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Nanaimo-area group makes offer for biosphere

The Mid Island Sustainability and Stewardship Initiative (MISSI) has made an unsolicited offer to take over administration and management of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve (MABR).

MISSI president Laurie Gourlay said the biosphere offers huge ecotourism and business opportunity that would be lost if it was the first UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) site in the country to be de-listed.

MISSI, based in Cedar, sent out a news release Thursday proposing a grand regional initiative linking the biosphere, which runs from Bowser to Nanoose Bay, with the Nanaimo River watershed initiative, Nanaimo estuary and the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for mid-Island residents. Several prominent local features, adjacent to one another, can be linked... creating a legacy that serves all residents and visitors alike, and extends throughout our region," Gourlay said.

They are asking local governments to join the effort and recognize Nanaimo as the green gateway to Vancouver Island.

Gourlay, who has been involved with biospheres and ecology initiatives across the country for more than 20 years, said he has spoken with Peter Bridgewater, secretary of the UNESCO program, and "nothing we're proposing would take anything away from the underlying protection of the area."

He admits that MISSI "doesn't have deep pockets," but believes they would be able to pull in the necessary support from other organizations across the country.

Parksville mayor Chris Burger said he hadn't heard about the proposal, but believes there are other things in the works that will provide another solution.

Local biosphere representatives could not be reached.

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