Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Nord-du-Québec, Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Mauricie are the three regions affected by the limitations requested by the Chief Forester, while the Côte-Nord and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean are spared.

Historic fires: Chief Forester demands reduction in timber harvest

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Nord-du-Québec was by far the Quebec region most affected by forest fires last summer. (Archive photo)

  • David Rémillard (View profile)David Rémillard

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The forest fires that raged in Quebec last summer forced the Chief Forester to recommend a reduction in the timber harvest for the period 2023- 2028, particularly in Nord-du-Québec, in order to ensure the long-term maintenance of the resource. This drop would represent 2% of the allowable cut per year and could have “significant socio-economic impacts” in certain regions.

As expected in the event of large-scale natural disasters, the Office of the Chief Forester made new calculations this fall to adjust its logging possibilities taking into account the historic forest fires that hit the province in 2023.

This colossal work was presented Wednesday by chief forester Louis Pelletier.

From the outset, Mr. Pelletier revealed that some 1.3 million hectares of Quebec territory were affected by the blazes during the summer. Of this total, 920,000 hectares constituted public forests subject to forestry possibilities calculations.

Forest possibilitiesrepresent the volume of wood that can be harvested annually without compromising the sustainability of the resource. The forest capacity in Quebec is estimated at nearly 35 million cubic meters of wood per year.

Of these 920,000 hectares, almost half have showed signs of absence of regeneration or low regeneration, thus testifying to the severity of the fires. This data leads the chief forester to believe that it will be necessary to massively reforest several sectors to make them harvestable again.

Given these considerable impacts, Mr. Pelletier recommends that the Minister of Natural Resources and Forests, Maïtée Blanchette Vézina, move forward before with a drop in the harvest in three regions of the province, namely Nord-du-Québec, Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Mauricie.

This measure would take effect on April 1, 2024.

The greatest obligation is to maintain a forest for future generations.

A quote from Louis Pelletier, chief forester of Quebec

Despite the fact that the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean territory has been the scene of several fires, the forestry potential would not change there. Certain sectors of the North Shore and Outaouais were also analyzed.

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The Nord-du-Québec region is by far the one that would be most affected if the minister moved forward with the recommendations of the Chief Forester. If the reduction in the recommended harvest is equivalent to 2% of the province's total forest capacity, the reduction would be of the order of 12.7% in Nord-du-Québec, or 521,000 cubic meters less per year. year.

When we look at the concentration of volumes for certain regions, it hurts, agreed Louis Pelletier at a press conference. I am aware, he added, that there will be socio-economic impacts in the regions concerned.

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Mr. Pelletier did not comment on the factories or companies that would be more affected by a withdrawal of wood volumes, recalling that this is not his mandate. If the forest capacity is calculated by the Chief Forester, the allocation of timber volumes is the responsibility of the Ministry of Forests.

Louis Pelletier at least noted that 11 development units are targeted by the recommendations out of the 17 that were affected by the forest fires.

In his new calculations, the Chief Forester focused on management units affected by more than 5% of their area, he noted. According to Mr. Pelletier, the new calculations make it possible to take into account the impacts of the fires on approximately 80% of the affected territory.

Other analyzes will therefore have to be carried out for the remaining 20%.

If other large fires were to break out next year, the Chief Forester will have to undergo the same exercise as this year.

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Louis Pelletier is the chief forester of Quebec.

In addition to only taking into account the most devastated development units, the Office of the Chief Forester will have to take into account a range of factors in its future calculations. On this subject, Louis Pelletier indicated that we will have to return to the calculator a few times over the next year.

Mr. Pelletier recalled on Wednesday that he had only considered current forest management practices, whether for harvesting or for reforestation. However, in September, he advised Minister Blanchette Vézina to launch a reflection on forestry development in Quebec.

The exceptional scope forest fires in 2023 leads me to question current forestry practices in state forests. In order to reduce the risks and effects associated with climate change, we must undertake this in-depth reflection on our planning practices and adjust them, if necessary, he wrote.

The minister followed up on this recommendation a few days ago by announcing a consultation tour on the future of Quebec's forests.

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Forest fires could become more and more frequent in the context of climate change.

The Office of the Chief Forester will also have to take into account the new strategy for protecting the habitat of forest and mountain caribou, which must be unveiled by the end of the year. The Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, was precisely waiting for the new calculations of forest possibilities to produce his document.

Depending on the plan submitted, we will adjust the forestry possibilities and, yes, that could provide in addition to what I am announcing today, indicated Louis Pelletier on Wednesday.

Already, organizations like the Society for Nature and Parks (SNAP Quebec) believe that the impacts of the fires will be minimal on the protection strategy.

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A map of Quebec on which the regions where wildfires raged in 2023 and the caribou strategy zones are superimposed. x27;protected areas announced by Quebec must also be included.

Finally, the Chief Forester must include investments of $200 million in his forestry possibilities announced earlier in November by Finance Minister Eric Girard during the economic update.

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