Protected areas: more than 175,000* citizens agree that the government “is sleeping like a log!”


Quebec, April 12, 2006 – Two months after launching the “sleeping like a log!” outreach campaign, with actress Sophie Cadieux as the spokesperson, the groups partnering in the Aux arbres citoyens! Initiative - the Réseau québécois des groupes écologistes (RQGE), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Nature Québec / UQCN and World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada) – are today submitting to the Quebec National Assembly the petition to protect the Boreal Forest bearing 171,522 signatures, a hitherto unequalled statement of citizen environmental concern. This petition will be deposited concurrently with the release of the first evaluation report of the Quebec Protected Areas Strategy (QPAS) implementation, prepared by the four groups, which highlights the government’s poor performance regarding nature conservation on public land. The petition being submitted today to the National Assembly bears the force of 171,522** citizen signatories who have declared themselves in favor of the creation of large protected areas in the Boreal Forest in Quebec. The initial objective of 10,000 signatures was reached in less than 24 hours. Figures show that 96% of the signatories are Quebecers wishing to protect their natural heritage and wanting the government to act concretely on protected area creation. "I am happy to note that citizens have mobilized in such large numbers to wake up the government," declared Sophie Cadieux, spokesperson for the campaign. "This shows that protecting the Boreal Forest is a heartfelt concern for Quebecers. Now it's our leaders' turn to show that they've gotten the message and that they will respect their international commitments involving biodiversity conservation by protecting Pascagama and Vallée des Montagnes Blanches." Reinforcing today's submission of the petition, RQGE, CPAWS, Nature Québec/UQCN and WWF-Canada are circulating their first evaluation report on the implementation of the QPAS Action Plan and present recommendations to speed up protected areas establishment. This document clearly demonstrates the government's pattern of delay with the protected areas file. In fact, only 54% of the actions planned by the government in 2002 have so far been implemented. At the current pace, it is clear that it will be impossible for the government to meet its commitments, even with the newly set timetable. Since the current government came to power, only 9,000 square kilometers of protected areas have been announced, amounting to only 0.5% of the territory protected in Quebec. Quebec is clearly lagging behind when it comes to dealing with protected areas: barely 3.4% of its territory is really protected from industrial activities. Nevertheless, conservation of biodiversity is an integral part of the governmental priority: promoting sustainable development. However, the recently announced 2006-2007 budget indicates creation of only 6,000 supplementary square kilometers of protected areas, an increase of barely 0.36%. The groups behind the Aux arbres citoyens ! Initiative, supported by numerous organizations and citizens, have proposed two priority conservation sites to the government, namely, "Pascagama" and "Vallée des Montagnes Blanches". These two large intact areas, if protected, would expand the network of currently protected areas by 1%. Such protection will demonstrate that conservation of the natural heritage is a priority for the government. * As of today on the Website www.ondortcommeunebuche.com ** As of March 29th, 2006 - 30 - Complementary information and material available: • Access the campaign's Website at www.ondortcommeunebuche.com • The evaluation report on the implementation of the QPAS Action Plan is available online at www.auxarbrescitoyens.com • Citizens are invited to send an urgent message to their member of the legislature through the site www.ondortcommeunebuche.com • More than 50 provincial, national and international organizations, as well as individuals, support this campaign. The complete list of supporters may be viewed through the campaign's press release on www.auxarbrescitoyens.com For Information and Interviews: Stéphanie Jagou, Communications Manager Téléphone: (514) 866-7800, Extension 25 Cell: (514) 208-3911 Interviews may be arranged with: Sophie Cadieux, Actress, Spokesperson for the “Sleeping Like a Log !” Campaign Mélanie Desrochers, Coordinator, Aux arbres citoyens! Initiative Henri Jacob, Forest Manager, RQGE Jean-François Gagnon, Executive Director, CPAWS Jean-Éric Turcotte, General Director, Nature Québec / UQCN Sébastien Cloutier, Manager, Boreal Forest Campaign, WWF-Canada