The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated the 3rd of November as the International Day for Biosphere Reserves. The purpose of this international day is to provide a wake-up call on the importance of caring for the environment and achieving a balance between human activities and the conservation of natural resources. Over 700 Biosphere sites in over 120 countries are celebrating the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, including 19 in Canada. 

Georgian Bay Biosphere is a region of 347,000 hectares situated within Anishinaabek territory that stretches from the Severn River to the French River, and was designated by UNESCO in 2004. Nominations for new sites need to meet strict criteria, such as their ecological significance and their potential for sustainable development. The archipelago of “30,000 Islands” is seen as a living landscape where nature protection is as important as livelihoods. They are places where research and education help communities meet these goals.

In eastern Georgian Bay, the not-for-profit charity that oversees the international designation of the region is called Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere (GBB), incorporated in 1998 and has an office in Parry Sound. The GBB staff offer programs from Honey Harbour to Britt, Whitestone to Mactier, Moose Deer First Nation to Magnetawan First Nation and many places between. Its mission is to help create balance between people and nature through partnerships in the areas of conservation, education, culture, and sustainable development. 

According to UNESCO, the International Day for Biosphere Reserves is to be commemorated at national and local levels through activities and events that contribute to a better knowledge of the role and impact of biosphere reserves. It is intended to mobilize and acknowledge the commitment, actions and solutions by the entire World Biosphere family – the people, institutions and partners that make up the global network. 

On November 3rd, the Town of Parry Sound, Seguin Township, and the Township of Georgian Bay raised the GBB flag with plans for annual recognition on this date.

Mayor Jamie McGarvey stated: “On behalf of the Town of Parry Sound and recognizing the Town’s location within the Georgian Bay Biosphere Mnidoo Gamii, it’s very gratifying to see UNESCO honouring biosphere reserves with a special day to mark them. At a critical time in our earth’s history, biospheres are a beacon of what is possible and what we must work to maintain – that special balance between human activities and conservation of our natural resources.”

“The Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere is a tremendous resource here in West Parry Sound,” says Seguin Township Mayor Ann MacDiarmid. “Seguin Township is proud to join organizations around the world today to recognize the value of these incredible natural spaces. We know that Seguin residents have a passion for our natural environment and in the face of climate change and other environmental pressures, Seguin Council and staff are committed to making decisions about development and growth that reflect this passion.”

“As an organization, we are excited to bring attention to Georgian Bay and how our work cares for place and people,” says Becky Pollock, GBB’s Executive Director. “Since the organization was founded 24 years ago, we feel that we’ve had significant impact and we continue to strive to be a model region for sustainability. We have much to celebrate and see tremendous opportunity for protecting the environment, building a healthy economy and creating vibrant communities. We’re hopeful that all area communities will celebrate being part of the Georgian Bay Biosphere on November 3rd annually.”

“The UNESCO designation belongs to each and every one of us,” says Greg Mason, GBB’s Director of Operations. “It is something that can guide our individual decisions and our collective vision for community. We want to thank local partners that are helping to develop biodiversity strategies at a regional scale to address a global crisis, as well as those building programs for social well-being. Together we are creating a future we can be proud of.”