In spite of blizzard-like conditions Saturday, over 100 community members, scientists, policy makers, educators and advocates filled the 3rd floor of the Clayton Opera house to hear about the state of the St. Lawrence River. Speakers shared information about invasive species, wetlands and habitat restoration, mercury contamination in common terns, and a program under consideration to expand Save The River’s successful Muskie catch and release program to bass. Area educators also shared personal accounts about Save The River’s In the Schools program.
“To see so many people come from near and far, through challenging conditions to exchange information about the state of the River we all love is very heartening,” stated Lee Willbanks, Executive Director of Save The River. “The information shared at our Winter Conference empowers individuals and decision makers to take actions to preserve and protect the St. Lawrence now and for the future.”
Teddy McNally, Chair of the Save The River Board of Directors said, “We are very pleased to see this kind of turnout for our 24th Winter Conference. It shows the information our presenters are providing continues to be relevant and useful to the River community.”
Attendees included the Honorable David Henderson, Mayor of the City of Brockville, Ontario, and representatives from Senator Ritchie and Congressman Owen’s office, as well as state, local and St. Regis Mohawk Tribal offices.
They heard from Jeff Garnsey, owner Classic Island Tours, and Clif Schneider, former NYS DEC Conservation Biologist, about the background and justification for an expanded catch and release program. Christina C. Killourhy, a graduate student at SUNY-ESF, presented her research on the impact the round goby has on nesting fish in the River. Yasmeen Smalley, a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology, showed her work in progress documenting the aggressive nature of gobies through underwater photography.
Jennifer Nalbone, Director of Navigation and Invasive Species at Great Lakes United, updated the audience on invasive species. Christopher Baird (seen here on the right), master’s candidate at Queens University, spoke about his research into mercury contamination in Common Terns on the River . Dr. John Farrell of SUNY-ESF spoke about wetlands restoration success stories. Concluding the day, Kathy Morris and Heather White, both educators, provided compelling stories of the positive impacts on the area’s elementary and high school students of Save The River’s In the Schools Program.
Throughout the room there were exhibits highlighting many of Save The River’s programs and partnerships and showcasing various projects completed by students in the In the Schools program. Of particular note were the papier-mâché replicas of many of the River’s indigenous fish species made by Ron Burris’ seventh grade art class in Sackets Harbor, complete with research notes into habitat and habits of the fish depicted.
Save The River would like to thank the following Sponsors for their generous support:
Uncle Sam’s Boat Tours, Alexandria Bay
Ed Huck Marine, Rockport, Ontario
Islander Marina and Lodge, Clayton
And to the following individuals, artists, organizations and businesses for donating artwork, goods and services to the Silent Auction.
Dark Island Tours
Charles Garlock & Sons
Garnsey’s Classic Island Cruises
The Ivy Restaurant
Chris Murray Photography
St. Lawrence Pottery
Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund
Thousand Islands Playhouse
White’s Lumber and Hardware
The Winter Conference would not have been a success were it not for the dedicated volunteers who helped before, during and after the event. Save The River thanks the following for their tremendous support:
Julie & Jeff Garnsey
Sarah Ellen Smith
Save The River staff now turns their attention to the upcoming summer season which will include the 10th annual Rock for the River concert July 6th and the River Day 5K / 10K Run July 27th.