Introducing the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve Association

On December 11, 2019, long-time members, supporters and stakeholders of the entity previously known as the Beaver Hills Initiative came together at Strathcona County Council Chambers to celebrate the official incorporation and launch of the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve Association (BHB).

Attendees celebrated the UNESCO designated biosphere and now the incorporated organization under the Societies Act in Alberta. Learn more about the event and how, with partners, members and friends, we celebrated both the history of the organization and what’s yet to come.

The Beaver Hills was designated a biosphere on March 19, 2016 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), becoming Alberta’s second official biosphere. This designation provides global recognition of the contributing communities’ commitment to conservation and sustainable development in this unique region. This significant designation highlights the important landscape of the Beaver Hills but also represents the hard work, dedication and commitment of many volunteers and partner organizations which together enabled this international recognition.

On December 11, 2019, partners and community members joined BHB Board and staff to celebrate past efforts of the Beaver Hills Initiative (BHI) along with a new milestone – the transition of the BHI and the official incorporation of the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve Association under the Societies Act, a step which formalizes the entity and puts the biosphere on a new path.

Glen Lawrence, Councilor with Strathcona County and interim Chair of the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve Association, opened the event by providing a glimpse of the history and speaking of the dedication of the individuals who spearheaded original efforts in the biosphere through the Beaver Hills Initiative. Glen referred to the collective contributions of the many partners that were integral in gaining the momentum of the organization and securing UNESCO designation.

“We were very fortunate to have such a diverse representation of innovative leaders, many who had a personal connection to the biosphere, who enabled the international designation of a truly special place,” said Glen.

Following Glen’s address, Brian Ilnicki, Executive Director of the Association, spoke to attendees about the diverse and exciting projects the newly incorporated organization will be undertaking in the biosphere in the coming years. This includes four separate applied research projects (see MITACs feature story in this edition of the Beaver Hills Bulletin), a comprehensive Wetland Conservation Stewardship and Pilot Project and continued efforts to raise awareness of this unique place.

“We came together today to celebrate the incorporation of the new association but also to celebrate all the people involved and the effort it has taken to get here,” said Brian during his speech at the event.

“Now, as an association, we can move forward with projects and efforts that elevate awareness and conservation of the rich biodiversity and distinctive landscape which characterizes our biosphere.”

At the event, long-time advocate, biosphere champion and BHI board member, Dr. Guy Swinnerton was presented with an original watercolour painting from a local artist depicting dawn breaking over Astotin Lake. The contributions and commitment of former BHI Executive Director, Brenda Wispinski, was also recognized with a similar painting by the same artist.

“I look forward to following the on-going success of the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve Association,” observed Guy. “I am certain that the Beaver Hills Biosphere will continue to be an enviable example of conservation and responsible environmental stewardship at both the local level and as an important contributor to the global network of biosphere reserves.”

A special thank you to everyone who took the time to celebrate this achievement and milestone with us. We look to the future with excitement and commitment to furthering the mission and goals of the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve Association and serving as an example of conservation and sustainable development on a regional, national and international stage.