Caribou: Guilbeault will recommend intervention in Quebec

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Caribou: Guilbeault will recommend an intervention in Quebec

Ontario is also targeted by a possible intervention by the federal government.

The woodland caribou is not sufficiently protected in Quebec, concludes the federal government. (File photo)

“Almost all” of the critical habitat of the woodland caribou on the territory of Quebec “is not effectively protected”, decides the federal Minister of the Environment, Steven Guilbeault. The latter will therefore recommend to the cabinet of ministers of Justin Trudeau's government to intervene.

Mr. Guilbeault had left hanging since last year the possibility of an intervention by Ottawa in Quebec if he was not convinced that the measures to protect the habitat woodland caribou were sufficient to ensure the survival of the species.

After consultations with the First Nations and after having requested data from the government of François Legault, Minister Guilbeault is of the opinion that the maintenance of the Quebec herds is unlikely in the current conditions.

This finding, the result of several months of analysis conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada, forces the Minister to act.

I am required to recommend to the Governor in Council the issuance of a protection order for unprotected portions of boreal caribou critical habitat, he wrote in a letter delivered last Friday to First Nations, including Radio -Canada got copy. A similar version was also sent to the Quebec Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette.

Minister Steven Guilbeault has an obligation to recommend an intervention in Quebec, under the Species at Risk Act in Canada. (Archival photo)

As the woodland caribou is protected by the Species at Risk Act in Canada, Steven Guilbeault is indeed obliged to initiate the mechanisms required by the legislation.

Last year, the potential area for an intervention by Ottawa was estimated at 35,000 square kilometers in the critical habitat of woodland caribou in Quebec. The decree envisaged by the federal government could last up to five years. It would deprive the forest industry of certain cutting territories. Compensation could be paid to compensate the affected communities.

The intervention would only target, for the time being, woodland caribou north of the St. Lawrence River. The isolated Gaspésie population of mountain caribou, a distinct ecotype, is not abandoned, however, Guilbeault's office says. On the verge of extinction, this population of around 30 caribou could be subject to other mechanisms embedded in federal law.

Quebec did not particularly appreciate Steven Guilbeault's missive. His provincial counterpart, Benoit Charette, felt that the agreement reached last August with Ottawa would allow him to avoid federal intervention.

The federal government's approach to this file is hard to follow. However, we agreed last summer on the actions to be taken and Steven Guilbault knows very well that we intend to arrive at a strategy by the summer, reacted the cabinet of Mr. Charette in writing.

Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette (File photo)

In the agreement, Mr. Charette undertook to take additional measures and adopt a protection strategy by June 2023. Quebec aimed in particular to maintain a rate of habitat disturbance essential to a maximum of 35%. To do this, we must consult the regions involved, including the Aboriginal communities, says the minister.

Like Premier François Legault last year, Benoit Charette insists in his missive that caribou are a matter for Quebec and opposes any federal intervention on its territory. We have not changed our position: the protection and recovery of woodland and mountain caribou is a jurisdiction and a responsibility of the Government of Quebec, he insists.

Nevertheless, it reiterates its commitment to work in collaboration with the federal government. However, the importance of forestry in the regions cannot be overlooked, hence the need to get it right with stakeholders.

Steven Guilbeault, in his letter to Quebec, also undertakes to maintain these negotiations despite his position. My opinion in no way affects the discussions that are currently taking place with a view to arriving at a lasting solution for the caribou, he specifies.

According to Alain Branchaud, biologist and director general of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Quebec section, the federal government is taking another step towards intervention in Quebec. According to him, the Minister's position confirms what biologists have been deploring for years.

We are truly at a turning point in the history of caribou protection in the boreal forest. After this step, which has now been taken, it will be difficult to go back, reacts the man who has been campaigning since last year for an intervention by decree to protect essential habitat.

Alain Branchaud, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Quebec section

Mr. Branchaud is of the opinion that Quebec can still avoid this intervention by negotiating with the federal government. He recalls that Quebec has undertaken to present its forest and mountain caribou habitat protection strategy in June 2023, precisely following pressure from Mr. Guilbeault's cabinet. We're better off doing this together than in confrontation, he says today.

In addition to environmental groups, First Nations have also lobbied for action, both federally and provincially.

The Species at Risk Act in Canada calls for cooperation between the federal government and the provinces. In the case of the woodland caribou, a terrestrial mammal, it is up to the provinces and territories to take the necessary measures to protect the habitat.

But federal law provides for complementarity.

If Ottawa deems the work of the provinces ineffective, the text dictates mechanisms to fill the gaps. This is how Mr. Guilbeault, by obligation incumbent on the holder of Environment Canada, contacted the former Quebec minister Pierre Dufour last year.

The woodland caribou is at risk in several provinces of Canada .

Going through the steps one by one, the Minister is now ready to make his recommendation to the Council of Ministers. If this recommendation by Steven Guilbeault is endorsed by the Trudeau government, the writing of a critical habitat protection decree will then be initiated.

It is& #x27;would act as a first resort to the Critical Habitat Protection Order provided by law. This allows for a federal takeover of the territory to be protected for a period of up to five years.

The Critical Habitat Protection Order is not to be confused with the emergency decree, already used to protect the chorus frog.

Quebec is home to 13 woodland caribou herds, whose total population is in decline. There would remain as few as 5252 individuals on the territory currently. The causes of the decline are mainly linked to the disturbance of its habitat, in particular by the forestry industry.

With the collaboration of Carine Monat< /p>

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