Cross-posted from University of Vermont Communications, October 9, 2019
On October 11, representatives from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Man and Biosphere Program (MAB) and the U.S. National Park Service will gather at the University of Vermont for the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve’s (CABR) Annual Meeting. The meeting will focus on how to improve human interaction with protected landscapes in order to maintain social, economic and ecological integrity.
Cliff McCreedy and Jon Putnam from the U.S. National Park Service will kick off the meeting on the long-standing importance of biosphere reserves in developing the science of sustainability. McCreedy is the Science and Stewardship Coordinator at the U.S. Park Service and directs the U.S. MAB Program, while Putnam is the World Heritage Program Officer and Western Hemisphere Park Affairs Specialist.
Representatives from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves will also give presentations on nearby biosphere reserves in Quebec and Ontario, as well as reserves in Brazil and Ukraine. Presentations from organizations in Vermont and New York will illustrate the use of the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for local sustainability initiatives. A highlight to the day will be signing a “twinning agreement” between CABR and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network in Ontario, in part to “develop and strengthen models for rural community sustainable development.”
“In the face of unprecedented human impact on Earth’s life support systems, we need international sharing and coordination at bioregional scales now more than ever,” says Jon Erickson, the Blittersdorf Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy at the University of Vermont and host of the meeting. “Our shared future depends on the ecological connectivity of our landscapes, the resilience of our renewable resources, and diverse learning communities.”
In 1976, UNESCO began designating biospheres with the aim “to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.” Now in its fifth decade, a growing network of 701 biosphere reserves in 124 countries is the proving ground for “sustainable development,” the balancing act of the environment’s capacity to support our economic aspirations.
“The urgency of the climate crisis makes clear humanity is dependent on the health and stability of the earth system that we share with all life. But our day to day experience is in regional ecosystems and economies, where we live, work, and play,” says Kelly Cerialo, co-chair of the CABR advisory committee and Assistant Professor at Paul Smith’s College. “Confronting global environmental challenges necessitates international cooperation, but action in our home watersheds and biospheres proves what’s possible.”
Each biosphere reserve is meant to fulfill three basic functions, including the conservation of our landscapes and biodiversity, development of economies that are culturally and ecologically sustainable, and support of biosphere research and education. The international coordinating council of the UN MAB Programme met earlier this year and added 18 new biosphere reserves to the growing international network. In contrast, the United States recently withdrew 17 sites. CABR is one of 28 US sites remaining.
“CABR is one of the largest biosphere reserves in the US network, with a long history of environmental stewardship with significant benefits to our economy and communities,” says Brian Houseal, co-chair of CABR and former director of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center. “Economy and ecology need not be at odds, and our region can both share our experiences and learn from others in a global network of biosphere reserves.”
The October 11th meeting is from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm at the University of Vermont’s George D. Aiken Center, and is sponsored by the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, Paul Smith’s College, Gund Institute for Environment, UVM Environmental Program, Leadership for the Ecozoic Partnership, and the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry.