Protecting Our New Millennium Oil: UB's Great Lakes Conference Takes on the Big Questions

Release Date: June 11, 2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Recognizing the profound importance of this region's most valuable resource -- its abundance of fresh water -- and solving the monumental task of protecting that resource heads the agenda of "Great Lakes Connecting Channels," an all-day conference open to the public to be held Friday (June 12, 2009) in the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts, North (Amherst) Campus.

"Water is the new oil," said Barry Boyer, professor of law in UB's Law School, and one of the chief organizers of the conference. "And we've got a fifth of the world's freshwater on our doorstep. But we need to do a better job of protecting it, and using it wisely."

The conference will focus on what Boyer calls "choke points on a highway system," the channels, or rivers and straits, that link the five Great Lakes. "These connecting channels are the places where things come together -- nations, people, pollutants and problems. As a result, many of them are among the most degraded areas in the region."

Our ability to manage these boundary waters represents a chance to take advantage of this world-class resource -- or squander and befoul the water and its surrounding region, according to Boyer.

"Dealing with the many environmental problems we now face in the Great Lakes, and others that will arise in the future, requires sound science, effective management and good governance," he said. "Getting this done well in the two nations, eight states, two provinces and countless municipalities within the Great Lakes region is an enormous challenge.

"This is what the conference will explore.

"The rivers like Niagara that connect the Great Lakes are the places where we have achieved the strongest integration of the economies and cultures of Canada and the United States," Boyer said. "But these connecting waters have some of the most formidable environmental challenges in the region."

The program begins at 8:30 a.m., following registration, with opening remarks and overviews by Boyer. Also featured are the Canadian ambassador to the United States, two commissioners from the International Joint Commission, the international agency responsible for overseeing water resources along the Canada-U.S. border, and Don Zelazny, Great Lakes Program coordinator for New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

The morning guest speakers will address the state of science and the opportunities research offers to solve the problem of pollution, and protect the fish and wildlife that use the Niagara River and other connecting channels. The afternoon sessions look at the need for good government and the reasons why attempts to improve the connecting channels have often had little success. The conference will conclude, after remarks by the Canadian ambassador, with a wine and cheese reception.

For more information on the content of the conference, contact Boyer at or visit To register, contact Anita Mazurek at or call (716) 645-2071. There is a $25 fee that includes breakfast, lunch and all other costs to attend the conference. The conference is free to all UB personnel and all college students.

The conference is held in conjunction with events going on throughout the Niagara Frontier this week to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the landmark treaty between Canada and the U.S, the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. For more information, visit

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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