The Canadian Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced that the Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound Region in British Columbia has received the prestigious UNESCO Biosphere Region designation, a positive step towards biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and reconciliation.

“The Canadian Commission for UNESCO is proud to be able to announce the designation of Canada’s 19th UNESCO biosphere region. This prestigious designation has been achieved after many years of hard work by the team,” said Roda Muse, secretary-general of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.

“UNESCO biosphere regions are important areas where local communities find innovative ways to protect biodiversity and at the same time promote sustainable development. Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound is an international model for how humans and nature can live together and is well deserving of UNESCO designation.’’

The Keatsland area of the Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound Biosphere Region. Image credit: Wayne Kaulbach.

The designation of Alt’ka7tsem/Howe Sound Biosphere Region will help the community work with key partners to develop local and innovative solutions to face the realities of climate change and reconcile conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

Biosphere regions are sites of exceptional international significance recognized by UNESCO and obtaining Biosphere Region status makes it possible to mobilize local stakeholders and rightsholders to develop a strong collective vision for the region that balance the conservation of this unique environment with sustainable development.


Becoming a UNESCO Biosphere Region is a recognition that is difficult to obtain. This designation, which is five years in the making, is a celebration of the region’s natural, historic and cultural abundance and will support local communities in finding innovative ways to build strong harmonious relationships between humans and nature.

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“We’re excited to welcome the Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound Biosphere Region to the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association. As a network of now 19 biosphere regions designated by UNESCO across Canada, we inspire a positive future by connecting people and nature today,” said Rebecca Hurwitz, chair of the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association.  “Together, we work at the local level towards biodiversity conservation, sustainable development, and reconciliation. Congratulations to the team that has stewarded this nomination process and to all those that have contributed their knowledge, passion, and experience.’’

Visitors to the Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound Biosphere Region will experience a majestic fjord surrounded by scenic mountains and diverse habitats that support a variety of marine and terrestrial wildlife. They will also experience the rich culture of the Squamish Nation people and have the opportunity to take part in activities that enhance the economic, environmental, cultural, and social well-being of the Howe Sound for the benefit of present and future generations.

Joyce Williams, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw Councillor and co-chair of Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society Board. Image by Kho provided courtesy of HSBR.

“My hope is that it will effectively bring all communities in Átl’ka7tsem together for effective decision making but also to help people get out on the Land. Building that connection, to the territory and the Land, will help people better honour and to respect the environment but also the Life that lives in that environment. Átl’ka7tsem is really about beauty and hope, as much as it is about sustainable development,” said Joyce Williams, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw Councillor and co-chair of Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society Board.

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Featured image courtesy of David Suzuki Foundation. Image by Kris Krug.


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