Dyfi Valley to ask for new Biosphere status
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15 months into a process of discussing the future of the Dyfi Valley's status as a ‘Biosphere' area, the local Partnership has decided to press ahead with preparing an application to UNESCO.
UNESCO made a small part of the Dyfi Valley one of their Biospheres in the 1970's - but nobody has ever used this designation to gain any real benefit for the area. It was only to do with special habitats and wildlife.
The application will be to register a larger area under the new criteria of people and nature. It will be concerned with culture as well as with the environment.
Partnership members will talk further with those concerned, to resolve outstanding issues. These include the mechanisms for co-ordination and funding and the involvement of key land managers.
What those farming sensitive habitats can do is already restricted by legislation. The Biosphere registration will not increase those restrictions, since it is entirely voluntary in nature.
The work that needs to be done is to explore how existing restrictions can be turned into advantages – for example by constructing a marketing advantage for produce from that land.
Another angle is to find new ways for society to pay for the "environmental goods" delivered by land managers, including flood control and habitat protection.
The Consultation Document published in early May summarized what people had said about the idea to that point and posed key questions and options in a questionnaire.
Delyth Richards has been responsible for getting people involved. She explained that the 160 completed questionnaires received so far represented 7% of the documents sent out and that only 2 responses were negative. "It's noteworthy that no organisation has raised a reasoned objection to the proposal", she said.
With the support of Ceredigion, Powys and Gwynedd Councils, together with Snowdonia National Park, many Town and Community Councils and other bodies already recorded, the Biosphere Partnership felt this was a clear message to proceed.
They aim to present a draft application to the local authorities at the beginning of September before it goes to the Assembly and UK Governments.
The vision of ‘Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere' will be that "The Dyfi Biosphere will be recognised and respected internationally, nationally and locally for the diversity of its natural beauty, heritage and wildlife, and for its people's efforts to make a positive contribution to a more sustainable world. It will be a self confident, healthy, caring and bilingual community, supported by a strong locally-based economy."
Biospheres have the advantage of flexible boundaries that are defined in two ways. Firstly, the geographical definition will be the land that drains into the Dyfi river system; from Llanymawddwy to Borth and from Llanbrynmair to Aberdyfi – and those living things, organisations and businesses within this area.
Secondly, the definition of participation will be that any nearby body, community or business can be part of the Biosphere to the extent that they put something into it and work through the Biosphere co-ordination mechanisms. For example, the Institute of Rural Studies at Aberystwyth is currently a participant because of the Biosphere-related research proposals they have discussed with the Partnership.
Delyth wants more people and organisations to complete the response form in the document or otherwise make their opinions known. "It certainly isn't too late", she said. "It will take a long time to sort out the details and project ideas will be useful long into the future".
Delyth also mentioned that the next events in the Biosphere process are being organised at the Tabernacl in Machynlleth in conjunction with the El Sueno Existe festival. The government official responsible for protected areas in Venezuela will speak at a seminar on "Oil, Equity and Biospheres" on Friday August 10th and give an illustrated talk at 7.30 the previous evening.
The document, a discussion forum and other information are also available at www.dyfibiosphere.org.uk.
Notes for Editors
The Dyfi Biosphere Partnership's task is to consult local residents and businesses about the Dyfi Biosphere opportunities. The members are: