A Variety of Protected Areas

Vast, Entirely Protected Tracts

Québec has created a network of large protected areas, exempt from industrial activity, within the managed forest. The purpose of this constantly evolving network is to maintain representative samples of biodiversity from Québec’s ecosystems, and to provide reference territories in which natural processes can be observed and used as inspiration for areas under management. In Québec as a whole, 9.16% of the territory, or 153,000 km2, is currently protected. This area is equivalent in size to half of Italy. In 2007: 4.79% of Québec was protected, meaning that the area under protection has doubled in seven years. The goal for 2015 is to increase the level of protection to 12% of the territory, or an area of 200,000 km2. In the boreal forest, 9.0%, or 49,500 km2 (an area twice the size of California and half the size of Hungary) is protected. Québec’s network of protected areas meets the international norms and standards of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). It is also representative of Québec’s biodiversity.
In 2015, the percentage of land under protection is expected to reach 12%, or 200,000 km2.

To Capture Unique Elements of Biodiversity

Small areas within the management units are also exempt from forestry work. The main purpose of these small protected areas is to protect unique features of biodiversity. For wildlife, they also serve as interconnections with the large protected areas, and therefore play a role that complements the network of large areas. There are:
  • 2,400 “biological refuges” to protect old-growth forests: the aim is to add a further 1,300;
  • and nearly 220 “exceptional forest ecosystems”, or old-growth forests containing dominant trees that are more than 300 years old, rare ecosystems and forests that provide the shelter required for the survival of certain threatened or vulnerable species.

A Large Part of the Boreal Forest is Exempt from Logging

In addition to creating its network of protected areas, Québec has decided to prohibit industrial logging in the northern fringe of the continuous boreal forest. An east-west boundary has been drawn between the 49th and 51st degrees of latitude to separate the areas in which sustainable commercial logging is permitted from those in which the risk would be too great. As a result of this northern management limit, forestry activities are prohibited in 43% of the continuous boreal forest, over an area of 240,000 km2 that accounts for 30% of the total forest. The limit was established scientifically following an extensive knowledge acquisition process. Roughly 875 ecodendrometric inventory plots were created in an area where access is difficult.

The Woodland Caribou: An Emblematic Boreal Forest Species

Woodland caribou populations in both Québec and Canada have declined to such an extent that the species was given vulnerable status in Québec in 2005, and threatened status in Canada in 2000. An initial restoration plan was prepared and implemented in the affected regions following these designations, and a second plan is currently being prepared, based on the most recent scientific knowledge of the species. The woodland caribou occupies a large part of Québec’s boreal forest. The northern limit for forest allocations now prohibits forest management activities over roughly 75% of its range, part of which provides a habitat suitable for the species. As for the remainder of the woodland caribou’s habitat, located in the commercial forest, roughly 20% lies within protected areas where logging is prohibited, or in large forest tracts temporarily exempt from forestry work as a result of undertakings made in the integrated forest management plans. In the managed forest, stringent measures are applicable to certain sectors used by the caribou, to mitigate the impacts of human activity. Québec is currently exploring some potential solutions that may minimize the impacts of human activity on caribou habitats. Population and habitat monitoring is used to gather information about the woodland caribou.