Cree-Québec agreement : CPAWS welcomes a new protected areas in James Bay
Québec City, July 13th 2015. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) welcomes the protection of a large area in James Bay, announced today as part of an agreement between the Cree and the Québec government. Resulting from many years of tireless efforts by the Cree to better protect their traditional territory (Eeyou Istchee), the area will include protection for Lake Evans – the largest natural lake south of Nunavik which remains inaccessible by road.
Important contribution to the protected areas network
Covering over 500,000 hectares, roughly 11 times the size of the island of Montreal, the newly protected territories are a substantial addition to Québec's network of protected areas. Located in the heart of the boreal forest, they will protect important cultural sites for the Cree Nation of Nemaska, as well as Lake Evans.
Present at the announcement, Patrick Nadeau, Executive Director of CPAWS Québec, stated :
« Québec has ambitious conservation targets on the Plan Nord territory, and announcements such as these bring us closer to our objectives ».
Recall that Québec has committed to protecting 12 % of its territory by the end of the year, then 20 % of the Plan Nord territory by 2020 and ultimately 50 % by 2035.
Caribou recovery remains uncertain
While the new protected areas take into account certain conservation criteria, the lack of protection for the intact forest north of the Broadback River is an obvious omission. This area, known by the Waswanipi Cree as Mishigamish, is critically important habitat for boreal woodland caribou, an endangered species. Protecting this sector would have connected the existing Assina national park reserve to the area announced today – in order to create a very large protected area, ideal for caribou, instead of two distinct blocks separated by kilometres of commercial logging.
According to M. Nadeau, a former member of the provincial caribou recovery team, the newly protected areas steer clear of the Mishigamish sector to avoid any inconvenience to the forest industry – even if the volumes at stake are of marginal economic importance. For CPAWS Québec, the protected areas network in James Bay remains incomplete, and the Mishigamish sector remains a priority.
FSC certificates must be recovered in Lac Saint-Jean
Today's agreement is the result of a negociation process announced by Québec to enable Resolute Forest Products to recover its suspended FSC certificates in Lac Saint-Jean. Former Premier Lucien Bouchard mediated the negociations under a 500 000$ contract with Québec. According to Mr. Nadeau :
« Mr. Bouchard's mandate clearly illustrates the economic importance of FSC certified forests. The standard has become so essential that the Québec government prefered to make this expense rather than allow FSC certificates to disappear ».
Mr. Nadeau concludes :
« FSC certification is not only in the government's purview. Resolute has an important role to play, and it must immediately commit to recovering its suspended FSC certificates and improve its practices to allow for the recovery of caribou ».
For any information or interview:
CPAWS Quebec Communications Manager