We’re excited to continue and expand our current environmental programming in Niagara County, NY. We will be partnering with the National Wildlife Federation and four schools in Niagara County, NY to implement a program created and funded by New York State Attorney General Letitia James. This exciting environmental education program will focus on environmental health and justice, leadership, and environmental literacy.
We’ve been working to protect local waterways from its inception in 1989. Back then, we were known as the Friends of the Buffalo River. A lot has changed since 1989, like our name, but waterway protection and environmental education are still vital pillars for our work.
Most of our environmental education has spurred from volunteer programs, like our well-known Shoreline Sweep or our native tree plantings and kayak tours. We also conduct direct outreach and provide trainings through our Environmental Justice Fish Consumption program. This has provided immigrant and refugee populations critical information, translated in many languages, about local subsistence fishing.
What is Environmental Justice?
Environmental Justice is the concept that all people — regardless of race, ethnicity, or income level — have the right to live in a healthy environment. For decades, many communities in WNY have been disproportionately burdened with environmental problems, which affects the health and quality of life for the residents who live there.
In 2013, with funding from a NYS DEC Environmental Justice Grant, we launched our Young Environmental Leaders Program (YELP) in the City of Buffalo. Through the YELP program we aimed to develop an immersive training and mentoring program for high-school age students residing in targeted environmental justice communities. We wanted to provide opportunities for students to learn about local waterways, environmental harms impacting their communities, progressive solutions they could engage in, and environmental careers. It is our goal to help educate and train local environmental stewards to enable them to take action to improve their communities.
In the Spring of 2019, based on the success of YELP, Waterkeeper expanded the program into Niagara Falls High School with funding from a City of Niagara Falls Community Development Block Grant.
To continue and expand our Young Environmental Leaders Program in Niagara County, Waterkeeper recently partnered with National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to bring collaborative programming to four high schools in designated potential environmental justice regions.
- Niagara Falls High School
- Niagara Wheatfield High School
- North Tonawanda High School
- Lockport High School
Niagara county has dealt with its fair share of challenges, from the tragedy of Love Canal and other industrial pollution to ongoing sewage pollution issues, harmful algal blooms and climate change impacts. The goal of the collaborative programming, coined the Niagara County Youth Environmental Education and Leadership Program (NCYEELP), is to improve the awareness and literacy of Niagara County HS students regarding the environmental health and justice of their local communities. Programming aims to empower students to develop leadership skills to become the next generation of environmental leaders.
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The Niagara County Youth Environmental Education and Leadership Program is a partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, funded by the Office of the New York State Attorney General.