New “biosphere region” aims to promote ecological cooperation in Northern Michigan


PELLSTON – The University of Michigan’s Biological Station is the epicenter of a new UNESCO-recognized “Biosphere Region,” but station leaders hope the designation will bring together ecological groups from across northern Michigan.

Located on the south bank of Douglas Lake, the Biological Station was originally recognized in 1979 by the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) as a “Biosphere Reserve” where sustainable development practices are used to promote healthy ecological relationships between humans and the world Promote nature. In the United States, some of these reservations include locations such as Mammoth Cave, Glacier National Park, and Isle Royale.

“These biosphere reserves were originally conceived as unique places on earth where humans and the environment interacted in an interesting and sustainable way,” says Knute Nadelhoffer, former director of the biological station.

At that time, the name simply included the 13,000 hectares specifically managed by the biological station. But around six years ago UNESCO announced Nadelhoffer and his colleagues that the station would have to renew its name if it wanted to keep this status. But since 1979 the biosphere reserve program had expanded significantly, and the Biological Station wanted that too.

“We have actually started a long process of really rethinking what a biosphere reserve is,” he said. “We wanted it to be more than just an honorary title for what it really was (before), and it’s always nice to have this, but it didn’t seem to translate into something that was really productive or useful beyond that .” we do.”

Therefore, they used the renewed application process as an opportunity to meet with other agencies and organizations in the region that are carrying out similar work – preservation of natural areas and commitment to sustainability – and include them in the discussion. The result was a partnership between the biological station and 15 other agencies, protected areas, tribes and groups. Together these groups form the Obtawaing Biological Region.

The biosphere is not just the biological station, it extends from Sleeping Bear Dunes to Sault Ste. Marie, which includes protected lands managed by various groups including Huron Pines, The Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources, National Parks Service, Tip of the Mitt, Little Traverse Conservancy, Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, and others .

Local governments are also involved in the cooperation.

“It’s a table,” said Nadelhoffer. “It’s an opportunity to meet every year and share our experiences, compare our goals and programs, and look for ways to work together to improve the quality of life.”

The name Obtawaing is an Anishinaabek word and means community or meeting place and was once the name of a village between what is now Harbor Springs and Cross Village.

The name was chosen for the biosphere region, among other things, due to the fact that the region is in the center of the water basin of the Great Lakes.

“You drop a needle in the middle and we are there,” said Nadelhoffer. “So this is the meeting point. It is the meeting point of the rivers, the peninsulas, two countries and indigenous and other cultures. ”

But it also stands for the spirit of collaboration that is inherent in the endeavor.

“The name reflects the need to find ways in which we can work together to foster governance and collaboration between organizations that may previously have been local rather than regional,” said Frank Ettawageshik, executive director of the United Tribes of Michigan, in a press release. “The promise for this is wide open and has yet to be realized. We took that first step, but it’s only now a framework in which things can happen, and we don’t yet know what they will look like. ”


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