The Bras d’Or Lake watershed may soon be tagging on the nifty name suffix of “BR”. The “BR” stands for Biosphere Reserve, a designation granted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) under the Man and the Biosphere Programme. Sounds pretty fancy! So what will that mean for the Bras d’Or Lake and Cape Bretoners?
Shauna Barrington is a board member of the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association, the group who worked diligently to get the Bras d’Or Lake up for nomination. She explains that the designation “is given by UNESCO to a special natural area where people have demonstrated that they are working together to develop their economy and conserve their environment-in other words, that they are living in harmony with nature”. That sounds like a pretty good quality to be recognized for!
“There are many local organizations and individuals working on sustainability issues in the Bras d’Or Lake watershed,” says Barrington. “This designation recognizes these efforts, and it is just one more thing we can be proud of as Cape Bretoners.”
Barrington suggests that the prestigious international designation may draw more people to the region to live, work and play, which will benefit industries such as tourism. Another spin-off will be an increase in scientific and social research and greater opportunities for local post-secondary students to conduct research here at home. “We can then use this research, in conjunction with traditional ecological knowledge of First Nations, when making decisions as a community,” says Barrington.
The BR tag will also admit the Bras d’Or into a network of Biosphere Reserves around the globe, providing opportunities to share knowledge with other Reserves on how to successfully develop a sustainable economy. Barrington hopes that the designation will attract sustainable businesses and industry to the area. “We hope it will strengthen our already culturally diverse communities, by helping us work together towards the common goal of strong communities and a healthy watershed.” The designation will not affect local regulations or by-laws.
If this sounds like a project you can get behind, there will be many opportunities to get involved. “We hope that local Cape Bretoners will be actively involved in everything, from watershed monitoring to organizing workshops,” says Barrington. She also encourages the public to become informed, to help spread the word, and if interested, to become members of the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association.
If approved, the final designation will be granted this June, with public celebrations to follow.
To learn more about the Association visit their website.
To learn more about the UNESCO program click here.