Biosphere Reserves in Canada
By George Francis
The Clayoquot Biosphere Project is a private, non-profit community organization which was formed in 1991 in Tofino, B.C. "to understand, protect and restore the diversity and integrity of the Clayoquot Sound ecosystem." The project, which has received funding from several sources, has embarked on three programs of research, environmental education and policy development. The project also supports efforts to "establish United Nations Biosphere Reserve status for the Clayoquot Sound region."
On June 10th and llth, 1993 in Tofino, the Project sponsored a workshop in cooperation with Ecotrust, an Oregon-based organization devoted to the conservation of rain forests, to explore the concept of a biosphere reserve as it might apply to a region of some 300,000 hectares centering on the Clayoquot Sound. There were about 40 participants, mainly people who know the region as researchers, program managers or as residents. Peter Pearce and George Francis, on behalf of Canada/MAB, presented background information on the biosphere reserve program and how it is being developed in Canada Bryan Wallis, Coordinator of Model Forest Programs at the Pacific Forestry Centre, Victoria, gave a presentation on Model Forests; a "Long Beach Model Forest" is being organized for the same general region and the possibility of relating a model forest with a biosphere reserve has been raised.
Discussions centered first on the kinds of issues, objectives and ideas that might be considered under the headings of conservation, scientific research, development and the restoration of degraded areas. They were followed with the identification of particular areas or sites within the region that have ecological or cultural values, especially for the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nation. There was a general consensus that any follow-up steps would have to be taken in close cooperation with the Nuu-Chah-Nulth.
The provincial government's land use decision for Clayoquot Sound, announced on April 13th 1993, remains controversial. Stephen Owen, Commissioner of B.C.'s Commission on Resources and Environment, recommended in a public report shortly afterwards that the government clarify a number of issues raised by its decision, and he also recommended "that government support the designation of the Clayoquot Sound area as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, to include a federal Model Forest, with activity in the area to be evaluated against Canadian obligations under the UNCED Biodiversity Treaty." On June 1st, 1993 the B.C. government issued a 32-page detailed reply to Commissioner Owen's report. It accepted Owen's recommendation about a biosphere reserve, noting also that it was "an exciting proposal" which the government would pursue.
However, the adversarial climate in which Clayoquot Sound issues are being addressed make the follow up steps problematic. Nevertheless, the development of research facilities and a research and educational program for the region through the Clayoquot Biosphere Project and the network of cooperators it is creating, is a useful direction to follow. During the past year, the Project has built a Clayoquot Lake field station, equipped it for environmental monitoring, and established baseline sampling plots in the riparian spruce zone. It has also set up a temperate Rain Forest Education Centre in Tofino, and under the direction of Jim Darling, it is continuing studies on the feeding habits of gray whales and the monitoring for basking sharks.