Located in the southwestern corner of Alberta, the Waterton Biosphere Reserve [WBR] is one of only 18 biosphere reserves in Canada. The WBR area encompasses some of the most spectacular and ecologically diverse landscapes in the Canadian Rockies and prairie grasslands. Designated in 1979 by UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization], the WBR fosters and encourages a sustainable, community-based regional economy, with quality biodiversity, landscape and social values.

Biosphere reserves are recognized internationally for demonstrating practical approaches to balancing biodiversity conservation and sustainable human use of the land. The World Biosphere Reserve Network currently consists of 701 reserves in 124 countries [2020] — each a celebrated part of UNESCO’s ‘Man and the Biosphere’ Program.

Photo by Parks Canada, Cyndi Smith

Photo by Parks Canada, Cyndi Smith

Biosphere reserves are traditionally organized into three zones, known as the core area, the buffer zone, and a transition zone or “area of cooperation”.  Waterton Lakes National Park, has formed the core of the biosphere reserve since designation in 1979. Adjacent provincial and private lands, with high conservation value, form a buffer zone where most activities are compatible with conservation objectives. Beyond that lies a broad transition zone or “area of cooperation”, where communities work together to manage the land in a sustainable way. Biosphere reserves are voluntary cooperative areas; Land use is not regulated or restricted in any way by having biosphere status. To date WBR has received support from Parks Canada, the municipalities of Pincher Creek and Cardston and the government of Alberta via the Trans-Boundary Directors Group. Discussions are ongoing with the Piikani Nation, the Blood Tribe, and the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass.

google satellite map of Waterton reserve

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Over the last 40 years, volunteers working on behalf of the Waterton Biosphere Reserve have supported our communities in many practical ways, by providing funding and support for projects, forums, and research that addresses local land management concerns.

The Waterton Biosphere Reserve is a living demonstration of the value we place on our natural and cultural resources, our traditional livelihoods, and our commitment to work together as good stewards of the land we hope to pass on to future generations.

We invite you to get involved in the future of the Waterton Biosphere Reserve!