No emergency decree in sight for Gaspésie caribou

The possibility that the federal government will impose an emergency decree to protect three herds of woodland caribou in the province, but not that of Gaspésie, raises questions and disappointment in the region.

Dissatisfied with the measures put in place by Quebec, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, announced Monday that he will recommend to his government to act to protect the populations of Pipmuacan, Val-d’Or and Charlevoix, without however including the Chic-Chocs herd.

However, the Gaspé herd has fewer than 24 individuals, 13 of which have been enclosed. In comparison, the Pipmuacan herd, north of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, numbered some 225 individuals in 2020.

This is certainly not because the situation of the Gaspésie caribou is not alarming and urgent.underlines the director of conservation at the Society for Nature and Parks (SNAP) Quebec, Pier-Olivier Boudreault.

The latter also specifies that the Gaspésie caribou is considered endangered by the federal government, a more serious status than that of the forest caribou.

SNAP Quebec puts forward some hypotheses to explain the exclusion of the Gaspé herd from possible federal intervention.

What we think is that the origin of this request comes from First Nationsbelieves Mr. Boudreault. There are First Nations who asked the federal government to intervene, and then probably there was no such request, from the First Nations on the Gaspé side.

The representative of SNAP Quebec also emphasizes that the Gaspésie caribou is part of the mountain ecotype, while the Pipmuacan, Val-d’Or and Charlevoix herds are of the forest ecotype.

At the legal level, this could explain why we have no federal intervention which is planned for the Gaspésie caribou as we speak.says Pier-Olivier Boudreault.

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No less than 13 caribou out of the twenty that were recorded in 2023 were put in enclosures during the winter. (Archive photo)

Photo: iStock / gotrain

By email, the attaché to the federal Minister of the Environment confirms that the federal analysis has so far been limited to woodland caribou, also called boreal caribou by federal institutions.

The analysis initiated by our experts on the imminent threat and the opinion formed by the minister were on boreal and not mountain caribou.writes Kaitlin Power. We are also concerned about the precarious situation of the Gaspé caribou and will continue to work to ensure their recovery.

Nevertheless, SNAP Quebec believes that Ottawa, which has the responsibility to protect endangered species under the law, would have the legitimacy to intervene in Gaspésie.

It is certain that Quebec has proposed a partial strategy that includes the Gaspésie caribou. Perhaps the federal government is waiting to see the result, but we do not have a deadline for the application of protective measuresunderlines Mr. Boudreault. So that leaves room for maneuver for the federal government to intervene.

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The Gaspésie caribou is the last herd south of the St. Lawrence. (Archive photo)

Photo: SEPAQ/Denis Desjardins

Regional reactions

The spokesperson for the Chic-Chocs Mountains Protection Committee, Louis Fradette, is disappointed that the federal government does not intend, for the moment, to impose an emergency decree to protect the caribou of Gaspésie.

Mr. Fradette maintains that the strategy unveiled by Quebec in April is clearly insufficient.

The federal government should revise its position so that it intervenes in Gaspésie, because currently, the provincial is only finding reasons to postpone the protection of the caribou. Quebec is still in consultation, after years and yearsdeplores Louis Fradette.

The strategy to protect Quebec’s caribou is so vague and lacking in teeth that it’s not worth talking about.

A quote from Louis Fradette, spokesperson for the Chic-Chocs Mountains Protection Committee

Mr. Fradette is concerned about the increasingly alarming situation for the Gaspésie caribou and calls on Quebec and Ottawa to work together to ensure its survival. The committee cannot believe that we are going to witness the disappearance of the Gaspésie caribou when we have all the means to change things.he says.

A man is seated at a table and several cards are laid out in front of him. This is Louis Fradette.

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Louis Fradette, spokesperson for the Chic-Chocs Mountains Protection Committee, is disappointed that the Gaspé caribou herd is not part of the federal minister’s intervention plan. (Archive photo)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Adrianne Gauvin-Sasseville

For his part, the spokesperson for Environnement Vert Plus, Pascal Bergeron, is divided on the effects that a federal emergency decree could have in Gaspésie.

The measures announced by the provincial which affect natural resources, forestry and mining are not severe enough, so on this side, the federal government should have gotten involved.he believes.

Pascal Bergeron, in interview with Radio-Canada.

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Environnement Vert Plus spokesperson Pascal Bergeron believes that Quebec should have put an end to mining exploration in caribou habitat. (Archive photo)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

Pascal Bergeron, however, fears that a federal decree could harm the recreational tourism industry, already worried about the effects of the caribou protection plan on access to the territory.

For the use of the territory for the needs of the recreational tourism industry, the federal government could have frozen and tightened measures, which is not desirable over time.underlines Pascal Bergeron.

Quebec recently extended the consultation period on the pilot projects to protect the Gaspésie and Charlevoix herd unveiled in April, pushing back the deadline from July 30 to October 31.

The Chic-Chocs Mountains Protection Committee and SNAP Quebec is sorry for this new delay.

We always ask for postponements, but the caribou can’t wait any longerbelieves Pier-Olivier Boudreault. With the population declines that we have observed in recent years, it is not postponements that are necessary, but rather an acceleration of the pace.

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