The future of Saskatchewan’s only biosphere reserve is in jeopardy, after all of its federal funding was cut in the latest federal budget.
The federal government in 2009 had made a five-year, $285,000 commitment to the Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve, but in the latest budget, they reneged on their commitment. Across Canada, 14 out of Canada’s 16 biosphere reserves have been affected by the budget cuts.
According to Susanne Abe, the communications co-ordinator for the Redberry Lake site, these funding cuts affect “basically everything,” especially since the site receives no provincial or municipal funding. Redberry Lake will remain a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, but its programming, plans for an interpretive centre, tourism investment and employees will be affected.
The site had plans to modernize its interpretive centre and provide summer programming for children and had hoped to conduct research on the site. But with its three employees losing their jobs and funds drying up, none of these look likely to happen.
“It’s not about the people working here, it’s about the mandate and the projects we will lose. It’s just for this region and it’s very sad if no one will work here,” Abe explained.
The members of the Canadian Association of Biosphere Reserves have been speaking together about the funding cuts and looking at different options available for keeping the facilities open. At the moment, many facilities across Canada would have to become volunteer-run sites or look for outside funding.
The biosphere reserve had been in the news recently because of a partnership agreement signed with the University of Saskatchewan. The agreement, to “expand the scope of research and education projects relating to the environment and sustainability sectors” does not have any funding commitments, and should be unaffected by the loss of funding for the site.
Regardless of whether outside funding comes through, Abe believes in the mission of the Redberry Lake site.
“We are the only biosphere reserve in Saskatchewan and we want to keep the site open here and develop more projects here with community involvement and education.”