The Entlebuch region in canton Lucerne has become Switzerland's first biosphere reserve following an award ceremony on Saturday.
Under new criteria set by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), only areas of rich natural beauty that are able to foster sustainable human development can be can become biosphere reserves.
The reserves are designed to meet one of the most challenging issues of the 21st century - to conserve biodiversity while at the same time meeting the material needs of an expanding population.
Over 650 people attended the award ceremony and ensuing celebrations, including the Swiss president, Kaspar Villiger, who congratulated the local population.
"It's confirmation that we have exceptional scenery and also a population which can profit from the decision," said Theo Schnider, spokesman for the project to promote the Entlebuch's candidacy.
The Swiss government, canton Lucerne and local and environmental groups will all make financial contributions towards the upkeep of the region, at an estimated annual cost of SFr1 million, creating a dozen jobs in the process.
Biosphere reserves consist of three parts - core, buffer and transition zones. Nearly a third of the Entlebuch's 395 square kilometres is protected moorland and this, along with the mountainous karst region of Schrattenfluh, forms the core of the nature reserve.
In the transition areas, agriculture, forestry and tourism will be developed in a sustainable fashion.
Schnider said UNESCO's recognition of the area would hopefully help promote tourism, culture and the region's economy. He said land use in the Entlebuch could serve as a model for other areas.
Some 411 regions in about 94 countries are recognised as biosphere reserves. Before the mid 1990s, protected areas with no sustainable development zone for human activity achieved reserve status. This is the case with the Swiss National Park which was designated a biosphere reserve in 1979.
Nomination of the Entlebuch has been a long process with opposition from local people delaying the application for several years. The inhabitants of the eight affected communes finally voted in favour in 2000. The government officially proposed the candidacy in February 2001.
swissinfo with agencies