Woodland caribou: Quebec harshly criticized in front of world experts

Woodland caribou: Quebec harshly criticized in front of world experts

Forestland caribou: Quebec harshly criticized in front of world experts

A group of woodland caribou.

Quebec's choices regarding the protection of woodland caribou and their habitat were strongly criticized in front of an audience of world deer experts last week at a conference held in Alaska. Researcher Martin-Hugues St-Laurent presented a new study showing that the province's political decisions have led to the loss of several herds on Quebec soil.

Professor d&# x27;animal ecology at the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR) took advantage of its time in Anchorage to unveil no less than seven new studies on caribou, done personally or in a team.

One of them, which will be officially submitted for review during the summer, essentially recalls the last decades of political decisions against caribou in the Belle Province.

We wasted our time and wasted our money, comments the caribou expert in an interview with Radio-Canada. While the left hand was trying to install lots of measures to help the caribou, the right hand was quite continuously altering the habitat.

Martin-Hugues St-Laurent traveled to Anchorage last week to unveil new studies in the North American Caribou Workshop & Arctic Ungulate Conference. (File photo)

In front of First Nations representatives from across Canada as well as researchers from a dozen countries, Mr. St-Laurent summarized the fate of the four most fragile caribou herds in Quebec, namely those of Charlevoix, of Val-d'Or, Gaspésie and the region of the Pipmuacan reservoir, in the MRC du Fjord-du-Saguenay.

According to him, the latter have been particularly set aside over time. The first three are subject to extreme conservation measures, such as enclosure (total or partial) and intensive culling of predators.

The researcher, known for his critical positions towards politicians, presented the various protective measures put in place to protect the herds in the province over the past fifty years.

Among them, Quebec has closed forest roads, set up recovery committees, developed habitat restoration strategies, intensified the harvesting of bears, wolves or coyotes, protected certain forest areas industrial harvesting and more recently put caribou in captivity to help herd reproduction.

The Val-d'Or (image) and Charlevoix herds are currently confined to enclosures protecting them from predators. (File photo)

I base on that the proportion of logging in the habitat, continues Mr. St-Laurent. What this shows is that we see that the evolution of the numbers of individuals in the four herds left out has decreased. And so, despite significant investments and the measures deployed, part of the results have been canceled out by the continued disturbance of mature forests, essential habitat for woodland caribou.

“Politicians put off tough decisions, and in the meantime you lose all the room you need. »

—Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, professor, University of Quebec at Rimouski

The expert finally attacked the various strategies of governments aimed at postponing more muscular actions to help the species. There have been all kinds of requests for new studies that have slowed the tempo, he laments, citing as an example two recent cases under the Coalition avenir Québec government.

Former Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Pierre Dufour (File photo)

The former Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Pierre Dufour, had commissioned a meta-analysis on woodland caribou, claiming that data on the animal were not yet sufficient to make informed decisions. The other key decision of Mr. Dufour was to set up an independent commission on woodland and mountain caribou.

In its report, the latter essentially lining up behind scientists like Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, urging Quebec to act to save the herds.

Most of the arguments presented by Martin-Hugues St-Laurent have been repeatedly raised in recent years by different university researchers, biologists and other conservation organizations.

Within the Quebec government itself, biologists paid by the State have produced documents testifying to the disturbances of the woodland caribou habitat by the government; human activity.

Experts from the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks were also in the room at the time of Mr. St-Laurent's presentation last Thursday. I've spoken to colleagues [in the ministry] about it. It's not under their responsibility that it happens, it happens many floors above them. The biologists are doing an excellent job, takes care to specify Mr. St-Laurent.

The latter especially wanted to highlight the abandonment of caribou by political decision-makers, people in positions of power.

Benoît Charette inherited the caribou file, as Minister of the Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks. (File photo)

By producing this study and unveiling the main lines in front of an audience of foreign experts, Mr. St-Laurent wanted to bring the situation to the attention of the international community. Quebec is jealous of its international reputation, he says. It may also put pressure on the government to do better.

The expert recalls that Quebec is currently negotiating with the First Nations, in particular, as well as the federal government, concerning the protection of species, including the woodland caribou. Ottawa, through Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, has already threatened to intervene by order in Quebec if the province does not do enough to protect caribou.

The Legault government is committed to unveiling its new woodland caribou habitat protection strategy no later than next June. Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette carries the case.

Behind the scenes, First Nations have already indicated that they have not been sufficiently consulted by Quebec. Martin-Hugues St-Laurent agrees in the case of scientists. We were so little involved along the way. I'm not expecting much revolutionary.