Press release from Larry Innes, Executive Director with the Canadian Boreal Initiative:
November 20, 2008 – The vision unveiled on November 15 by Premier Jean Charest demonstrates that it is possible to conserve our environmental heritage while pursuing economic development. Indeed, Mr. Charest announced an entirely new vision of northern development by committing to protect half of the territories located above the 49th parallel from development.
This announcement is part of the major catch-up exercise undertaken by the Québec government over the last few years to make up for the province’s dismal land preservation and protection record. Indeed, before this announcement was made, even if the 8% minimum had been achieved in 2009, Québec’s protected areas would have remained below the Canadian average and without protected areas vast enough to sustain species such as the caribou.
With this new commitment to protect half of the province’s boreal region, Québec is becoming a world leader in the conservation and protection of the environmental heritage along with Ontario, which made a similar commitment in July. This requires a renewed partnership with First Nations, as well as complex planning to identify the territories that will be protected. However, nothing is impossible when there is political will.
Scientists unanimously agree that the conservation of large areas over a given territory– especially if these areas are interconnected–is much more effective at truly protecting ecosystems and may have a significant impact on environmental protection around the world. However, certain conditions are necessary if this goal is to be achieved:
Consultation: To achieve such an ambitious objective, the Québec government– regardless of the party that forms it–will obviously need the support and involvement of local First Nation communities. It will also need to implement consultation mechanisms to remain attentive to a number of stakeholders.
Interconnectivity: The protection of these territories and the corridors linking protected areas has the potential to save dozens of endangered species and sustain biodiversity, which is beneficial to us all. Traditional knowledge of this land will need to be aligned with modern scientific progress to prepare the future of the North.
Climate change: It is a little known fact, but Northern Québec represents the most important land-based carbon storehouse in the world. It is even more important than the Amazon. The protection and preservation of these carbon pools must be an integral part of any climate change solution.
Sustainable and balanced development: Companies and communities are making great efforts to mitigate their impact on the environment. With a balanced vision of the development and conservation of the north, they will be better prepared to make the right decisions and take the appropriate actions. This will represent considerable progress in combining economic development with protecting environmental heritage.
The Premier of Québec is worthy of praise for having made the commitment to preserve half of the territory making up Northern Québec. The Parti Québécois also committed to increase to 12% the level of conservation of the entire Québec territory, including the southern portion where most of the development is taking place. We must remain vigilant to make sure that this announcement truly makes history and is not simply another campaign promise.
The Canadian Boreal Initiative brings together diverse partners to create new solutions for Boreal Forest conservation. (www.borealcanada.ca)