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'Restore the Gorge' project to be unveiled in Niagara Falls

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

A plan to restore the Niagara River Gorge’s original plant habitat will be unveiled Monday night in Niagara Falls.Plants like Norway maple trees and buckthorn shrubs have invaded the Niagara Gorge. As part of the Buffalo Billion Economic Development Initiative, a $2.1 million plan is being unveiled to help restore some of the natural habitat.

The habitat restoration project looks to root out non-native plants in the Gorge over the course of three years. Western New York Land Conservancy Executive Director Nancy Smith says much of the area is threatened.

"So our project will be removing some of the invasive plants and replacing them with native plants," Smith says, "and it's a spot that has enormous ecological diversity. There are 1,274 different species of plants down in the Gorge."

Smith says this project is similar to the team they assembled to work at the Stella-Niagara Preserve. She says the Gorge is known and celebrated around the world.

"This is like the hallway to the Falls," she says, "It could have such important economic impact, ecotourism, but it has to be done right.

Smith says the land conservancy currently protects 6,000 acres of land. Applied Ecological Services will be helping with the project. Their body of work extends across the United States.

This habitat restoration project is a separate effort from the removal of the Niagara Scenic Parkway. The meeting to unveil the project starts at 7 p.m. at the Niagara Falls Public Library.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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