Learning from Our Neighbours

Glen Lawrence, Strathcona County Councillor and Chair of the Beaver Hills Biosphere, recognizes the value of staying connected with other Canadian biospheres. Learn more about his recent trip to a beautiful, east coast biosphere reserve and how it inspired him in his work with the BHB.

A special community

Biosphere reserves are some of the most beautiful and unique places in the world. They are internationally designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and defined as areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are also referred to as learning sites for sustainable development.

There are currently 686 UNESCO biosphere reserves in 122 countries that are globally recognized. Within this global community, the Canadian Biosphere Reserve Association (CBRA) works with and facilitates collaboration amongst Canada’s designated biosphere reserves. The Beaver Hills Biosphere (BHB), which is one of one of 18 biospheres in Canada and only one of two UNESCO sites in Alberta, is part of this special community.

The BHB counts CBRA and UNESCO amongst its core partners and ensures alignment with both organizations’ objectives and strategic plans. But being a part of this special community goes beyond ensuring alignment of strategic plans. It also involves building and maintaining relationships with fellow biosphere reserves.

Connecting with purpose

This past summer, Glen Lawrence, Chair of the BHB, took a trip to Kejimkujik National Park, located approximately two hours west of Halifax within the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve, one of two biosphere reserves in Nova Scotia and home to the largest wilderness area in the Maritimes (Tobeatic Wildnerness Area). People come from all over the world to witness the beauty of biosphere reserves first hand but for Glen, visiting these other biosphere reserves has a deeper meaning.

“There is so much value in visiting and forging and maintaining relationships with fellow Canadian biosphere reserves,” explains Glen. “From sharing stories and ideas to learning new ideas and methods, staying connected is important because what works for one biosphere reserve may work for another.”

For example, many biosphere reserves face similar challenges in securing long-term funding and raising awareness about their projects and work, which is something Glen has learned from connecting with others. Learning about other biospheres’ obstacles as well as successes has armed Glen with knowledge he has brought back to the BHB to guide and inspire its strategic and project planning efforts.

“Biosphere landscapes may vary drastically in Canada, but behind every Canadian biosphere reserve you will encounter people who have a deep passion for and dedication to this network of special places,” adds Glen. “And we’re all working to inspire the same positive and sustainable future.”

Visit a biosphere today

With the help of the Internet you don’t need to hop on a plane to visit the unique beauty of Canada’s biospheres. But as spring approaches, consider venturing out and visiting Alberta’s very own Beaver Hills Biosphere, and experience all this unique area has to offer.