Howe Sound Biosphere

by Kristy Aleksich

Photos by Tim Cyr

Whether you were born here, relocated here, or are just visiting, the biggest take away that anyone can have about Sea to Sky country is that it is stunningly beautiful. The mountains, the forests, the lakes and oceans are our playground, and boy is it gorgeous!


So how do we strike a balance between development and biodiversity? What can we do to safeguard this spectacular region? Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society (HSBRIS) have been striving to nominate an area to become a biosphere region by UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which will support just those things.


Historically, when people care about protecting an area the easiest thing to do is to say what they DON’T want. The team at HSBRIS is more focused on what they DO want. It’s more about giving proper recognition to the region, advocating for its well-being, and offering a holistic view of land and marine planning. With sustainable development at the forefront and a focus on the fragile recovery of certain areas, they are trying to ensure that this exceptional region continues to flourish.



Heard of Roosevelt Elk 

The three zones within the proposed Biosphere region boundary encompasses almost 219,000 hectares, holding 84% terrestrial and 16% marine area. This includes everything from the delicate sponge reefs (a prehistoric national treasure, thought to have gone extinct) in Howe Sound to the snow-capped peaks of Garibaldi.


After more than a year of compiling data, crafting content, and editing maps, the group presented their nomination package for Canada’s 19th Biosphere Reserve to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO in Ottawa in December 2019. After being reviewed by a team of experts, a recommendation will be provided as to whether or not the application is ready to be sent to the UNESCO Secretariat in Paris. The aim is to send the completed application to UNESCO by September 2020, with UNESCO’s decision being announced by June 2021.


Great Grey Owl 

But what happens in the meantime? Ruth Simons, Lead of the Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative says, “We will continue to collaborate, support and educate, removing barriers for learning, constructive dialogue and action planning. By encouraging and supporting Field School initiatives and bringing perspectives and information aligned with the Biosphere Region objectives, we hope to inspire our community to contribute to the conservation of the landscapes and ecosystems in this place we call home. By fostering sustainable economic and human development and implementing projects in collaboration with First Nations, we are empowering people to mitigate climate change and support the research and monitoring for conservation and development.”

So, what can YOU do to help? Learn more, become involved or volunteer! You can participate in projects such as community clean ups, invasive species polling, or even recording plants and wildlife via the app ‘iNaturalist’. Together we can create a lasting future for our community and the environment around us.


If you’d like to volunteer with the Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative, please reach out to Ruth Simons at For more information, visit


Follow Kirsty on Instagram @kfm_aleksich 

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