What is a UNESCO biosphere region?

A UNESCO biosphere region is an international site of excellence. Biosphere regions work to foster the harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, and reconciliation—by encouraging dialogue, sharing knowledge, reducing poverty, increasing human well-being, respecting cultural values, and enhancing capacity to cope with climate change (World Network of Biosphere Reserves/Regions).

An area can only be designated as a biosphere region by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Clayoquot Biosphere is one of Canada’s 19 UNESCO biosphere regions.

The Clayoquot Sound region grew to become a UNESCO biosphere from a grassroots movement of a small but passionate group of community members—people who were seeking better ways of advancing our region with a long-term commitment to sustainability. In a nutshell, our UNESCO biosphere designation is all about keeping our region a special place to live, work and visit.


For decades, Clayoquot Sound has been on the international stage. Conflict over the use of our natural resources created divisions that continue to heal. Confronted with declining natural resource stocks, but a continued need to make a living from forestry and fishing activities, local community members started seeking better and alternative ways of doing things. In the 1990s, a small but passionate group of individuals began considering the UNESCO Biosphere model.

In January 2000, with the support of local First Nations, communities, and the federal and provincial governments, Clayoquot Sound was designated as the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region (CSUBR).

The CSUBR designation acknowledges aboriginal title and rights, and does not prejudice ongoing treaty negotiations.

To mark this designation, in May 2000 the federal government entrusted a $12 million grant to Clayoquot Sound communities through the creation of the Canada Fund. The Clayoquot Biosphere Trust manages this endowment fund to uphold the spirit and intent of the biosphere region designation through innovative education programs, research into sustainability, and annual grantmaking to organizations within the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region.

Learn more about the history of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region designation by reading our timeline.

In 2012, CBT joined Community Foundations of Canada, an association of 191 community foundations across Canada that provides networking, resources, expertise, funding, and opportunities for its members. Since becoming the regional community foundation, CBT has worked with donors to create a diversity of community funds while gaining capacity as a grant-making organization, all with the goal of leveraging its invested funds for the region’s communities and ecosystems.