Some Preliminary Proposals for Relicensing Settlement:
July 19, 2004
Some Preliminary Proposals for Relicensing Settlement
for July 21-22, 2004
Amended by the addition of three paragraphs, noted by [Paragraph added, July 22, 2004:]
P. M. Eckel
Missouri Botanical Garden, P. O. Box 299 Saint Louis, MO 63166
In that the people of New York State and Ontario, especially of communities along the Niagara River, and others at the national (federal and dominion) and international levels, have made a commitment to environmental goals at Niagara for which they have spent time and energy throughout the century, it is here proposed that a unification, review and reclarification of these agendas be undertaken at a historic moment of extraordinary agency transparency, and that such a moment is advantageous to implement a review and reform of the protocols for achieving these human and social environmental goals.
1. Because the area along the upper and lower Niagara River, with particular focus on the Niagara River gorge, is the repository of botanical resources rare in the Dominion of Canada, and the Province of Ontario and the State of New York, and
- because one biological (botanical) preserve of immense value in the history of public lands, based on its vegetational character (Goat Island), has national significance to the people of the United States, and
- because the government and private custodians of these areas have been shown to be ill-equipped after a century of public mandate to preserve, protect or restore these areas under their care, and that environmental governance has become increasingly incoherent on both sides of the Niagara River with imminent threat to these biotic resources, and
- because the biotic resources of both countries are dependent on physical dynamics that extend across international borders, and to promote the free exchange and movement of biotic resources across such borders to maintain the essential components of the significant biological assets of both countries, and
- because the Niagara is part of the Great Lakes biotic region, and
- because this area is the focus of influence of agencies and groups with inordinate means that transcend the powers of the communities adjacent to the river, powers to alter policy with the potential for deleterious impacts on assets of value to the citizens of the United States and the Dominion of Canada, therefore
- IT IS HERE PROPOSED to establish a
Joint International Biological Commission
or a commission with a name to that effect, composed of knowledgeable and disinterested individuals from the federal and dominion level, also state and provincial representatives with sufficient expertise, to formulate policy, adjudicate policy, and review biological issues or issues with biological importance before the communities on both sides of the Niagara River. It is further suggested that specialists in botany and other biological sciences with expertise in sociological and biological problems be appointed or assigned to evaluate plans incorporating benefits or threats to the natural environment at Niagara.
2. IT IS PROPOSED that a full bureaucratic performance review be undertaken of the agencies on both sides of the river who have had custody of the public lands under their mandate for over a century. Their present agendas and policies are to be compared with the original intent whereby they, or their bureaucratic antecedents, came into being by law in order to protect the natural resources for the welfare of which the lands on which they exist were removed from the private domain and placed under public protection. An assessment of the deterioration or other change in natural resources should be undertaken.
An example of bureaucratic or institutional history would include examination of the effect on the Niagara environment of the institution of Authority, the legacy of New York State government, a hybrid between public and private corporations, under a single bureaucrat (Robert Moses) who was acting head of the Power Authority of New York State, the Department of Parks, and the Throughway Authority during the 1950's and 1960's. Another example would be to examine the institutional legacy and its impact on the natural history of the Niagara River in the 1870's through 1890's of the incorporated Canadian railway administrations, the development of hydroelectric power and the evolution of the Niagara Parks Commission.
[Paragraph added, July 22, 2004:]
This proposal includes review of the more recent role of the United States Department of the Interior in engaging in projects at Niagara that contradict its mandate, for example, participating in the construction of the Great Lakes Garden at Prospect Point in the Niagara Reservation, a project that contradicts the intent of the original establishment of that property for which that agency designated it a National Historic Landmark. It is proposed that an outside review of that agency's role throughout the Niagara gorge during the 1990's and the future be undertaken.
The result of this proposal would be to provide an understanding of the present and intensifying deterioration of social and environmental coherence within the Niagara environments. Governing agendas appear to be self-competitive and contradictory within the mandate of single bureaucracies that represent the present governing agencies along the Niagara River, with a resulting degradation of the natural environment under their custodianship.
