- Nearly 46,000 hectares of previously-protected endangered caribou land will soon face deforestation under a new plan put forth by Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks.
- The land was previously protected in order to safeguard the habitat of the endangered Atlantic-Gaspésie woodland caribou, of which only 200 individuals remain in the region.
The CAQ-lead Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parcs in Quebec announced last week that they have decided to re-purpose nearly 46,000 hectares of previously-protected, endangered caribou land to be deforested in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. The region was previously protected to ensure a safe habitat for woodland caribou, an endangered species that faces hardship across the country due to deforestation.
The minister of the MFFP, Pierre Dufour, addressed the change in regulation last week saying that the ministry maintained a "desire to strike the right balance between protecting the woodland caribou and the economic vitality of Quebec and its regions."
According to Le Devoir, the region had previously been under a temporary conservation status or "administrative protection," which prohibited the industrial felling of trees.
The MFFP will now wait until 2023 to implement a real strategy in regards to protecting the endangered boreal woodland caribou.
In a release by the MFFP in April 2019, they explained that "the objective of the strategy will be to respond adequately to the needs of [woodland and mountain] caribou so as to ensure both the sustainability of the species and the vitality of Quebec and its regions, without impacting the forest industry and its workers."
The MFFP released a tweet on December 4, 2019 that announced their decision to open up this previously-protected region to deforestation.
The tweet below reads, "Quebec will make available again nearly 46,000 hectares of forest for the harvest in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean."
In the map above provided by the MFFP you can see the green regions, which are considered "Vast Favourable Spaces" where woodland caribou where intended to have "little or no disturbance" and where "forestry interventions" were meant to be adapted "to maintain a quality habitat."
Nature Canada currently has the Atlantic-Gaspésie population of the woodland caribou listed as Endangered. The Boreal population is also listed as Threatened.
Several studies have shown that even an attempt to recultivate forest habitat has proved to have little impact on the dwindling population of woodland caribou, as "logging scars" continue to leave their mark on the regions affected.
Nature Canada cites that there are only 200 individuals remaining in the Atlantic-Gaspésie region.
Nature Canada also notes that the woodland caribou has been nicknamed the "grey ghost" because they are so elusive and shy.
The MFFP has stated in their release last week, on December 4, 2019, that "recent data from the monitoring system demonstrate the lack of caribou localization in these areas, thus justifying the decision made public."
Biologist Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, a specialist of the species, spoke with Le Devoir and was quick to say that the MFFP's justification was weak.
For a species called a "grey ghost," it's fair to assume that just because you've not seen the woodland caribou, doesn't mean it isn't there.
But they might not be for long.