The government has its head in the sand when it comes to woodland caribou

Montréal, February 24, 2014 – CPAWS Québec is outraged that the Minister of Natural Resources, Martine Ouellet, has announced plans to launch new studies on woodland caribou, which will delay the implementation of the Recovery Strategy for this species. The Minister's statement was published in Le Quotidien on February 22.

"It goes without saying that we must continue to acquire knowledge to help us better protect wildlife,” assures Patrick Nadeau, Executive Director of CPAWS Québec. “But when it comes to caribou, we have more than enough knowledge to take action." A recovery plan for Quebec's woodland caribou was already drawn up in 2013 by a team of experts. This plan is based on over 300 independent studies!

In Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean in particular, experts from the caribou recovery team of the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs (MDDEFP) and from the Conférence régionale des élus (CRÉ) of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean have all worked to identify important areas for the protection of caribou in the region. Therefore, these areas are known, and protecting them is a priority measure of the species' recovery.

A perversion of the precautionary principle

In calling for further studies, the government is proposing a reverse "precautionary principle": on one hand, it suspends protection measures while further studies are conducted; on the other hand, industrial activities continue in crucial areas.

"The day these studies are completed, it will simply be too late for caribou habitat in many areas,” declares Mr. Nadeau. “The government is well aware of this reality. Does it want to study the caribou to death?"

Furthermore, CPAWS Québec is surprised by the silence of Minister Blanchet (MDDEFP), whose portfolio includes wildlife.

FSC certificates in jeopardy

The minister's decision could also have economic consequences, according to CPAWS Québec, due to the loss of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications. In fact, the certificates of the two largest management units in Lac-Saint-Jean were suspended last month, precisely because of the lack of protected areas and effective protection measures for woodland caribou.

"If we find ourselves with a forest in which there is no progress with respect to protected areas, in a situation where the caribou recovery plan is put on the back burner, we will have no choice but to inform the auditors of our opposition to certification," warns Mr. Nadeau.

A necessary correction

In a debate in which the issue is confused by numerous incomplete or inaccurate statements, it is high time to re-establish dialogue and set the record straight.

"We welcomed the proposal of MNA Denis Trottier to bring the various stakeholders back to the table, as well as his cautious reading of the many inaccurate statements about caribou,” says Mr. Nadeau. “We must move forward with a dialogue – and soon – because current forest management plans already provide for logging to occur in areas that are critical for caribou. On this issue, there is no more room for procrastination."


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Interview requests:
Murielle Renard, Communications Manager – CPAWS Québec
514.278.7627 ext. 221