After having abandoned the protected area project for the Péribonka River, the Legault government intends to authorize logging in this territory, noted The duty. The industry will therefore have access to high biodiversity sectors recognized for their high recreational tourism potential, even if this raises concerns in the region.
“It’s appalling,” says Ève Tremblay, spokesperson for the Péribonka River Protection Committee. “After the absolutely incomprehensible rejection of the protected area project, the government wants to authorize cuts in areas where we find exceptional forest ecosystems, including old forests that are more than 250 years old and which have been recognized for their great value. conservation. “
Concretely, the Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks (MFFP) has just launched the public consultation process planned as part of the “Operational integrated forest management plans” for the Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean region. Official maps show that the government in particular targeted a “Commercial potential” for four sectors located along the Péribonka River, northeast of Lac-Saint-Jean.
It does not make sense to propose logging both in a protected area project carried by volunteer citizens and in an area where a species at risk was spotted last winter
According to the MFFP, it is planned to authorize a “regeneration cut in forests infested by the spruce budworm”. In the context of the opening of these public lands to companies, the ministry specifies also that “paths and infrastructures” will have to be built to access the cutting sectors.
“Huge natural potential”
The targeted areas total 216 km and all overlap the 236 km territory that had been proposed by the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change to become a protected area. The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources had also given its approval to the project, which would have made it possible to protect an 80 km section of the river, including old forests, a forest ecosystem that is increasingly rare in Quebec. This territory is part of 83 protected area projects recently abandoned by the government, in the context of achieving its targets for the protection of natural terrestrial environments in Quebec for 2020.
This conservation project, which had been in development for 10 years, was nevertheless supported by local communities, environmental groups and the tourism industry. As part of a regional consultation conducted last year, the Alma Lac-Saint-Jean Tourism organization explained to the MFFP that “the Péribonka River and its valley represent one of the greatest potential for the development of recreational tourism products”. the region, which can be read in a report prepared by the department.
“The entire regional tourism industry is counting on the immense natural potential of the Péribonka River to strengthen its positioning at the international level”, the organization also underlined, recalling that an “ambitious tourism development plan” had already received support from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Emploi-Québec and the MRC Lac-Saint-Jean-Est. The tourism industry generates annual spinoffs of nearly $ 300 million in the region, according to the Promotion Saguenay organization.
In its response to the concerns of Tourisme Alma Lac-Saint-Jean concerning the preservation of “the exceptional visual quality of the landscapes and the great ecological values of this territory”, the MFFP indicated that “the harvest remains compatible with other uses of the territory. public, including tourism ”. The ministry had also promised to “continue the work of harmonizing the visual corridor of the Péribonka river” with “forest planning”.
On Friday, Tourisme Alma Lac-Saint-Jean told the Duty that “the government’s decision not to retain the Péribonka River protected area project is greeted with disappointment”. At the very least, we hope for “a harmonious coexistence of uses and the development of potential”.
The government wants to authorize logging in areas where there are exceptional forest ecosystems, including old forests that are more than 250 years old and have been recognized for their high conservation value.
For the Société pour la nature et des parcs du Québec, the government’s decision is unacceptable. “It does not make sense to propose logging both in a protected area project led by volunteer citizens and in an area where an endangered species was spotted last winter. The Ministry of Forests seems in a great hurry for the forest of the Péribonka River to be razed, barely a month and a half after blocking the protected area project for this magnificent river, ”argues biologist Pier-Olivier Boudreault.
Caribou in precarious condition
The “species at risk” to which Mr. Boudreault refers is the woodland caribou. The Legault government has indeed announced at the end of 2019 that he wanted to authorize cuts on a forest massif located on the course of the Péribonka river. However, this massif had until then been protected in order to preserve the habitat of this cervid, which is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of tree felling on an industrial basis.
At the time of abolishing the protection measures of this forest massif (and of two other massifs located in the region), the MFFP had affirmed that no caribou were in the sector. More recently, aerial surveys carried out during the winter of 2020 have, however, made it possible to locate caribou in the sector where this massif is located, according to what emerges from a report. report produced by the MFFP. These deer are part of a population of about 225 animals and which is “in an extremely precarious state”, according to experts from the ministry.
In addition to increasing the already significant “disturbances” of the habitat of the caribou found in this region, opening these territories to the forestry industry should also facilitate predation of caribou by wolves. can be seen elsewhere in Quebec, with the herds on the verge of extinction in Val-d’Or, Charlevoix and Gaspésie.
The duty contacted the MFFP on Friday morning to find out why the government intends to authorize logging in these four sectors. The ministry responded at the end of the day by promising a response in the coming week.