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23 May, 2018

World class nature reserve boost for Wester Ross economy

The ground breaking Wester Ross Biosphere will bring a range of cultural and economic benefits for the region, said Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) chair, Mike Cantlay, today (Wednesday).

Mr Cantlay emphasised SNH’s continued support for the newly designated Biosphere, as he was presented with the UNESCO certificate by the Wester Ross Biosphere Board. Mr Cantlay received the certificate at Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve (NNR) in recognition of SNH’s help in gaining the accolade, which will be displayed in the NNR Visitor Centre.

SNH will continue to work closely with the local community to help make the most of the opportunities that come with the prestigious international designation, said the nature organisation’s chair.

Biosphere reserves are special places for nature and learning sites for sustainable development. Designations are awarded to regions with outstanding natural heritage by UNESCO, the respected United Nations organisation which promotes education, science and culture. Beinn Eighe NNR was first designated as a Biosphere Reserve more than 40 years ago. However, UNESCO expanded the criteria and Biosphere reserves now additionally need to support and promote sustainable rural development at a regional level.

A study in 2014 showed overwhelming support from communities in Wester Ross to secure a new-style Biosphere designation. SNH has supported the Biosphere Board with funding, knowledge and expertise.

Mr Cantlay said: “I’m delighted this prestigious UNESCO certificate will be on permanent display here in our Visitor Centre at Beinn Eighe NNR, which very much remains at the heart of the new Wester Ross Biosphere. Beinn Eighe was Scotland’s first NNR, a pioneering nature reserve from the start that has led the way in innovative and effective nature conservation for more than 60 years.

“We have been impressed with the enthusiasm of the Wester Ross communities to make this designation happen. This international recognition will attract people from all over the world who will come and see for themselves what an outstanding place for nature Wester Ross is. It presents new opportunities and we at SNH are excited to be working with the people of Wester Ross to demonstrate the links between nature conservation and sustainable economic development, ensuring the region retains its natural beauty for future generations to come and enjoy.”


Notes to Editor

UNESCO is the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture, founded on 16 November 1945.

Beinn Eighe NNR was designated as a Biosphere Reserve In 1976 under UNESCOs Biosphere programme. At the time the UNESCO criteria specified that sites should be managed for nature conservation and support education and research.

Now priorities and science on nature conservation have progressed and criteria for a Biosphere Reserve have been revised. Beinn Eighe NNR is expanding to meet these targets. Whilst it is still important to have a site that is managed for nature conservation at its heart, a larger site is required which supports and promotes sustainable rural development at a regional level.

A one year project funded by Scottish Government from March 2014 to May 2015 demonstrated overwhelming support from the local communities in Wester Ross to secure a new style Biosphere designation and a nomination form was subsequently submitted by the UK government on behalf of the community to UNESCO in September 2015.

In April 2016 Wester Ross was declared as a new style Biosphere.

Contact information

Dominic Shann
Job Title
Media Relations Officer
01463 725157
Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help people understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

Tha Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba na buidheann comhairleachaidh dhan riaghaltas a thaobh nàdair agus seallaidhean-tìre air feadh Alba. 'S e an dleastanas a th' againn cuideachadh a thoirt do dhaoine gus tuigse, luach agus tlachd fhaighinn bho nàdar na h-Alba, an-dràsta agus san àm ri teachd. Airson tuilleadh fiosrachaidh, tadhail air  no lean sinn air Twitter aig


SNH Chair receives Biosphere certificate: From left to right: Peter Cunningham, Donald MacIver, George Hendry, Mike Cantlay (SNH Chairman), Iain Turnbull, Tom Forrest, Doug Bartholomew (SNH). All Wester Ross Biosphere Board members (except the SNH staff).

SNH Chair receives Biosphere certificate

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