TALLINN – The Estonian islands of Hiiumaa, Muhu, Ruhnu, Saaremaa and Vormsi are joining forces as parts of the UNESCO-listed West Estonian Archipelago Biosphere Reserve to continue to preserve their natural diversity and introduce a green way of thinking in every area of life.
On Friday, Environment Minister Madis Kallas signed the West Estonian Archipelago Biosphere Reserve program document in Hiiumaa with the heads of the municipalities. The document sets forth the objectives for the period until 2030 on how to develop a sustainable economy in the region while preserving the islands' unique culture and diverse natural environment.
According to the minister, the islands are so special and boast so strong an identity that it must be preserved and also introduced more widely.
"As parts of the biosphere reserve, the islands can combine their knowledge and lead by example with sustainable use of nature, the green economy and a vibrant cultural space. Local residents and guests alike must be able to feel good here. This, however, can only be achieved through close cooperation between communities," he added.
Mikk Tuisk, mayor of the municipality of Saaremaa, said he is very happy that the state supports keeping this topic in focus and contributes to the islands' sustainable development.
"Our wish is to work with other counties and thereby contribute to a better presentation and promotion of the UNESCO biosphere program area," Tuisk said.
Hiiumaa municipality mayor Hergo Tasuja said cooperation between the islands has great advantages, such as in the form of nature studies, environmental education and entrepreneurship studies programs available to schools.
For more than 50 years, UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere program has been helping to find local solutions to global challenges, thereby contributing to sustainable development. The program contributes to the preservation of biodiversity in the member states and the wise use of natural resources.
The mission of the biosphere reserve is to support the development of the Western Estonian islands as a model area for sustainable development of international importance, based on the principles of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere program. The biosphere reserve of the West Estonian archipelago has been UNESCO certified since 1990.