An ecologically important parcel of land in Lewiston that supports rare plants is several steps closer to being protected as the Stella Niagara Preserve, thanks to work by the Western New York Land Conservancy.
The Niagara River Greenway Commission on July 16 voted unanimously that the proposed preserve was consistent with the Niagara River Greenway Plan.
Less than a week later, the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee of the New York Power Authority approved a $500,000 funding request. This grant is the first money received for the more than $3 million project and is the largest single amount ever awarded to the Western New York Land Conservancy.
The 29-acre site with over a quarter-mile of shoreline is located on the river side of Lower River Road in the Town of Lewiston, across from the Stella Niagara Education Park and Center of Renewal.
The property has incredible ecological importance, according to the WNY Land Conservancy.
It has a variety of habitats, including a riparian zone (the interface between land and a river or stream), a large meadow, a forest area and vernal pools (temporary pools of water) that support rare plants and animals.
These rare species include the endangered shrub called ninebark and the threatened lake sturgeon. The shallow off-shore shoal supports larval smallmouth bass, yellow perch and rock bass.
The entire Niagara River is internationally designated as a globally significant Important Bird Area because it is home to threatened species, such as the bald eagle and common tern, and supports hundreds of thousands of migrating water birds, especially during winter months when all other water in the region is frozen.
The property was placed on the Niagara River Area of Concern priority habitat list in 2012, making it an international priority for protection.
The WNY Land Conserancy is working closely with the current owners of the property, the Sisters of St. Francis. Once the land is acquired, the Land Conservancy will develop a trail system; provide new fishing, canoe and kayak access; provide interpretive and wayfinding signage; enhance 18 acres of grassland and savannah habitat; offer public programming, and carefully steward the property.