Quebec to hold public hearings in September, October on protection of biodiversity under Plan Nord

MONTREAL , September 12, 2011 (press release) – Today Quebec's Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks announced public hearings, to be held during September and October, on its commitment to protect biodiversity as part of the Plan Nord. The Plan Nord aims to integrate economic development and biodiversity conservation in northern Quebec.

The Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) strongly encourages all those concerned with the future of Quebec and its northern communities to participate in these consultations that begin September 13 on the Côte-Nord, continuing in Abitibi, Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean, and James Bay.

"Although one can be sceptical and disagree with certain parts of the Plan Nord, these consultations offer us an opportunity to develop a model that would meet the requirements of northern communities, while responding to the socio-economic and environmental needs of more than two thirds of the province," said Suzann Méthot, CBI's Quebec Regional Director.

Unlike the approach taken to northern development in past decades, the Plan Nord offers a balance between conservation and sustainable development. With this in mind, the Plan Nord proposes protecting half of the territory, while actively supporting sustainable mining, forestry, and hydroelectric projects that use best practices. The approach proposed by the Ministry in its consultation paper suggests initiating a process of ecological planning, which integrates both conservation and development, for the entire territory. This is unprecendented on such a large scale.

"For this plan to succeed in a way that benefits northern residents, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike, as well as Quebec society as a whole, it is crucial that as many people as possible get involved, in an open-minded and generous way, and collectively decide on the best ways to develop the North's natural resources, while preserving its natural heritage," said Ms. Méthot.

"For our part, CBI asks that the Ministry clarify the status of land set aside to protect biodiversity, to ensure that it meets the commitment to shield the areas from industrial activity, and recommends that areas already known to be of special ecological interest be protected immediately," said Ms. Méthot. "CBI also recommends that the government commit without delay to a strategy for the participation of Aboriginal communities that are not yet engaged in the Plan Nord."

For a full list of hearing dates and locations, please see www.protegerlenord.mddep.gouv.qc.ca.

About the Canadian Boreal Initiative

The Canadian Boreal Initiative brings together diverse partners to create new solutions for boreal conservation and sustainable development. It acts as a catalyst for on-the-ground efforts across the Boreal Forest region by governments, industry, Aboriginal communities, conservation groups, major retailers, financial institutions and scientists.

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