“The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.” Edward Abbey
We all know that Alberta is renowned for its natural beauty—visiting the Rocky Mountains are on the bucket lists of travellers everywhere and is a favourite subject for Instagram. Well, now the Rockies might have a bit of competition because on March 21, 2016, the Beaver Hills area became an UNESCO Bisophere Reserve!
Twenty minutes east of Edmonton, Beaver Hills is the second Biosphere Reserve in Alberta and now one of 18 in Canada. This makes Beaver Hills part of a network of more than 600 Biosphere Reserve sites all over the globe.
Albertans can credit a local organisation for winning us the international spotlight: The Beaver Hills Initiative’s commitment to conservation and sustainable development was the basis for the UNESCO decision. This same local organization will carry on caring for the biosphere with a continued emphasis on the type of grassroots involvement, collaboration and excellent stewardship that this designation recognizes.
“The UNESCO biosphere designation is basically international recognition for all the work that’s been done in this special area to maintain biodiversity and foster ecologically and socio-culturally sustainable human and economic development in this lived-in and working landscape. We’re looking forward to continuing our work and sharing our research and tools with the public, other biospheres and land use decision makers outside the Beaver Hills,” says Glen Lawrence, Chair of the Beaver Hills Initiative.
With her sister designate, Waterton, in southern Alberta, the morainic landscape of Beaver Hills holds a unique place in the modern struggle to balance the sometimes conflicting social, economic, and environmental needs of our communities. After all, this designation isn’t just about the gorgeous qualities of the land, but also about the people who live on and care for the environment.
The rolling hills, wetlands, boreal forests and aspen parkland in this 1572 square kilometre patch of paradise preserves both the home of the famous plains bison and provides numerous opportunities for recreational activities to visitors from all over the world. Spanning across five counties, the Biosphere includes existing sites like Elk Island National Park, Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary and the Strathcona Wilderness Centre. The designation helps ensure that these popular family recreation destinations will be managed to preserve their wild and diverse beauty for future generations.
Family friendly, for young and old, full of beauty and history, Alberta’s newest international sensation is a spectacular playground.
Take a look for at beaverhills.ca for information and a list of upcoming summer events where you can plan your visit, join the celebrations and learn more about Alberta’s newest UNESCO Biosphere.
And check out this video for an explaination of what a Biosphere Reserves is in a nutshell (it’s from Germany, but the idea is the same everywhere):