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Conservation: a step forward for Quebec’s political parties

Montreal and Quebec City - Wilderness preservation has emerged as a key priority for both the Liberals and Parti Quebecois (PQ) in the upcoming Quebec provincial election. Jean Charest has pledged to protect 50% of northern Quebec, while Pauline Marois has reiterated her goal of designating 12% of Quebec\'s territory as protected nature reserves, with a particular emphasis on preserving fragile southern regions. While these election promises partially meet the demands of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Quebec Chapter (CPAWS Quebec - whose French acronym is SNAP), further clarification is needed to elucidate these figures. In addition, CPAWS Quebec urges the Action Democratique du Quebec to end its silence and make public its position on protecting wild spaces.

Campaign commitments

In announcing his intention to protect 50% of northern Quebec from industrial development, Jean Charest has made a major commitment to balance his “Northern Plan”, which has so far focused on the exploitation of northern resources. A network of protected areas is essential for preserving northern biodiversity, and must be carried out according to criteria produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

Citoyens pour la Nature, a Quebec-based conservation group, noted that the following Liberal campaign promises were ambiguous and needed clarifying: first, the pledge to protect 12% of Quebec’s territory from all forms of development, and second the commitment to allocate 38% of this protected land to recreational and tourism uses. Rigorous scientific criteria should be respected to ensure the true protection of these territories.

"It is important that the Liberal Party clarify its position on the 38% of the protected territory dedicated to tourism. We can then better judge the seriousness of its commitment to protect this region," says Mélanie Desrochers of Nature Quebec.

For its part, the PQ, based on recommendations from the Coulombe report, has pledged to protect 12% of Quebec’s territory, both in the north and in the south. In addition, the PQ has promised to reintegrate the 459 hectares of land the Liberals removed from Orford Provincial Park. This is a policy change that SOS Park Orford, a conservation group of which Nature Quebec and CPAWS Quebec are both members, has requested since 2006.

Prioritize the preservation of intact boreal forests

Nature Quebec and CPAWS Quebec stress that under no circumstances should the territory earmarked for logging be expanded. Jean Charest’s “Northern Plan” leaves open the possibility of extending the northern limit for harvesting commercial forests, a move which could allow for increases in overall logging activity. A priority should be placed on ensuring the northern logging limit is maintained. This limit is where large intact swaths of boreal forest remain, and also where the pressure on this fragile ecosystem is at its greatest. 

"The expansion of logging north of the 51st parallel would be an economic failure and ecological disaster. These forests are too far removed from large centres to be commercially viable, and too fragile to avoid serious ecosystem disruption," said Nicolas Mainville, conservation director for CPAWS Quebec.

A partnership with Native people

Conservation planning in the north should be undertaken in collaboration with Native communities. The successful implementation of a plan rests on respect toward Native populations and their rights. Nicolas Mainville states that conservation "results depend on our capacity to integrate traditional Native knowledge and western science. For that to happen, we must include Native communities in all stages of the decision making process, from preliminary planning to the final decision."

Environmentalists note with satisfaction that their message for more conservation seems to have been heard by Quebec\'s political parties. Environmental groups are ready to collaborate with whichever party forms the next government in order to create a comprehensive conservation strategy for Quebec.

Finally, a group of 10 of Quebec’s environmental groups has sent questions to Quebec’s five main political parties in the upcoming provincial election. We invite you to read their answers upon their publication. 


Issued by CPAWS Quebec, Nature Quebec and Citoyens pour la nature.

For information :
Sophie Paradis
Communications coordinator
CPAWS Quebec, 514 278-7627 ext. 221