November 2, 2016
Early 2016, Ruth Simons, Executive Director of Future of Howe Sound Society, on a visit to Tofino on Vancouver Island, became inspired by the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve. In speaking with the staff in the Biosphere Reserve office, Ruth realized Howe Sound has much in common with the people that live, work and play in the Clayoquot Sound region and share many of the same challenges. She learned that UNESCO Biospheres are places for collaboration between many groups, and they create a capacity to promote the good work that benefits the region and the community. If Howe Sound were a UNESCO Biosphere Region it would define a vision for the region within specific boundaries and operationalize that vision. The international designation would add value to the region by being a place that sets an example for the world on how we interact with our environment.
Ruth learned that becoming a Biosphere Region is not creating another level of government, it doesn’t infringe on First Nations rights and titles, and it doesn’t create any new rules or laws, compete with organizations or interfere with how people live today. It does utilize existing legal frameworks for protection and land/water management and provide support for furthering and enhancing goals of sustainable development in balance with environmental protection. In addition, individual UNESCO Biospheres become part of an international network that shares information.
A road trip to Clayoquot Sound was taken in May with three Howe Sound veteran devotees to learn more. Suzanne Senger Campaigner for BC Spaces for Nature, Bob Turner former Federal Scientist and former Mayor, Bowen Island and Jan Hagedorn former Islands Trust trustee and teacher. Since that time the Howe Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region Initiative has taken off. The current working group amembers are: Ruth Simons, Suzanne Senger, Bob Turner, Tom Rafael, Barrister and Solicitor, retired from West Vancouver/Bowen Island and Dr. Patricia Plackett, Dr. Patricia Plackett, Socio-Economic professor and former executive in the forest industry, Vancouver. Skilled people continue to join the working group or being engaged participants.
Highlights of the team’s progress in 2016 since visiting Clayoquot Sound in May:
August – Letter of intent for a Howe Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region sent to Canadian Commission for UNESCO and acknowledged.
September – Visit and meeting with staff of Mt. Arrowsmith UNESCO Biosphere Region Research Institute at University of Vancouver Island. Attendance at Salish Sea Biosphere Initiative Workshops in Sidney, B.C.
October – Presentation to 75 participants at the Howe Sound Community Forum, by the Initiative’s team and Stan Boychuk, Chair of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO National Committee for the Man and the Biosphere (MAB). Initiative received a positive indication of support from those in attendance. Many more presentations to various groups have been given and team has ongoing planning meetings and is reviewing successful applications from other Biospheres regions.
In November – Meeting with Squamish Nation Chiefs and a strategic planning for the nomination application.
It can take many years to obtain the designation from UNESCO and a region should be operating as a Biosphere Region in the meantime. The working group team looks forward to co-creating the Howe Sound Biosphere Initiative with First Nations groups and engaging all stakeholders in achieving the objectives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s vision for Biosphere Reserves as a model for sustainable development.
If you are interested in adding your skills to the team contact Chair of the initiative Ruth.Simons@futureofhowesound.org.