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Quebec further pushes back caribou protection strategy

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Dec22,2023

Québec is once again pushing back the caribou protection strategy

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Minister Benoit Charette was not able to deliver a forest and mountain caribou protection strategy before the end of the year, such as promised.

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The Legault government once again misses its deadline and once again postpones the submission of its strategy to protect the habitat of forest and mountain caribou, this time to mid-January.

The deadlines of Quebec Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, are falling one after the other.

After committing to table a strategy before the end of June 2023, under pressure to act by the federal government, he was unable to deliver the document promised before the end of the year, despite six more months to complete the work.

The minister himself announced this umpteenth postponement in an editorial interview given to La Presse and broadcast Wednesday morning. His office confirmed the information to Radio-Canada.

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Woodland caribou habitat is disturbed at more than 70 % in several key areas in the south of the province.

Benoit Charette would have hoped to unveil the strategy at the last council of ministers in 2023, this Wednesday, but ultimately narrowly missed his objective. The document would subsequently have been submitted to First Nations consultation and public consultation.

This summer's exceptional forest fires required new calculations from the Chief Forester. These figures were revealed at the end of November, following which our ministry worked to finalize the strategy. We will present everything to you shortly, Mr. Charette's office indicated in writing at the end of the day Wednesday.

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ELSEWHERE ON INFO: Teachers from the FSE-CSQ and Quebec come up with a proposed regulation

The strategy presented by Mr. Charette would therefore not have been a final version of what will be adopted by the government.

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is now five years late on this issue since it took power. Despite reports produced by government experts for more than 20 years, the deer population is declining in the province, falling below 6,000 individuals according to the most recent inventories.

The former minister of the defunct Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Pierre Dufour, was first supposed to deliver a renewed strategy in 2019. The latter ultimately postponed everything, preferring to commission a meta-analysis and do a regional consultation tour.

Rather than presenting a strategy for protecting the habitat of forest and mountain caribou following this work, Mr. Dufour announced new postponements then the creation of an independent commission on the future of the species and the socio-economic repercussions of possible additional protection measures.

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The habitat of the woodland caribou is heavily disturbed.

In their final report, submitted in August 2022, the commissioners urged Quebec to protect the species, emphasizing the urgency of acting to limit disturbance of its habitat, namely old conifer forests.

Under the CAQ, Quebec placed two herds in captivity (Val-d'Or, Charlevoix), announced the closure of certain forest roads and increased predator culling, but has not revealed a long-term strategy.

Benoit Charette has committed to taking over the work of his predecessor and implementing the strategy in 2023.

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According to our information, the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks does not x27;did not obtain all the desired collaboration from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests.

While Minister Charette hoped to honor his promise, Forestry representatives, under the leadership of Minister Maïté Blanchette Vézina, asked for time to reassess forestry possibilities based on the forest fires that raged during the winter. summer.

Several sources have cited a lack of collaboration within the government apparatus in recent months. Ironically, the ministries of Wildlife and Forests were split by the CAQ at the start of their second mandate.

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The MP for Rimouski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forests, Maïté Blanchette Vézina

While Quebec was accumulating delays, the federal government was putting pressure and threatening to intervene in the province. For two years, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, has been raising the possibility of imposing decrees in Quebec to protect the critical habitat of the caribou.

Up to 35,000 km2 of territory could thus be affected by protection measures and by a modification of uses in order to minimize habitat disturbance.

Mr. Guilbeault's office did not react to the new postponement on Wednesday. In addition to caribou, Ottawa still hopes to reach a bilateral agreement with the province to protect species at risk. The latter would be accompanied by considerable federal sums transferred to Quebec.

Earlier this fall, the Trudeau government suggested that its patience would soon have its limits.

Reactions are mixed among organizations advocating for the conservation of woodland caribou and mountain caribou.

The report is not accepted by Nature Québec, in particular, which accuses the Legault government of stretching the elastic band. After five years of waiting for the Caribou strategy, its postponement to 2024 is unacceptable. […] While interdepartmental discussions drag on, caribou continue to disappear, declared Alice-Anne Simard, general director of the organization, in writing.

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Alice-Anne Simard is the general director of Nature Québec (Archive photo)

At the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Quebec Section (SNAP Quebec), postponement had become the logical solution as the holidays dawned. Its general director, Alain Branchaud, recalls that the strategy and regulatory provisions must be submitted for consultation.

It's preferable that it be at the beginning of January so that we have a real dialogue that begins, a- he said. It would have been clumsy to announce this before the holiday break.

Mr. Branchaud nonetheless remains critical of the Legault government and the time it takes to present the strategy for protecting caribou habitat. The delay is a stain that will remain on the Caribou strategy file, he insists. He nevertheless believes that presenting the measures at this stage would have been ill-advised.

He now expects a plan that puts caribou first. The objective point of reference remains science and it is on this that we can base ourselves and analyze whether the strategy will be relevant, he says. The strategy is not there to please anyone, it is there to ensure the survival of an endangered species.

The Company for Nature and Parks (SNAP) Quebec is calling for a strategy for the entire distribution area of ​​forest and mountain caribou, the creation of protected areas and connectivity zones covering 35,000 km2 as well as restrictions on land use in the habitat of each of the 13 herds in the province.

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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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