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The Western New York area has seen a dramatic change over the last 20 years including lost businesses, plant shutdowns and loved ones relocating to gain better economic opportunities.

All of these events are a direct result of abysmally bad leadership on the part of our past elected officials. We are left scrambling to enter the 21st century with some sort of remediation plan to compete economically with the rest of the nation.

We do have exceptional opportunities for the future if we manage our natural resources wisely. For the last 12 years, directly and indirectly, I have been involved with the preservation and remediation of Strawberry Island, a significant fish and wildlife habitat in the Upper Niagara River.

At one time, the island was more than 100 acres in size, with magnificent beaches, marshlands and a hotel and tavern. Now, due to shortsightedness, dredging and neglect, the island has diminished in size to about 5 acres. The good news is the island still generates a magnificent habitat for fish and wildlife.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has an ambitious and spectacular remediation plan to preserve and rebuild tracts of the island.

With the $750,000 habitat remediation project now under way, we could see the island grow nominally in size by next year. What a golden opportunity to usher in this new millennium, with a new awareness and direction for our future, utilizing this natural resource. I call on the New York State legislative delegation, Western New York sportsmen, environmentalists and citizens to further support this important effort. The DEC needs two additional staff persons to adequately manage the entire Strawberry Island and Motor Island Shallows fish and wildlife habitat.

We, as a community, must look to the future and enable projects like Strawberry Island's remediation with strong support.

The terrible trend of always losing opportunities, and eventually our children, must end now. I know this feeling all too well, as I have lost a son and a daughter to better opportunities in other states.


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