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Isle of Man bidding to secure UNESCO Biosphere status

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture is bidding to secure global recognition of the Isle of Man as a special place to live, work and visit. 

A nomination will be submitted to include the Isle of Man as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve by 2015. 

UNESCO status would recognise the Isle of Man’s ability to balance a modern and dynamic economy with a high quality environment. 

If successful, the Isle of Man would join an illustrious list of international Biosphere sites, including Ayres Rock in Australia, Yellowstone National Park and the Everglades in the USA, Mount Kenya in Africa, and the Danube Delta in Europe. 

Environment Minister Phil Gawne MHK said:

‘The Isle of Man is unique in that it demonstrates how a remarkably diverse economy can flourish within a sustainable environment. This balanced relationship between people, business and nature is unlike many other Biosphere Reserves which are specific sites within countries, often with small populations and low-value economies based on tourism, agriculture or fishing.’ 

He added:

‘UNESCO recognition would be a way of telling the rest of the world about how the Isle of Man successfully brings together a thriving business community, rich cultural heritage, outstanding landscapes and varied wildlife ecosystems. We believe we have the environmental, cultural and social credentials to become the first jurisdiction in its entirety to be awarded Biosphere status.’ 

UNESCO Biosphere Reserves were introduced in 1974 to recognise places that reconcile conservation of biological and cultural diversity with economic and social progression. 

There are currently 610 Biosphere Reserves in 117 countries, which combine existing protected areas with zones where sustainable development – and innovative approaches to it – are fostered by local communities. 

Peter Longworth, Environmental Protection Officer – Sustainability and Climate Change, is co-ordinating the bid for UNESCO Biosphere status. Nomination papers will be collated between now and spring 2014 for submission to UNESCO, with a final decision likely to be announced in autumn 2014. 

Mr Longworth said:

‘Official recognition by UNESCO would be a tremendous reputational boost for the Isle of Man and place us alongside a number of world famous locations. Locally we hope it would encourage businesses and individuals to work in partnership with Government and become more involved in the positive management of the Manx environment and wildlife. 

‘As well as recognising the benefits that Biosphere status would bring, it is also important to emphasise what it will not mean. It is not a form of regulation, does not create additional bureaucracy, and does not restrict economic development or the rights of landowners or the public.’ 

He added:

‘The initial feedback I’ve had to the proposal has been extremely positive. Overall, this is a tremendous opportunity for the Isle of Man to enhance its position as a responsible and forward-thinking nation, and I hope everybody will get behind our nomination.’

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