A $2.1 million plan to restore as much of the Niagara River Gorge's original plant habitat as possible will be unveiled at a public meeting Monday night in Niagara Falls.
The aim is to root out non-native plants that have grown over the years and replace them with original plants, many of them endangered.
Norway maple trees and the common buckthorn shrub are among the species on the removal list, while native oak trees and ninebark shrubs are their anticipated replacements.
The work is expected to last three years, thus occurring at the same time as the state's removal of the Niagara Scenic Parkway above the gorge rim. That project is to replace the four-lane highway with green spaces and trails leading to the edge of the gorge.
"Restore the Gorge," funded in part by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Buffalo Billion II initiative, calls for work in the gorge from the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center to Devil's Hole State Park.
Jajean Rose of the Western New York Land Conservancy said the organization received $100,000 from the Yahoo Community Fund for Niagara County as what one might call seed money. Rose said the Yahoo grant paid for "the largest locally sourced native plant seed collection and propagation project in Western New York’s history."
"The plants that come from those seeds will be used at a showcase native ecosystem along the rim of the gorge near Findlay Drive," Rose said in an email to The Buffalo News. "The Yahoo funds will also allow us to work with Grassroots Gardens of Western New York to add native plants to community gardens near the gorge, creating 'branches of green' from the gorge into adjacent neighborhoods."
Besides $1 million from Buffalo Billion II, the Land Conservancy received nearly $1 million in Niagara River Greenway funds for its gorge project. It's being carried out on land owned by State Parks and the New York Power Authority.
The Land Conservancy hired plant experts and landscape architects from such companies as Applied Ecological Services and Landscapes of Place to help create the habitat restoration plan. Representatives of both companies are scheduled to attend Monday's meeting.
About 80 percent of all the plant species in Buffalo Niagara can be found somewhere in the gorge. The gorge also is favored by bird watchers as an important bird migration area, and the churning waters of the lower Niagara River rapids are a crucial spawning for several types of fish, including the lake sturgeon, a threatened species.
The Land Conservancy will present details of its "Restore the Gorge" project at 7 p.m. Monday in the Niagara Falls Public Library, 1425 Main St. Those who plan to attend Monday's meeting are asked to register in advance online at restorethegorge.eventbrite.com or by calling 687-1225.