In June of 2017, the more than 130 member mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative called on the U.S. and Canadian federal governments to work together to designate the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River is a unique ecosystem of worldwide significance and if successful, this would be one of the largest UNESCO Biosphere Reserves on the planet. Biosphere reserves designate areas of global biodiversity and importance and emphasize the value of shared human and natural use of land.
Cities Initiative Chair, Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls, New York, said, “News of the potential U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO is unfortunate. As a binational coalition of mayors working between the US and Canada, eight states and two provinces, we recognize the significance of working within the global community to protect our natural resources and promote their sustainable management.”
Mayor Bonnie Crombie of Mississauga, Ont., added, “The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River represent the largest concentration of freshwater on the planet. Their importance is greater than any one political administration or policy. Now, more than ever, we must push ahead with achieving the UNESCO designation to make sure that everyone, governments included, understand the importance of this biosphere to our survival as a people on both sides of the border.”
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a coalition of 131 U.S. and Canadian cities and mayors representing over 17 million people committed to the long term protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence.