By Celia Clarke, NCPR on April 14, 2022
A local land trust is buying up land the federal government wants to use for a new border check-in facility on the St. Lawrence River. Environmental organizations, local, and federal leaders have criticized the choice of the location in the Thousand Islands to replace the existing station on Wellesley Island.
The proposed new facility would be on 19-acres on the mainland at Blind Bay in Fishers Landing. It’s about a 10-minute boat ride from Wellesley Island.
Conservation groups, residents, and local leaders criticized the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s environmental assessment during the public comment phase which ended in March. They said the report didn’t accurately consider the effect the facility would have on the ecosystem.
On Wednesday, the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) announced it is buying the land the CBP is considering. Jake Tibbles is the director of the trust.
“[Its] roughly twenty acres of upland habitat, so mixed forest, shrub, and open grassland. It also includes the 294 feet of undeveloped waterfront in the interior of Blind Bay, said Jake Tibbles, Executive Director of the TILT.
John Peach, head of the environmental group Save the River described the area as “the most historic, significant spawning ground for muskie on the New York state side of the Thousand Islands.”
Peach said muskies are key contributors to the stability of the entire ecosystem which includes about 50 other fish species.
“This is not just some piece of seawall they were going to build an industrial facility on. It’s just the wrong siting for a facility like that,” he said.
Tibbles and Peach said they’ve tried to talk to someone at CPB but they haven’t heard back from anyone. Tibbles said they’ve even offered staff to help the agency.
“We see this as another opportunity to work with local stakeholders including USCBP to protect this site but also find a potential alternative that’s less ecologically sensitive or more appropriate for the facility they’re planning on building,” he said.
Tibbles said the land purchase is still being finalized but it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection hasn’t returned requests for comment.