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Protection of the caribou: Quebec promises an unveiling in February

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The new caribou protection strategy habitat of Quebec's forest and mountain caribou should be made public in the coming weeks.

  • David Rémillard (View profile)David Rémillard

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The new strategy for protecting the habitat of Quebec's forest and mountain caribou should be made public in the coming weeks. At least that is the wish of the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette. The latter, however, faces obstacles within the Legault government itself.

The strategy, awaited for more than five years, was finally to be presented to Quebecers before the end of 2023. Due to the historic forest fires of last summer and the necessary adjustments to the possibilities forestry, revised downwards, Quebec finally announced that it would present its plan in mid-January.

For the umpteenth time, the #x27;deadline was missed.

According to several sources consulted by Radio-Canada, the document has not yet been submitted to the Council of Ministers and should therefore only be made public at the end of February. Until then, the strategy continues to progress within government bodies.

According to our information, the numerous comments made by CAQ elected officials to Minister Charette forced him to postpone his unveiling to the entire caucus. The deposit was hoped for in mid-January, then at the end of the month, in vain.

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The Minister of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks, Benoit Charette, received numerous comments from the part of his colleagues in government. (Archive photo)

A source in Benoit Charette's cabinet on Tuesday denied any presentation to the Council of Ministers this week. The cabinet then refused to reveal a new deadline. The Minister's desire, it is said, is to proceed as quickly as possible, recalling that this is a complex matter.

Mr. Charette must in particular come to an agreement with his colleague from Forests, Maïté Blanchette Vézina, who is subject to pressure from the forestry industry.

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The strategy must first be approved by the Council of Ministers before being made public. From the moment it is revealed to the population, a three-month consultation period will begin. The First Nations must also be consulted.

What will be presented by the Minister of the Environment will therefore not be a final version of the strategy which will be deployed on the territory.

Radio-Canada has also confirmed that the strategy for protecting the habitat of forest and mountain caribou will contain modifications to the Wildlife Habitat Regulations. This information comes from the office of Benoit Charette himself. Amendments to the Wildlife Habitat Regulations are planned, his press secretary indicated in writing.

Annexed to the Quebec Wildlife Conservation Act, this regulation determines the legally protected habitats for certain vulnerable or threatened species. It marks the industrial activities that can be carried out there. Standards relating to mineral exploration, forest harvesting and recreational activities are determined in particular.

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The 13 herds of forest and mountain caribou in Quebec need tens of thousands of square kilometers of undisturbed habitat to survive.

According to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Quebec section (SNAP Quebec), new wildlife habitats should be added to the law in line with the Legault government's strategy. It remains to be seen what areas will be targeted and what uses will be permitted for each habitat.

SNAP Québec has been recommending the protection of 35,000 km2 for several years of critical habitat for deer, mainly consisting of old conifer forests.

Alain Branchaud, general director of SNAP Quebec, maintains that the quality of the strategy for protecting woodland caribou habitat will be in the details involved in these modifications to the regulation. Mr. Branchaud expects restrictive activity regimes that will truly protect the caribou.

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Alain Branchaud, general director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Quebec section

Mr. Branchaud deplores the more or less robust measures currently provided for in the Wildlife Habitat Regulations, describing certain protections as a sieve.

Remember that Quebec's objective is to ensure a maximum disturbance of 35% of the habitat of each of the 13 caribou herds on its territory. According to scientific consensus, however, this disturbance should be much less to ensure the survival and growth of herds.

More details will follow.

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