The idea for a biosphere reserve for Southwest Nova Scotia began in the 1980s, but at the time the discussion was limited mainly to scientific circles. In the late 1990s, several things happened to broaden interest in the idea. Forest companies in the area began to have more contact and discussions with communities and agencies on topics such as research and sustainable development and a Master’s thesis on the feasibility of establishing a biosphere reserve in the region bolstered community interest.
In 1999, a committee from Queens and Annapolis Counties formed to develop a proposal for the establishment of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve incorporating Kejimkujik National Park and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area as the core protected area. This committee later became incorporated as the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve Association (SNBRA).
In September 2001, the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve received official recognition under the Man and the Biosphere Program, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This designation recognizes the importance of two large, contiguous protected areas in Southwest Nova Scotia, Kejimkujik National Park and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, and of the potential in the broader region for multi-sector cooperation and sustainable development.
There are no land-use or management changes associated with the designation of the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve; the designation simply acknowledges beneficial land use already occurring in the region. Lands serving a ‘buffer’ function for the core areas of the Biosphere Reserve are managed either by provincial (Department of Natural Resources) or private jurisdiction (e.g. N.S. Power and Bowater Mersey Paper Company), according to a voluntary commitment to support the goals of sustainable development and conservation.
The official dedication ceremony on July 17th, 2004 is the culmination of three years of active collaboration between the citizens, the local government, industry, NGO’s and academia to realize the concept. The challenge ahead, in keeping with the biosphere reserve concept, is to increase public awareness through education, further scientific research in support of sustainable development and to create an inclusive climate for all cultural groups in the region.
There are more than 500 Biosphere Reserves internationally, with 16 in Canada. The Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve is the twelfth recognized reserve in Canada and is now one of two in Nova Scotia. SNBR is the largest biosphere reserve in Canada as it covers 13,867 square kilometres and has a population of 96,118 according to Statistics Canada.