What is a biosphere reserve?

The Cascade Head United Nations Biosphere Reserve stretches from the north end of Lincoln City to Neskowin. An effort is underway to involve stakeholders in dialogue to determine ways to improve life within the biosphere. (Photo by Steve Card)

CASCADE HEAD — First designated by the U.S. Congress in 1974 as Cascade Head Scenic Research Area, then in 1977 as a United Nations Biosphere Reserve, “For us today, the biosphere reserve designation serves as recognition of Cascade Head as a place of tremendous social, cultural, educational and ecological value,” said Lisa Romano, United States Forest Service (USFS) public affairs staff officer.

Cascade Head is a headland that stretches from the north end of Lincoln City to Neskowin, explained Duncan Berry, Cascade Head resident and part of the non-mandatory, community-based effort to improve life in the biosphere. “By and large, it’s pretty wild,” he said.

“Biosphere reserves are characterized as serving three main functions — cultural and ecological conservation, fostering socially and ecologically sustainable development and providing opportunities for research and education,” Romano said.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that the recently restored Salmon River estuary “provides a critical juncture between fresh and salt water.” Spotted owl, marbled murrelet, coho salmon and the Oregon silver spot butterfly are four federally listed endangered species existing in that biosphere. The experimental forest, stands of Sitka spruce and western hemlock, are studied and used for experimentation and ecosystem research.

“There are non-extractive ways of generating an economy around a place,” said Berry. “Ironically,” he said of the area so rich in beauty and resources, “most of the coastline from the Washington border to the San Francisco Bay Area is a poverty zone.”

Berry cited the success of biosphere efforts in Costa Rica where tourism has exploded, as has organic coffee production, creating good paying jobs in sustainable industries in an area similar to coastal Oregon in many ways.

Berry and his neighbor, Dan Twitchell, are working to create awareness about the UNESCO Man in the Biosphere Programme. They seek to identify stakeholders and start dialog. “Can we arrive at a balance between our needs as human beings and have better livelihoods while preserving this place that we love so much?” Berry and Twitchell believe so.

The stakeholders, said Berry, are anyone who lives or works with the biosphere: “Citizens, an active community of nonprofits, state and federal agencies, tribes and business.”

“We are stronger together,” said Berry. “What are we for, not what are we against.” It is with this spirit that Berry and Twitchell hope to engage others.

While Berry and Twitchell showed up to get the foundation built, Berry explained that the USFS was an important partner.

“Recertification was the conservative approach,” explained USFS Hebo District Ranger Deborah Wilkins. “There are no mandatory aspects of the program other than report writing,” she noted.

The benefit that Wilkins hopes to see is “the concept of humans working and living within an area to realize benefits for humans and the environment.”

“Many of the people we come in contact with view the designation as something to be proud of. We’re looking forward to speaking to all our neighbors and hearing their ideas for making this a better place to live,” said Berry.

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