In 2019, the Niagara River Corridor was designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, the world’s oldest environmental treaty. Niagara University’s Justice House and its pre-law advisement program celebrated this recognition during a special event on Goat Island in Niagara Falls State Park on Oct. 15, 2022.
NU partnered with the University at Buffalo School of Law's clinical legal education program to sponsor the event. Featured speakers included Kim Diana Connolly, director of Clinical Legal Education at UB Law and a member of the World Wetland Network International Committee, who led the efforts to support the designation; Farida Razaqi, Fulbright Scholar and Niagara University Environmental Justice Fellow; and student-attorneys from UB Law's Environmental Advocacy Clinic who completed the legal and policy service-learning work to support the initiative. A walking tour highlighting plant and animal species was also offered.
“Universities play a significant role in environmental education and awareness,” said Razaqi. “The NU Justice House and UB Law Environmental Advocacy Clinic, the event's co-organizers, are committed to raising future environmental leaders and generations that not only care about the environment, but take practical steps to make the world a better and livable place for everyone. The Niagara River Ramsar trip was such a productive and fun experience for everyone. Participants were looking for animals and plant species of importance with great excitement and enthusiasm, and we received gratifying feedback from them.”
“I have been to Niagara Falls multiple times, but I had no idea it was a Ramsar site,” said Olivia Sheldon, a political science major from North Tonawanda, N.Y. “The hike we took through Goat Island reminded me why it is a Wonder of the Natural World. Getting to explore the nature and wildlife there in depth during the event was an incredible opportunity.”
“Niagara University's Environmental Justice initiative engages students through hands-on and experiential learning,” said Kevin Hinkley, assistant professor of political science and faculty co-director of the Justice Houses. “At the World Rivers Day event, students had the opportunity not only to meet with Professor Connolly and the Environmental Advocacy Clinic team and to learn about the designation of the Niagara River corridor as a Ramsar site, but also to explore the site together, identifying plant and animal species that contribute to biodiversity in this wetland of international importance. This event was invaluable for Niagara University students interested in issues such as preserving ecosystems and protecting wildlife, the making of environmental law and policy, how international treaties are negotiated and implemented, and youth engagement in environmental advocacy, among others. Niagara University pre-law students, for example, were able to connect what they've learned in the classroom to real-world applications—and to accelerate their engagement in the experiential legal education that is the hallmark of the Environmental Advocacy Clinic and other clinical offerings at the University at Buffalo School of Law.”
Niagara University’s Justice House is a learning community centered on the pursuit of justice. Members include students and faculty interested in issues including racial and gender justice; legal advocacy and justice; the Earth and environment; community health and healthcare equity; the United Nations; immigration and refugee resettlement; criminal justice reform; civil rights; diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; and tribal sovereignty and Indigenous rights.
Justice House’s student members have unique opportunities to enrich their college education through courses focused on justice; paid internships, fellowships, and career training; scholarships and grants; guest speakers and special events; immersion trips; the academic minor in Justice Studies; and the Justice House honor society.