Feds end biosphere support a year early
By Stephannie Johnson
April 25, 2012
PARRY SOUND - Federal cuts to the UNESCO Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve (GBBR) have forced the organization to think quickly on its feet.
Just two weeks ago Environment Canada announced that its five-year agreement with the local biosphere reserve was being cut short.
Since 2008 the government has provided $57,000 annually to 14 different biosphere reserves across the country to facilitate activities related to conservation, sustainable development and capacity building. The agreement was to end on March 31, 2013; however, the organization was given a 60-day written notice of the termination of the funding agreement that ends June 10.
"Obviously it was a shock," said GBBR general manager Greg Mason. "Our organization was planning for this event in a year's time - not last week. There will be some adjustments to be made, but we expect to replace the lost funds with alternative sources - such as donations, grant programs, and charitable foundations."
While the cut will not directly affect the education and conservation programs, like Lessons-in-a-Backpack for area schools, the Species at Risk outreach, or the State of the Bay environmental report card, it will impact operating costs, such as management and overhead.
"Our organization is more determined than ever to find creative ways to build support," said volunteer and board president Glen Hodgson. "We don't want to lose the talents of our managers. We have a number of fundraisers in development.
Our Charter Membership campaign has been a huge success and we urge people who support our work, to rally together to help replace the funds that the federal government has seen fit to cut."
Last week, in honour of the cuts, the biosphere launched a 57K Campaign, hoping to raise as much replacement funds as possible by June 10.
"It will only take 1,000 people to donate $57 each," said GBBR communications manager Becky Pollock.
"We invite everyone to give what they can on gbbr.ca to help us keep growing. We have a responsibility to uphold our special UNESCO designation."
So far, more than $2,000 has been raised in online donations through GBBR's website.
The organization also combined its Scotiabank environmental awareness fundraiser for Earth Week and any other donations that come in with the 57K Campaign.
Designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2004, GBBR has evolved from a volunteer organization to one with a board of directors, part-time managers as well as program staff including two interns supported by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.
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