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Quebec plans to set aside Mount Kaaikop territory as wildlife reserve

Male moose at the Falardeau Zoo and refuge, Friday, April 7, 2023 in Saint-David-de-Falardeau Que. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press) Male moose at the Falardeau Zoo and refuge, Friday, April 7, 2023 in Saint-David-de-Falardeau Que. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Quebec plans to turn the Mount Kaaikop territory into a reserve after a group of residents spent a decade in relentless pursuit of protecting the territory at the junction of the Laurentians and Lanaudière regions.

The government's announcement on Wednesday is the culmination of years of struggle to protect Mount Kaaikop for Claude Samson, president of the Mount Kaaikop Conservation Coalition.

"We're entering our 12th year of activism to preserve this territory," Samson told The Canadian Press.

In 2014, his citizens' group won its case in Superior Court when a judge ordered the Ministry of Natural Resources to suspend its logging authorization.

Since that ruling, the coalition says it has invested over $85,000, mostly in studies, to document the ecological value of the area, with a view to eventually turning it into a conservation project.

Mount Kaaikop is the second highest peak in the Laurentians, after Mont Tremblant, and "its territory represents 40.5 km2 of old-growth and ancient natural forests," explained Samson.

"Mount Kaaikop ensures the connectivity of several conservation areas and natural wildlife and plant corridors."

Among the wildlife that inhabits it are some of Quebec's emblematic mammals, such as moose, black bear, grey wolf and even wolverine.

"Today, our thoughts turn to our dear silent inhabitants of Mount Kaaikop, this varied fauna for whom areas of territory will be dedicated, so that they can take refuge, feed, reproduce and circulate freely," said Samson.

A commitment to protect 30 per cent of the area

Environment Minister Benoit Charette explained in an interview with The Canadian Press that Mount Kaaikop is "an area that is very popular with hikers and nature lovers."

He added that "by developing access to nature, we develop a sense of urgency to protect biodiversity."

At the Conference of the Parties (COP15) on biodiversity in Montreal in 2022, the government announced a $650 million investment to protect 30% of its territory by 2030.

The network of protected areas currently covers around 17% of Quebec.

"Our government is firmly committed to achieving the global conservation target of 30 per cent of our territory by 2030, in particular by enhancing Quebec's network of protected areas through initiatives such as these," added Charette.

A conservation plan

The government has not yet determined the precise limits of the territory to be protected in the Mount Kaaikop area.

"But what's important is that the land is frozen. There will be no logging or mining," said Samson.

The next step, he explained, is to "develop a plan for the preservation and enhancement of the ecosystems" of Mount Kaaikop.

"The government calls it a conservation plan, but we didn't campaign for 12 years for humans to totally invade the territory," he stressed.

His coalition would like to see "allocation zones set aside for human use and recreational tourism," as well as zones reserved "for wildlife and university research."

Various academic research projects, notably on the importance of old-growth forests for underground biodiversity and soil carbon sequestration, have taken place on Mount Kaaikop in recent years.

Eventually, said Samson, "we aim to establish a research centre or research chair on old-growth forests" at Mount Kaaikop.

In 2019, a study by the Natural Sciences Department of the Université du Québec en Outaouais and the Biological Sciences Department of the Université du Québec à Montréal concluded that "halting logging in the study area would normally have little economic impact on the forest industry and would most likely significantly increase the value of ecosystem services related to recreation and tourism, biodiversity habitats, aesthetic value and Aboriginal cultural services on the public land surrounding Mount Kaaikop."

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 6, 2024. Top Stories

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