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National Geographic Presents Award


Consistent with our mission of raising the bar, Thousand Island Life seeks to recognize special tributes. On behalf of all those involved with TI Life Magazine we congratulate Gary Clark, Chairman of the Board and his Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve team members as well as Don Ross, Executive Director of the FAB for bringing recognition to, and building a “sense of place” in our Thousand Islands region.

In November we learned that the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve (FAB) would receive a Geotourism Charter, by the National Geographic Society.  The ceremony would take place on January 15 in Gananoque.

There are 15 Biosphere Reserves located in Canada, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere was designated by UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme in November 2002.  As of May 2009, there are 553 World Biosphere Reserves located in 107 countries. The Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve extends roughly 2700 square kilometres in the south eastern portion of the Canadian Province of Ontario, and includes the Canadian Thousand Islands.

TI Life asked Don Ross to explain what the award was about and what it means to the region. 

“Over the past three years, a major project of the Biosphere has revolved around tourism—not the old model, but sustainable tourism, which balances the issues and interests of environment, economy, culture and society.”

“The Biosphere’s work, with dozens of workshops and learning events, led to their being asked by the Sustainable Tourism Advisory Committee—a national tourism panel—to draft a Canadian Charter for Sustainable Tourism. The charter work, the workshops and the events involved the National Geographic Society’s ‘Center for Sustainable Destinations’ at various times over the years. The work also led to an invitation for the Frontenac Arch Biosphere to apply for the Society’s ‘Geotourism Charter’.” said Don.

Geotourism:

“Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.”

In the National Geographic Society’s view, Geotourism goes a step beyond balancing environment, economy, culture and society, to instill a strong sense of place. Nothing could be more appropriate in the Biosphere, which achieved its global UNESCO designation because it is one of the world’s most significant natural and cultural landscapes. And, the mandate of World Biosphere Reserves is to protect globally significant biodiversity and heritage, not through new laws or regulation, but though support and education for sustainable community development. The award of the Geotourism Charter is, then, a perfect fit here in the Frontenac Arch Reserve. 

Prior to the award of the Charter to FAB, there have been just eight such charters awarded worldwide.  (Three are in Canada, one is with the the City of Montreal and the others are on the Alberta-Montana border in the Waterton Lakes/Glacier National Parks.) 

Don went on to explain, “This isn’t the kind of award that is destined to sit on a shelf, but instead is the beginning of a commitment and relationship. It all boils down to FAB continuing to work with the community and partner organizations to prevent this very special region from losing its remarkable, world-worthy natural and cultural features.”

This requires not just an awareness of those features, but an understanding that economies and communities prosper when they nurture, celebrate and build on that significance. It’s more than “greening” the way we live and do business: it’s a creative economy, health and well being and quality of life opportunity.

The Frontenac Arch Biosphere website, at www.fabr.ca is the place to explore what and where the Biosphere is, and to have a look at the many programs and projects. To learn more about Geotourism, visit National Geographic.

By Susan  W. Smith

Special appreciation to the Frontenac Arch Biosphere for their information.  TI Life will feature some photographs of the National Geographic Charter reception held in Gananqoue, later in the month.  

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