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THE BAPE RELEASES ITS REPORT

Québec, July 16th 2008 – At the request of the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, Ms. Line Beauchamp, the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) today released its report on the investigation and public hearing to examine the Proposed biodiversity reserves for the massif of lakes Belmont and Magpie, the knolls of Lac aux Sauterelles, the foothills of Lac Guernesé, and the Collines de Brador. The BAPE was given a mandate to conduct an investigation and public hearing beginning on September 26, 2006, and the work was carried out by a commission chaired by Pierre Béland.

After completing its analysis of the issues, the Commission considers that the Québec government should act swiftly to grant permanent protection status to two proposed biodiversity reserves, for the buttes of Lac aux Sauterelles and for the massif of lakes Belmont and Magpie. However, for the latter reserve, the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs should re-examine the proposed boundary on the western shore of Lac Magpie to ensure the integrity of its landscapes and ecology. The Commission also suggests that the stretch of Rivière Magpie to the south of the proposed biodiversity reserve should be exempted from future hydroelectric development. To achieve this, this stretch of the river should be granted protection status to fully preserve its wilderness aspect and internationally-recognized recreation and tourism potential. Last, to allow for the construction of a power transmission line, the Commission suggests that the boundaries of this proposed biodiversity reserve should be revised after the environmental impact assessment process for the La Romaine hydroelectric project has identified the route with the least impact on the reserve, along with appropriate mitigation and compensation measures.

During the public hearing, the Commission noted that the proposed biodiversity reserves for the Collines de Brador and for the foothills of Lac Guernesé were contested by participants living in the vicinity. Their opposition was partly based on the fact that the projects, two of the earliest proposals for setting land aside in Québec, were selected and delimited without any input from local communities. The Commission considers that before granting permanent protection status, two demands from the local communities should be met. First, the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs should examine the need to protect the sector in the foothills of Lac Guernesé currently used for vacation purposes to the southeast of Rivière Bujeault, where several cottages already exist. Second, the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, a partner in the protected areas program, should disclose and explain the reasons behind its decision to prohibit industrial natural resource harvesting activities in these areas. The Commission considers that the population would then be in a better position to accept the validity of the decision to set the areas aside for protection.

The Commission would like to highlight the sustained participation in the public hearings of the Innu communities of Ekuanitshit and Pakua Shipu, reflecting their interest in the land they occupy. The Commission notes that, although the proposed protection status would not prevent them from continuing to pursue their traditional activities, the two communities nevertheless oppose a process that has resulted in the selection of lands in respect of which their claims to ancestral rights are currently being negotiated with the Québec and Canadian governments.

Last, the Commission reiterates the importance of setting land aside to preserve viable and representative samples of biodiversity throughout Québec for posterity. The goal of protecting 8% of all land in Québec is significantly behind schedule. If it is to be achieved, there will have to be much greater collaboration between the various administrative authorities and the population as a whole. The Commission firmly believes that the Québec government should demonstrate its commitment to the network of protected areas by allocating the necessary resources, and by stating without delay how each protected area will be financed and managed. Since the concept of biodiversity reserve is relatively new, the Commission considers that the public should be informed quickly of the mechanisms planned for their financing and management.

Availability of report

The report on the investigation and public hearing, Proposed biodiversity reserves for the massif of lakes Belmont and Magpie, the knolls of Lac aux Sauterelles, the foothills of Lac Guernesé, and the Collines de Brador in the natural province of the Lower North Shore Plateau, is now available. It can be consulted in BAPE documentation centres, in the consultation centres opened in the communities concerned, and on the BAPE website at www.bape.gouv.qc.ca. Copies may also be obtained from the BAPE by sending a request by E-mail to communication@bape.gouv.qc.ca, or by calling 418 643-7447 or, toll-free, 1 800 463-4732.

During the first part of the public hearing, the Commission held four public sessions in the municipalities of Rivière-Saint-Jean, Blanc-Sablon and Saint-Augustin and the Innu community of Pakua Shipu. During the second part of the hearing, the Commission received 25 briefs and 6 verbal presentations from individuals, groups, organizations and municipalities with an interest in the project.

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Source:   Louise Bourdages
              Communications advisor
              418 643-7447 or 1 800 463-4732
             louise.bourdages@bape.gouv.qc.ca




 
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