July 27, 2016
The Future of Howe Sound Society has been engaging with people across all sectors and boundaries in a dialogue about the need for a comprehensive plan for Howe Sound. Over the years we have heard many suggestions for ways we can protect Howe Sound. People from all walks of life and various parts of the world share an appreciation for the beauty and wildness of the Howe Sound region so close to our growing cities.
While higher levels of government will not lead on planning, many pieces of what make up a regional plan are moving forward. There is progress on protecting the environment alongside economic growth. More and more people discover and enjoy the social and recreational value of Howe Sound and the Squamish Nation members are connecting more with this part of their territory as their ancestors have done in the past.
We hear many calls for action to ensure protection for what people value about Howe Sound ranging from complete commercial development to full National Park status. What is clear is that achieving a healthy balance for the protection of environment, social, cultural and economic values is extremely important.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO Biosphere Reserves are intended to promote solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. The status is internationally recognized and does not impose laws, rules or controls over a region, but are special places for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity. They take into account the rights and needs of local and Indigenous peoples. There are 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries, including 18 in Canada. Two closest to Howe Sound are Clayoquot Biosphere Reserve region and Mt. Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, both on Vancouver Island. Biosphere reserves have three interrelated zones that aim to fulfill three complementary and mutually reinforcing functions:
- The core area(s) comprises a strictly protected ecosystem that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation.
- The buffer zone surrounds or adjoins the core areas, and is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education.
- The transition area is the part of the reserve where the greatest activity is allowed, fostering economic and human development that is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable.
B.C. Spaces for Nature initiated this possibility for Howe Sound a number of years ago. Our Society is committed to conservation and stewardship of Howe Sound for the benefit of current and future generations which is why together with BC Spaces we have formed a committee to move the possibility of achieving UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status forward. The committee will engage with First Nations and all levels of government, organizations, institutions and communities throughout Howe Sound in exploring social readiness and support for an application to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.