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The Isle of Man has earned a major global accolade from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
The Island has been awarded Biosphere Reserve status by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme.
Biosphere Reserves are ‘special places for people and nature’. The recognition is awarded to areas that demonstrate a successful balance between the two.
The Island is the first entire jurisdiction in the world to be awarded the accolade.
‘This reflects our exceptional quality of life and will help spread the message to the world that the Island is a great place to visit, live, work and do business,’ said Richard Ronan MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture.
There are 669 Biosphere Reserves in 120 countries. They include such iconic sites as Ayers Rock (Uluru), Yellowstone in the USA, the Cape Winelands in South Africa, Mount Kenya and Central Amazon.
The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA), led the nomination for Biosphere Reserve recognition with the support of the rest of Government, business, the third sector, environmental groups and schools.
Two years’ work went into providing the detailed evidence needed to gain the accolade, which was ratified at a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve congress in Peru at the weekend – see here.
DEFA will now draw up detailed plans for how it will maximise the potential of its new status.
‘In awarding us Biosphere Reserve status, UNESCO is recognising the great relationship between people going about their lives and the wonderful environment we all enjoy,’ the Minister said.
‘Locally, the accolade will increase awareness of what an enviable place we live in and will hopefully lead to initiatives that increase interaction between people and their surroundings.
‘Internationally, gaining such a prestigious status will amplify our reputation both in economic and environmental terms, leading to investment and tourism.’
The Minister went on: ‘Crucially, this is not about imposing new restrictions. It is about embracing and enhancing our relationship with our environment.’
The accolade complements work being delivered through such high-level Government strategies as Vision 2020, the Destination Management Plan, Food Matters, Future Fisheries, Managing our Natural Wealth and the forthcoming Amenity Strategy.
Professor Martin Price, the chairman of the UK Man and the Biosphere Committee, delivered a letter of acknowledgement from Chief Minister Allan Bell MHK to the UNESCO congress.
In it, the Chief Minister said: ‘With a long-standing policy of engagement with international initiatives and standards, the Isle of Man values global cooperation and close working relationships between nations large and small.
‘As a resilient and resourceful country with a distinct national identity, independent spirit, strong sense of community and exceptional natural environment, our Island can be expected to embrace the ethos of this award and be an active contributor to the global Biosphere network.’
Other Biosphere Reserves in the British Isles are North Devon; Brighton and Lewes Downs; Bro Dyfy in Wales and Galloway and South Ayrshire and Beinn Eighe (extended to Wester Ross in the current round of announcements) in Scotland.
Professor Price said: ‘I am pleased the Isle of Man is joining the five other Biosphere Reserves of our islands. I look forward to diverse stakeholders from the Isle of Man playing important roles in the world network of Biosphere Reserves.’
A celebration gathering is planned at DEFA for stakeholders next week.
The Island will host the UK Man and the Biosphere conference this summer.