, woodlands, and ancient old growth forests have the potential to provide us with billions in economic and socioeconomic benefits. Our Niagara River Greenway (NRG) project, Regional Economic Growth Through Ecological Restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim, has never been done. It elevates the Niagara River Greenway Plan to an exceptional level of excellence. At its core, reclamation, restoration, and a positive economic benefit assessment for all of Lewiston, Niagara Falls, and the Niagara River Greenway region. It includes the Lewiston Plateau Wildlife Refuge, the site of a future dog park.

The Wild Ones Niagara project lacks malice. They asked the NRG Commission to support the fully funded project by tabling the consistency determination for the dog park. That happened. The next day, the dog park proposal applied for funds from the Niagara County Host Community Standing Committee. They also were asked for a stay to complete the evaluations. Lewiston refused, claiming private land ownership. They were funded without a NRG consistency determination.

Why circumvent a regional process and research? On 27 May 2010 a request letter to the Lewiston Supervisor concluded, “At the end of the day, it’s not that programs and projects are about reclamation and restoration; it’s that they are also about education. Education in these financially challenging times is what is going to save us.”

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