An example for study would include the possible past, recent and imminent inappropriate assignation of Environmental Bond Act, Environmental Protection Fund and Relicensing Settlement monies for agendas that cannot be shown to augment or protect the natural environment, in contradiction to the intent for which these funds were and are being established.
3. IT IS PROPOSED that, based on the institutional review suggested above (proposal number two), a new formulation of bureaucratic governance be created, eventually encompassing both sides of the Niagara River, to arrest further deterioration of public natural history assets within the Niagara environment. Based on a clarified and more focused public mandate, this reformulation may involve transfer of authority from one government agency to another with appropriate additional staffing and expertise and funding, such as putting lands at issue under the direction of the NYDEC or the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in full or in part with use of Settlement funds to implement the expansion of agency mandates.
Agencies with appropriate staffing and expertise to understand and manage natural resources directly, and who have acted in the public interest since they have been established, appear to be conspicuously absent from the profiles of the present agencies, with a resulting deterioration of the wildlife assets under management.
4. Because two areas of significant biological (botanical) resources on state land are located on Grand Island (Beaver Island and Buckhorn Island State Parks), and
- because these state lands were placed in the public domain to protect those natural historic assets for the citizens of the State of New York, and
- because these public lands have sustained deterioration of biological assets due to New York government agency decisions to permit utility corridors to be established for utilities on land reserved from development high above ground, in the shallow subsurface, in a water corridor, to permit the laying of electric power, natural gas, telephone line transmissions, highway transportation usages (Interstate 90), sewage and waste disposal sites on these lands, therefore
- IT IS PROPOSED that Settlement monies be allocated to purchase lands that are of normal or ordinary biotic significance or culturally altered lands to create state-controlled "utility park corridors" to be leased to utilities and municipal governments and that park lands with important biological resources be reserved from use as such transmission corridors or for any other use than ecological protection, and
- some portion of this money be allocated to purchase additional land as buffers surrounding habitats and plant communities of significance to the citizens of the State of New York (at the two parklands mentioned on Grand Island), and, if deemed necessary, such land to promote recreational agendas on properties culturally altered (such as farmland or other cut-over land), and
- some portion of this money be used to restore habitat and habitat dynamics, and to mitigate the effects of utility emplacement in public areas set aside for their environmental assets.
5. IT IS PROPOSED that a Niagara River environmental management district be created to include environmental preserve areas adjacent to and/or associated with the full extent of the Niagara River and portions or entire lengths of its tributaries, encompassing identified natural resources of concern to both the United States and Ontario.
It is proposed that intensive exploration into the areas beside the river be undertaken to identify resources to be managed, protected, and restored together with identifying threats and ways to create cooperative management policies with private land owners or to establish liens and other protective instruments.
It is proposed that defined areas of recently discovered concern would be incorporated into the policies of the management district, such as mollusk beds on Grand Island and watershed improvements to enhance and protect these resources, or wetland forests recently discovered and as yet undescribed or recognized by New York State government agencies on the upper and lower floodplains of the Niagara River.
It is proposed that settlement money be used to purchase for preservation as much property as is determined to be feasible for appropriate and adequate (i.e. buffer zones) area for environmental, cultural and recreational management.
Note that management within the Niagara River environmental management district would have different agendas, goals and practices than are appropriate for intensive-disturbance regimes of traditional greenway systems, and metro-park emplacements, such as in the City of Chicago.
6. It is proposed that areas under public domain heretofore called "Parks" should be defined according to their public purpose such that certain areas be designated wilderness or to be preserved for their biological assets, as distinct from parks for picnicking with no biological assets, or for recreation or historic preservation. Each of these areas should be given a title with a definition that makes clear the purpose for which that land is put into the public domain, to relieve such lands from ambiguity of purpose and incoherence of mandate and management.
7. IT IS PROPOSED that a citizen's committee of private, non-government individuals, to include organizations of national or international influence, should be formed to periodically oversee and review implementation of overall objectives within the framework(s) given here. Such individuals should have no contracts or other financial or other interested relations with agencies and industries or individuals in the Niagara area such that there should be a conflict of interest between the publicly mandated objectives of total environmental protection (total includes all biotic categories and emphasizes the fundamental botanical resource as the basis for all habitat and community function as opposed to focus on one select set of organisms, such as the bird fauna).
