In 2002, several interested parties of the Manicouagan met in Baie-Comeau with the goal of obtaining Biosphere Reserve status with UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization . The project promised to be as uncertain as it was interesting. This occurred because on the one hand, the required consultation possesses represented a major challenge given the diversity of our territory’s users. On the other hand, very few other reserves in the world were able to integrate large industries in this process, which was an unavoidable challenge here.
These original visionaries and project initiators were the Association Touristique Régionale de Manicouagan (ATRM), the Municipalité Régionale de Comté (MRC), the Conseils des Innus de Pessamit, the city of Baie-Comeau, Hydro-Québec, the Kruger Company, the Centre Local de Développement (CLD) and Patrimoine Manicouagan. They were motivated by the international showcase that this status would provide and by the benefits represented the integration to the large network of experience and expertise embodied by the Biosphere Reserves. Many individuals invested their personal time and energy right from the start. In particular, we wish make a special note of Christian Bouchard (founding president) and the late Pierre Frenette (founding vice-president).
The project was built around a vision to become a model region for sustainable development. Obtaining Biosphere Reserve status was a great opportunity to diversify our options for the future and open ourselves to the world. Following more than 50 meetings and after a major regional mobilization, we submitted our application to UNESCO in 2007. The official documents were endorsed by more than 60 signatories coming from all spheres of life - economic, native, municipal, educational, political, touristic and environmental. Not only have we integrated industries in the project, but they are also founding and essential partners.
On September 18th of the same year, the International Coordination Council in Paris finally announced the designation of the Manicouagan-Uapishka region as a Biosphere Reserve, rewarding five years of the region’s efforts.
David A. Walden, former General Secretary of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, stated in his evaluation:
“Manicouagan-Uapishka represents a promising direction for the evolution of modern World Biosphere Reserves and I am confident that it will contribute significantly to inspiring the entire network in its journey towards sustainable development.”
This status solidified the relevance of our new way of seeing and understanding regional development. We were attributed the responsibility to work towards our vision and the duty to inspire the network though our success.