Protection of forest and mountain caribou | Quebec gives birth to a partial plan

Quebec will set up “pilot projects” aimed at protecting the forest caribou of Charlevoix and the mountain caribou of the Gaspésie, relegating to later the adoption of protection measures for the dozen other caribou herds in the province, a plan deemed incomplete, disappointing and uncertain by various observers.

The Quebec strategy for the recovery and protection of the caribou, promised since 2016 and postponed numerous times, is therefore giving way to “a regionalized plan”, announced Tuesday in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts the Minister of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks Benoit Charette and the Minister of Natural Resources and Forests Maïté Blanchette Vézina.

The herds of Gaspésie and Charlevoix are “particularly vulnerable” and these regions “did not suffer the full impact of last summer’s forest fires, which were catastrophic,” explained Minister Charette.

But Quebec has “no precise timetable” for adopting caribou protection measures elsewhere in the province, he admitted.

I am not able to say whether it is in a year, in two years or more.

Benoit Charette


The two pilot projects announced Tuesday for Gaspésie and Charlevoix consist of restoring priority caribou habitats, ensuring the legal protection of targeted territories, supervising activities and uses, ensuring predator control and increasing population monitoring, an approach which aims to offer “predictability” to economic players in these regions, declared Minister Charette.

Quebec wants to protect the caribou without putting its entire habitat under a “glass dome (which) would freeze the territory,” he explained, illustrating that the government “has not banned going to Tadoussac to see whales”, which does not prevent them from being protected.

The surface area and limits of the territories targeted by the projects, their exact location and the regulatory changes envisaged will be the subject of consultations until the end of July with the communities concerned and the First Nations.


Territories targeted by pilot projects for the woodland caribou population of Charlevoix and the mountain caribou population of Gaspésie

These consultations will “allow us to better understand how to protect the species while contributing to our economic activities,” declared Minister Blanchette Vézina.

The measures to be taken have, however, been known for a long time, recalled in 2022 the Independent Commission on Forest and Mountain Caribou, which concluded that there was an “urgency to act”.

“The first, primary cause of the decline of the caribou is the loss of habitat caused by human activity, that we cannot deny,” recalled Minister Charette.

Ottawa Ultimatum

Quebec’s announcement comes on the eve of the deadline set by Ottawa, which threatened to intervene unilaterally to protect the caribou if Quebec did not present a plan before 1er may.

“It is not the responsibility of the Canadian government to interfere in this matter,” Minister Charette declared Tuesday, inviting Ottawa to help finance the measures proposed by Quebec.

The federal government had already proposed such funding, but required seeing Quebec’s proposals before paying anything.

“These discussions can continue once the plans have been evaluated,” reiterated Tuesday the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, deploring in passing the absence of “several key elements” of the Quebec plan, particularly on the commitment to reduce the rate of disturbance in caribou habitat to a maximum of 35%.

The announcement (from Tuesday) is silent on several caribou populations. The Quebec government must publish a strategy for all boreal caribou populations in Quebec, including immediate interim measures.

Steven Guilbeault

Strong criticism

The plan proposed by Quebec is “a blatant example of the ineffectiveness of Quebec’s legislative framework,” judged biologist Fanie Pelletier, professor at the University of Sherbrooke and member of the Committee of Advisors on Threatened or Vulnerable Wildlife Species of Quebec. .

“As the government is not legally required to respect predetermined deadlines to implement effective conservation measures, this type of slowdown seems the norm without the minister being accountable,” says Pelletier, lead author of a study on the issue, published Tuesday.

The professor of animal ecology at the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR) Martin-Hugues St-Laurent speaks of a strategy that is “timid, in the wake of the status quo, and whose real effectiveness in contributing to the recovery (of the caribou ) remains to be demonstrated with serious analyses”.

The plan presented “is an incomplete task submitted late,” asserted biologist Alice-Anne Simard, general director of Nature Québec, welcoming the government’s desire to restore the habitat of the caribou of Charlevoix and Gaspésie, but deploring the absence of measures for other herds.

This absence also worries biologist Alain Branchaud, general director of the Quebec section of the Society for Nature and Parks, who is calling for “rapid intervention from the federal government” to protect herds “on the brink of collapse”, such as that of Pipmuacan. , while welcoming the “step forward on the long road leading to the recovery of the caribou” represented by the measures announced for Gaspésie and Charlevoix.

The First Nations of Essipit and Mashteuiatsh deplored a “blatant lack of political courage, vision and sensitivity for the species which continues to definitively disappear” from the Legault government, calling for a “much more serious, rigorous and urgent” plan. “.

Criticism also arose from the working class, which deplored the absence of a global strategy.

“Quebec is ripe for a new integrated forestry approach that cuts across all issues: protected areas, caribou, fires, development, silviculture, industrial policy, regulations, etc. “, declared Daniel Cloutier, Quebec director of the Unifor union, which has 14,000 members in the forestry sector in Quebec.

“The government is doing things piecemeal rather than looking at the overall situation in the forestry sector,” declared Louis Bégin, president of the Federation of the Manufacturing Industry of the Confederation of National Unions (FIM-CSN). ), calling for “forest management that holds up in the long term”.

Marked fall of caribou in Gaspésie

The caribou population of Gaspésie has fallen by a third in two years, shows the most recent government inventory, published Tuesday. From a population of 37 to 40 animals in 2021, the herd increased to a population of 23 to 25 animals in 2023, government data indicates. Quebec also captured and enclosed 13 caribou, including 10 females, in February, in order to protect them in anticipation of the calving period this spring. The number of pregnant females is unknown at this time. Such an operation was also carried out last year, but none of the two calves born in captivity survived and one female died.

Project postponed in Val-d’Or

Quebec’s project to increase the caribou population of Val-d’Or by adding six caribou captured in Nord-du-Québec has been postponed for a year. This “supplementation” of this herd living in captivity since 2020, announced at the beginning of March, was put on ice “following discussions with various partners in the field (…) in order to continue discussions to better integrate their concerns and consolidate the project,” indicated without further details Ève Morin Desrosiers, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment. The Val-d’Or caribou population numbers nine animals, three of which were born in the last three years.

Learn more

  • From 23 to 25
    Estimated caribou population in Gaspésie in 2023

    source: Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks

    From 700 to 1500
    Estimated caribou population in Gaspésie in 1950

    source: Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks

  • 5252
    Estimated population of woodland caribou in Quebec



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