Québec creates its largest park

Montréal, December 14, 2012. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) warmly welcomes the creation of Tursujuq park, announced today by Yves-François Blanchet, the Environment Minister (MDDEFP), with is Parliamentary Assistant, M. Scott McKay, the Chairperson of Kativik Regional Government, Mme Maggie Emudluk, and M. Michael Gordon, VP Economic Development for Makivik Corporation.

Globally significant conservation
At 26 000 km2, more than four times the size of Prince Edward Island, Tursujuq is now the largest park under provincial jurisdiction in Canada – and among the largest protected areas in the world. Located on the eastern coast of Hudson Bay in Nunavik , near the Inuit village of Umiujaq, the park will permanently protect many exceptionnal ecological and cultural features. Of particular note is a very large portion of the Nastapoka River watershed, a culturally significant traditionnal place of gathering for aboriginal families. The river hosts the world's only population of landlocked freshwater harbour seals, the only salmon population on the eastern side of Hudson Bay, and at its mouth, an important sanctuary for endangered beluga whales. According to Patrick Nadeau, Executive Director of CPAWS Québec : « Few opportunities remain for such large-landscape conservation efforts. For us, today's announcement is globally significant ».

Years of efforts pay off
Creating a park of this magnitude is not easily achieved. Among other challenges, Hydro-Québec went on the record during public consultations to oppose the protection of the Nastapoka River, fearing the « loss » of a river that could otherwise have produced hydro-electric power. According to Mr. Nadeau : « The final park boundaries are the result of years of efforts by local Inuit communities, the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) and the Cree. It is an example of conservation done right – KRG did its homework, and local populations were consulted extensively ».

A step in the right direction for Québec
The creation of Tursujuq park is a positive step in moving Québec towards its protected area targets for the North (above the 49th parallel) : 20 % by 2020, and ultimately 50 % by 2035. However, the province is still playing catch-up on many fronts, including its southern ecosystems and the commercial boreal forest, where barely 5 % is protected. As for marine conservation, it stands at a dismal 1 %. Mr. Nadeau concludes : « We are cautiously optimistic that this announcement means that the government is taking the protected areas file seriously. Today we saw tremendous progress in the north, tomorrow we will need to ensure that no ecosystems in Québec are left behind ».

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CPAWS Québec participated in public hearings in Umiujaq and Kuujjuaraapik to support the creation of Tursujuq Park, as well as consultations by DFO on the unique Nastapoka freshwater seals. CPAWS also initiated a campaign whereby over 1,000 Quebecers wrote to former Premier Charest to ask for the protection of the Nastapoka watershed.

Information, interviews and photos of the park:
Marie-Ève Allaire-Hébert
Community Coordinator — CPAWS Québec
514 278-7627 # 221


Photos above : Robert Fréchette, ARK.