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Regional Government promotes second edition of Portuguese Biosphere Reserves Festival on São Jorge Island

Regional Government promotes second edition of Portuguese Biosphere Reserves Festival on São Jorge Island

May 10, 2024

The Regional Secretary for the Environment and Climate Action, Alonso Miguel, presided over the opening of the Seminar "Sustainable Territories, Resilient Communities," as part of the 2nd Portuguese Biosphere Reserves Festival, which took place on São Jorge Island, the most recent biosphere reserve in the Azores.

"After hosting the first edition of this festival on Graciosa Island last year, it was with great satisfaction that the Regional Government collaborated in the organisation of the second edition, this time in the Fajãs de São Jorge Biosphere Reserve, with mirror events also promoted in the other three biosphere reserves in the Azores, Graciosa, Flores and Corvo," he said.

The Secretary for the Environment explained that "the classification of territories as Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO aims to protect and enhance their natural and cultural heritage while promoting the balanced use and development of sustainable management models that bring together local governments and societies."

"The Azores have indeed a unique natural, historical and cultural heritage, which is the reason why four of our islands are classified as biosphere reserves," he emphasised, adding that the Region "is one of the few in the world designated as MIDAS - Multi-Internationally Designated Areas - which include Ramsar Sites, World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves and UNESCO World Geoparks."

According to Alonso Miguel, "this festival and these celebrations are an important milestone in raising awareness of the importance of Biosphere Reserves in Portugal and around the world, also making an important contribution to the protection, promotion culture, traditions and natural heritage."

He stressed that the island of São Jorge ‘does have a lot to offer, namely its natural beauty, stunning landscapes and paradisiacal “fajãs,” its traditions and the hospitality of its people, its cultural and historical heritage, as well as its gastronomy and unique products. Many of these bear the Azores biosphere seal, such as tuna, species and traditional confectionery, coffee and, of course, São Jorge cheese.

"This is an excellent opportunity for São Jorge islanders, and those visiting us, to learn, share and appreciate what their land has to offer, acknowledging the importance of conservation and sustainability," he said.

Alonso Miguel declared the Regional Government's commitment, specifically within the remit of the Regional Secretariat for the Environment and Climate Action, to protect and enhance all these aspects that distinguish the Azores, ‘’especially from the standpoint of environmental quality and nature conservation."

In addition to the ongoing implementation of the Fajãs de São Jorge Biosphere Reserve Action Plan, the Regional Secretary highlighted some of the investments made on the island, such as "the restructuring and fitting of the Waste Processing Centre, which was completed in 2023 and represented an investment of about 900 thousand Euros." He also highlighted "the significant investments made in the fajãs, namely as the recent ones in Caldeira de Santo Cristo, with the creation of a visitor support area and the redevelopment of the traditional trails in the 'Fajã,' corresponding to an overall investment of about 700 thousand Euros." Special emphasis was also given to "the stabilisation and coastal protection of the João Dias and Pontas "Fajãs," an overall investment of about 1.8 million Euros, which will greatly contribute to the development of these 'fajãs' as well as the safety and well-being of those who visit them."

Besides the strong commitment to environmental education and awareness, Alonso Miguel pointed out the efforts made by the Environment and Climate Change Service and the technical staff of the Secretariat for the Environment in the conservation of natural areas and the preservation of biodiversity. In this regard, he also highlighted the importance of the investments made within the scope of the LIFE projects underway in the Region and with areas of intervention on the island, in addition to the commitment to improving and maintaining the "magnificent trails" on São Jorge Island, for which the Secretariat for the Environment has acquired suitable equipment.

The programme of the 2nd Portuguese Biosphere Reserves Festival includes the involvement of UNESCO's Man & Biosphere (MaB) Programme, as well as a wide range of initiatives, including exhibitions, workshops, trails and guided tours, with a view to raising awareness among the general public of the importance of Biosphere Reserves, sustainable development and the conservation and enhancement of natural and cultural heritage. The highlight of the event was the Seminar "Sustainable Territories, Resilient Communities," which addressed issues related to the management of biosphere reserves, the UNESCO Chair, sustainability, energy and ecological transition, tourism and economic development. It featured a panel of speakers made up of academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, managers and public administration technicians, and was closed by the Regional Director for the Environment and Climate Action, Ana Rodrigues.

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