NOTL agricultural committee opposes protection of Niagara River

The Niagara River at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Niagara River at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Suzanne Mason

Niagara Advance

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has deferred a decision indefinitely on whether to support the Niagara River being designated as a Ramsar site - an international recognition for significant wetlands – due to concerns raised by its agricultural advisory committee.


The Ramsar Treaty, signed in Iran in 1971 by 168 countries, provides honourary endorsements of the global importance and ecological significance of rivers. It promotes the conservation and wise use of wetlands through local, national and international collaboration.

A Canada-U.S. Ramsar steering committee that includes representation from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, passed a resolution last June endorsing the proposed designation for the Niagara River.

In a letter to the town of Fort Erie last October, NPCA chair Bruce Timms wrote that major accomplishments have been made reducing toxins in the Niagara River since the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was signed by the two countries in 1972.

“In order to acknowledge this achievement of improved health and prosperity, a Ramsar designation for the river is being pursued,” he wrote. “Ramsar designation is voluntary and carries no regulatory implications.”

The Niagara-on-the-Lake agricultural advisory committee asked town council not to support the Ramsar designation. At a meeting in February, the committee said the designation could have potential negative impacts on the agricultural community.

“The committee noted there was not enough clarity and too many unanswered questions,” the committee reported to council, including “the potential for new regulations that would make it more difficult to farm.”

A planning staff report to council said the agricultural committee recently received information about municipalities in Australia and Manitoba that have designated Ramsar sites. It said there appears to be additional legislative controls and protections placed on these sites now.

Staff also reported that there could be a positive side to a designation as there could be more funding for the town to monitor and improve the river’s water quality.

“There’s no real rush for a Ramsar designation,” said Coun. Maria Bau-Coote, who suggested that council wait until a new official plan is completed to discuss the issue again.

“I would be very concerned if we turned down the request,” said Coun. Jamie King, but he agreed with postponing a decision at this time on the agricultural committee’s request to not support the Ramsar designation. 

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