8. IT IS PROPOSED that a full biotic inventory of the Niagara River should be undertaken with a particular emphasis on floristic data. Such an inventory would include natural and artificial dynamics (soils, wind, water diversion), and monitor changes through time. Recommended goals, standards, protocols for initiatives, such as restoration and preservation should be identified based on the results of this inventory. The inventory would include habitats, communities past and present assessment of species etc. throughout the management district, the district boundaries to be altered to accommodate this research.
9. IT IS PROPOSED that institutions that presently maintain baseline collections of historic voucher specimens, archival materials and other physical information, such as maps, letters, photographs with biological information relevant to the proposal statements above, be identified. A catalogue of the institutions and the nature of its archived information should be assembled as a research tool. A framework for coordination and cooperation between such institutions could be established, as, for example, the pictorial materials at the various art museums, such as the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, the Buscaglia Art Gallery at Niagara University, and the photographic collections of the Kodak Corporation (these may be at the Smithsonian Institution). Institutions are to include pictorial archives in Ontario.
Curatorial protocols should be established for acceptable maintenance of these baseline collections where financial partnerships are proposed, to preserve collection existence and the information that inherently resides in them. Partnerships in maintaining the quality of curation and upkeep of these collections should be established and money be provided to ensure quality of preservation and access by researchers with periodic review. Money should be provided so that the collections be catalogued and research on them promoted with periodic review.
New collections should be established where new research generates collection-quality material, and archives established for documents that are relevant to Niagara issues, but which do not presently exist.
10. IT IS PROPOSED that full and detailed master plan should be made for the preservation and restoration of biological assets presently and historically verified, with goals, methodology, criteria for success, and appropriate protocols. Whatever natural dynamics of the ancestral environment that contributed to the original biotic abundance and diversity should be identified (such as substrate complexity vs. imposed uniformity). The plan would address new influences and dynamics and future conditions, and such topics should be identified and assessed (increase in CO2 in atmosphere, alterations in the growing season, alteration in thermal and precipitation dynamics, pressures from exposure to exotic propagules, drainage alteration and restoration, elimination of repetitive disturbance regimes by maintenance, etc.).
The focus of this plan would be on the Niagara flora including mitigation of deleterious influences (a botanical inventory and restoration of habitat and plant community).
11. IT IS PROPOSED THAT based on this plan, a dedicated restoration of botanical habitats and plant communities would be initiated. Such restoration would require appropriate government agency oversight with properly specialized scientific staff with authority to devise and implement such a plan. Staff would include individuals with experience in horticultural applications applied to a natural restoration mandate. Implementation would be subject to periodic professional review. This would entail protocols for collecting indigenous plant matter, such as seeds, other propagules, cuttings, etc., to ensure that restoration includes the genetic continuity of vegetative elements that are considered to be native populations in the Niagara area. Off-site greenhouse facilities are essential to this plan.
To minimize disturbance, every attempt should be made to ensure the free expansion and reintroduction of native species and species populations, with an evaluation of any new alien and native species established from areas outside of the normal Niagara flora.
It is suggested that expertise in this area be sought at Cornell University and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse, New York; in Ontario expertise might be sought at Brock University, and the University of Toronto.
[Paragraph added, July 22, 2004:]
12. It is here proposed that an all-New York State agency review be undertaken of the State's basic premise that the principal environmental focus of its financial resources be on the fauna of the State at the expense of its flora. It is a fundamental biological fact that all life depends on photosynthesizing organisms organized into habitats and ecosystems. It is probable that some elements of environmental management in the State is based on a reversal of this relationship to the deterioration of both native fauna and floristic entities in the State.
[Paragraph added, July 22, 2004:]
It is suggested that adjustments be made in government institutions such as the Gift to Wildlife Fund to underwrite professional studies of a botanical nature, such that ecosystems and plant communities on which fauna derives its sustenance be given equal attention if not priority.