The International Advisory Committee for the Man and Biosphere Programme in Paris, France declared that Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve does not meet the statutory framework criteria for biosphere reserves.
We could lose the designation if an overall strategy and action plan is not prepared and implemented by 2013.
Why should we care? If UNESCO takes away our designation, Mount Arrowsmith will be the first in Canada to wear the unwelcome label of a de-listed biosphere reserve, but more importantly, it is a lost opportunity to try a new way of making communities work well for everyone. I say new because we have yet to give it a fair shake in Oceanside, even though the biosphere reserve is now more than 10 years old.
The common thread woven through well-functioning biosphere reserves is that keeping nature healthy, making a decent living, and having a good quality of life are considered equally important and mutually reinforcing. The biosphere reserve organization plays a unique role in the reserve by building connections.
These bridges of trust are progressively built with all levels of government, community organizations of all stripes, and the private sector. It may do this by co-ordinating or partnering on projects, by gathering scientific, traditional and local information that will help inform decisions, or by gathering people together to find common ground or to innovate.
Projects may involve local foods, sustainable tourism, artistic endeavours, monitoring, research, celebrations, issue-based forums, educational workshops, trade shows, habitat restoration, mapping — virtually anything that contributes to the integration and healthy balance of economy, environment, society and culture. People outside of government and organizations are provided plenty of opportunities to get involved.
The catalyst is the bridging organization, which differs from nearly every other type of organization in that it doesn’t choose sides in any dispute, and it doesn’t engage in debate. It facilitates dialogue, which is much different than debate as its intent is to increase understanding on all sides — not to win an argument. It must adhere to this neutral position, or risk losing the bridges of trust. It takes a long time to build trust, but it only takes an instant to crumble it.