Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Caribou protection: the new strategy compromised?

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar1,2024

Caribou protection: the new compromised strategy ?” /></p>
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<p class=In Quebec, the population of woodland caribou, in decline for several years, is estimated at 5,252 individuals.

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No one dares to put forward a deadline anymore for the unveiling of the strategy to protect the habitat of the woodland caribou. Unable to deliver the document, Quebec provokes cynicism and concern, particularly in Ottawa.

The Legault government now has everything in hand: updated forestry possibilities, report from the independent commission on forest and mountain caribou, data from inventories of Quebec herds, studies of the impacts of climate change and x27;industrial activity on deer habitat.

Québec is, however, incapable of going through the interministerial consultation stage, the x27;thus preventing the submission of a first draft of the strategy to be submitted for public consultation.

The Minister of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks, Benoit Charette, still does not have the approval of his colleagues. Several sources told Radio-Canada that the strategy was to be on the agenda of the council of ministers on January 31, before being withdrawn at the last minute.

Since then, no dates have been circulating in CAQ pharmacies. In Mr. Charette's office, the answer is evasive. We want to submit the strategy as quickly as possible.

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The Ministers of the Economy and the Environment, Pierre Fitzgibbon and Benoit Charette. (Archive photo)

According to our information, several comments were made concerning the socio-economic impacts of the strategy, in particular on workers in the forestry industry. This duality is at the heart of the debate on the protection of caribou habitat.

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ELSE ON NEWS: Canada bears the mark of Brian Mulroney, the builder< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Visiting Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean last week, the Minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, echoed to these concerns which would come from local elected officials where the forestry industry is particularly present.

He recalled the importance of saving the 55,000 direct jobs linked to the forestry sector. While we must be sensitive to the cause of wetlands and biodiversity, Mr. Fitzgibbon said he feared overly harmful impacts on economic activity. I want to protect the caribou, he said in an interview with local media Le Quotidien. But I also want Quebec not to become poorer.

He also mentioned the importance of doing things in order, and not in disorder, mentioning in passing the consultations on #x27;future of the forest led by the Minister of Natural Resources, Maïté Blanchette-Vézina. Before launching things, we must be prepared, added the Minister of the Economy.

Consultations on the future of the forest were announced on November 17. The final report is expected next June.

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The forestry industry is concerned about the impacts of the forest protection strategy woodland caribou. (Archive photo)

If the submission of the strategy seemed imminent at the turn of 2024, the fog is now thickening.

Dissatisfied with the decisions taken by Quebec, the federal Minister of the Environment, Steven Guilbeault, once again calls on Minister Charette. I contacted my counterpart and I am impatiently awaiting his response. The loss of biodiversity is worrying and we must act immediately, he tells Radio-Canada through his press secretary.

An official letter should be sent to Mr. Charette's office in the coming hours.

The Government of Canada expects the Government of Quebec to respect its commitment to guarantee 65% undisturbed habitat in the range of each of the populations as announced in August 2022, adds Mr. Guilbeault.

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Federal Minister of the Environment, Steven Guilbeault (Archive photo)

The agreement mentioned by the federal minister normally came with a deadline. The province had until the end of June 2023 to present its new protection measures, otherwise Ottawa threatened to intervene in Quebec by decree.

However, the historic forest fires of last summer relaxed the deadlines and the federal government agreed to allow additional time, in particular to measure the impact of blazes on forestry possibilities, namely the volumes of wood that the industry can harvest.

Potential federal intervention is a legal obligation of the Minister of the Environment enshrined in the Canadian Species at Risk Act. In the case of woodland caribou and mountain caribou, up to 35,000 km2 of territory could be affected by restrictions.

While the forestry industry applauds the government's patience and thoughtful consideration of forest management, scientists and other conservation organizations are losing confidence.

There is a lack of respect for all the people and all the organizations who participated in the caribou commission in good faith to propose solutions, denounces Alain Branchaud, general director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Quebec Section (SNAP Quebec).

The independent commission submitted its report in the summer of 2022. The Gélinas report concluded that there was “urgency to act” to prevent the disappearance of Quebec’s herds.

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Quebec's caribou herds are for the most part subject to human disturbance due to forestry and recreational tourism activities. (File photo)

We, environmental organizations, perhaps need to reactivate strategies that could lead the federal government to act to activate protection measures under the Species at Risk Act. These are the options available to us now in the face of Quebec's continued and recurring inaction, continues Mr. Branchaud.

The threat of prosecution against Quebec and the federal government comes up regularly, particularly among First Nations.

Because the pressure is not only on Quebec. Minister Steven Guilbeault has been brandishing the scarecrow of federal decrees for three years now. Meanwhile, populations continue to decline.

This is the number of woodland caribou estimated in Quebec.

Source: Independent commission on forest and mountain caribou

The forestry industry, adds Mr. Branchaud, is taking advantage of these delays to get its message across to elected officials.

The position of the forestry lobby is not to give up any cubic meter. […] They are extremely effective and with each wave that could bring protection measures for the caribou, there are dozens and hundreds of people who call the cabinet, who put pressure to push back the government, explains the biologist .

We do things as in 1850. It is only a firm government will that can change this direction, modernize our ways of doing things .

A quote from Alain Branchaud, general director, SNAP Québec

Without being insensitive towards workers in the forestry sector, Mr. Branchaud believes that there is, with the protection of caribou habitat, an opportunity to begin a transition.

It's a shame because from an economic and socio-economic point of view, we trap entire communities in dependence on this industry, we avoid making of economic diversification, we are literally destroying our forests and the natural capital that this represents as well as the biodiversity that these forests shelter.

Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, professor of animal ecology at the University of Quebec at Rimouski, observes a paradigm shift. According to him, the cry from the heart of the Chief Forester for a modernization of silvicultural practices last fall demonstrates that the issues linked to the forest go beyond the caribou.

The recurrence and violence of forest fires alone is changing the situation in forestry supplies. Forestry possibilities have been reduced for next year; Canada expects another difficult fire season, or even worse.

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The forestry industry will have to deal with potentially more recurring and violent forest fires. (Archive photo)

According to Mr. St-Laurent, the industry is already on edge. Announcing a caribou strategy that goes poorly with fire is not easy to do.

I understand the socio-economic issue. We need to support and find funds to retrain workers, he says. Quebec and Ottawa have already mentioned compensation programs for the industry.

It is appropriate that the issues are numerous, according to him it is utopian to think of harvesting more wood, especially since the fires risk devouring even more.

The primary beneficiary of wood volumes in Quebec is fire. As long as we consider the industry before the fire and correct it after the fact, our calculations will not hold up.

A quote from Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, professor of animal ecology, University of Quebec to Rimouski

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Martin-Hugues St-Laurent (Archive photo)

Martin-Hugues St-Laurent nonetheless remains critical of political decision-makers regarding the woodland caribou and the protection of its habitat. The strategy should have already been submitted, according to him. The Coalition Avenir Québec alone has been pushing back the deadline since 2019.

The most cynical would say that we played for time, that we weakened herds, that we stopped harvesting wood in places where populations were increasingly fragile, deplores M . St-Laurent. Governments, both provincial and federal, are not respecting ethical and moral commitments to protect biodiversity.

On government intervention federal in Quebec, the biologist and caribou expert is increasingly skeptical. It's a gamble worth considering. But we are arriving towards the end of a Liberal mandate, the conservatives who have the wind in their sails. If we come up with measures that would cause us to lose support in certain regions, it's more difficult.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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