World class nature reserve boost for Wester Ross economy

The ground breaking Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere will bring a range of cultural and economic benefits for the region, said Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) chair, Mike Cantlay, on 23rd May 2018.

Mr Cantlay emphasised SNH’s continued support for the newly designated UNESCO Biosphere, as he was presented with the UNESCO certificate by the Wester Ross Biosphere Board. Mr Cantlay received the certificate at Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve (NNR) in recognition of SNH’s help in gaining the accolade, which will be displayed in the NNR Visitor Centre.

SNH will continue to work closely with the local community to help make the most of the opportunities that come with the prestigious international designation, said the nature organisation’s chair.

UNESCO Biosphere reserves are special places for nature and learning sites for sustainable development. Designations are awarded to regions with outstanding natural heritage by UNESCO, the respected United Nations organisation which promotes education, science and culture. Beinn Eighe NNR was first designated as a Biosphere Reserve more than 40 years ago. However, UNESCO expanded the criteria and Biosphere reserves now additionally need to support and promote sustainable rural development at a regional level.

A study in 2014 showed overwhelming support from communities in Wester Ross to secure a new-style UNESCO Biosphere designation. SNH has supported the Biosphere Board with funding, knowledge and expertise.

Mr Cantlay said: “I’m delighted this prestigious UNESCO certificate will be on permanent display here in our Visitor Centre at Beinn Eighe NNR, which very much remains at the heart of the new Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere. Beinn Eighe was Scotland’s first NNR, a pioneering nature reserve from the start that has led the way in innovative and effective nature conservation for more than 60 years.

“We have been impressed with the enthusiasm of the Wester Ross communities to make this designation happen. This international recognition will attract people from all over the world who will come and see for themselves what an outstanding place for nature Wester Ross is. It presents new opportunities and we at SNH are excited to be working with the people of Wester Ross to demonstrate the links between nature conservation and sustainable economic development, ensuring the region retains its natural beauty for future generations to come and enjoy.”