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Clandestine talks are taking place between the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) and the forest industry to try to avoid the reduction in the volume of harvestable timber in the Côte-North announced by the Forester-in-Chief of Quebec, especially in the Area frequented by the Pipmuaca caribou herd, we learned.
The “calculation of allowable cuts” for the period 2023-2028, announced in February, forecasts a 7% decrease in the maximum annual harvestable amount of timber, a decrease mainly caused by the spruce bud epidemic (TBE), an insect pest explained then the head forester.
However, several avenues are being explored by the MFFP and industry to avoid this decline, such as postponing regeneration of old-growth forests or harvesting of smaller trees, a document sent to shows The press from a source familiar with these conversations, which the head forester “saw”.
Justified Proposals to improve the regional development strategythe document contains the list of “Elements sensitive to the allowed cut”, the proposed changes, their impact on the calculation of the allowed cut and the “Comments of the beneficiaries”, that is, the forest companies, for each of the administrative units of the region.
These discussions are taking place without the knowledge of the regional actors normally involved in forest planning, regrets one person who holds a position as forest engineer at the Department of Forests, Wildlife and Parks and whose names we are withholding to avoid reprisals.
“The only people who know are the industry representatives, a few people in the department and the head forester’s office,” she says.
The members of the Integrated Resource and Territory Management Table (“GIRT Table”, in forest jargon), which “must ensure that the interests and concerns of individuals and organizations affected by management activities are taken into account. Forestry on public land” were not consulted (see other text).
They will probably be presented with a fait accompli.
Person holding a position as a forest engineer with the MFFP
The document, which shows ways to mitigate forest decline, was drawn up by an “internal committee” of the MFFP, which was set up by the head forester after the calculation had been submitted The press a second person taking a position as a forest engineer at the MFFP.
It was “transmitted to Deputy Ministers for decision-making,” she explains, noting that these discussions are usually held “before” the calculation of the allowable cuts. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a process like this,” she says.
In the caribou habitat
The proposed changes would particularly impact Management Unit 097-51, home to the critically endangered Pipmuacan forest caribou herd.
According to calculations by the head forester, the reduction in the permitted cuts for the period 2023-2028 is 21% for the “fir, spruce, pine and larch” category, which accounts for the bulk of the industry’s harvest.
To avoid this decline, one of our sources warns that the last large intact forest massifs in this sector, which constitute the main caribou habitat, would inevitably have to be cleared.
“If there isn’t a drop, we’ll safely leave the caribou behind,” she says. It is unsustainable to continue logging while we protect caribou. »
However, the MFFP would be “more sensitive to the concerns of the forest industry than to all others combined, environmental, social, indigenous,” notes this source.
We are told that the industry lobby is strong and we must swallow our saliva.
Person holding a position as a forest engineer with the MFFP
“Discomfort” among professionals
The situation worries the professionals of the MFFP all the more because the proposed changes “will not be made by forest engineers, but by administrators,” explains one of our sources.
“Discomfort is the word that comes up the most,” she said. All my colleagues and even some superiors share this. »
The proposed measures would have negative effects in the medium or long term, this source warns, citing the suggestion that achieving regeneration targets for old-growth forests should be postponed “when we should rush to regenerate them”.
Cutting more wood in the short term will inevitably reduce the amount of wood available in the long term, she warns.
“At some point I will be confronted with a shortage of wood,” she says. If not in the next five years, then in the next 10 to 15. »
The head forester decides
Quebec Forester-in-Chief Louis Pelletier acknowledges receipt of the document detailing the forest management changes proposed by the MFFP.
“It doesn’t mean I’m going to keep this entire document,” he said, explaining that his office collects all comments on his preliminary calculation before finalizing it.
“I take note of the comments, I analyze and I decide [les possibilités forestières] to ensure the sustainability of the forest, explains Mr. Pelletier, himself a forest engineer.
“In the end, I’ll sign it,” he recalls of his independence from the MFFP.
The Department of Forests, Wildlife and Parks did not respond to questions The press.
Expected decrease in allowable pruning in Management Unit 097-51, home to Pipmuacan’s forest caribou herd, for the period 2023-2028
Source: Office of the Chief Forester of Quebec
Forest regime in danger, experts fear
Quebec’s proposals, aimed at mitigating the decline in allowable cuts on the north coast, are undermining the fundamentals of the sustainable forest management strategy, worry experts consulted The press.
” The Ministry [des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP)] takes the liberty of questioning the core of the forest regime” and does so “without any formal political reorientation”, protests biologist and forest engineer Louis Bélanger, professor emeritus at Laval University.
“We had put this in place to avoid overexploitation of forests that would not respect biodiversity conservation,” he said, believing the changes being studied run counter to the spirit of the new forest regime that replaced the previous one in 2013 in the 1980s.
It is “obvious that the industry will advocate the dismantling of ecosystem-based management methods” because this would result in additional quantities of wood, observes a former MFFP employee whose name we are not mentioning to avoid reprisals.
The forest engineer therefore considers it “problematic” that the ministry and industry discuss harvesting in old-growth forests and in “spatial organizational compartments (COS)”, an opinion shared by Louis Bélanger.
These are the last forests in places where large cuts have been made, [donc, en les récoltant]we will create even larger areas of young forest, which we should minimize.
Louis Bélanger, biologist and forest engineer
The changes studied will “necessarily lead to an increase in the rate of disturbance of the forest”, notes Louis Bélanger, for whom “it is clear that we are increasing the impact on the caribou”.
It is “particularly contradictory” that the MFFP is studying these changes at a time when Ottawa is pressuring Quebec to better protect caribou and while the Independent Commission on Forest and Mountain Caribou is being held, he adds.
Lack of transparency denounced
The Department of Forests, Wildlife and Parks should have been transparent, experts consulted believe The press.
“This type of discussion should have taken place with all representatives of the Integrated Resource and Land Management Table [Table GIRT] “, says the former employee of the ministry.
However, it assumes a call The press that the members of the GIRT table of the administrative unit 097-51, which covers the sector frequented by the Pipmuacan caribou, have learned about the MFFP’s proposals.
“I hope that these proposals will be brought to the GIRT table” and that their implications for all forest users will be presented, “and not just those affecting the allowable cut,” said Nicolas Ferron, general manager of the Upper North Shore Watershed Organization .
The MFFP are “gradually shelling out ecosystem-based management for the benefit of the forest industry,” responded Marie-Hélène Rousseau, forest engineer at Pessamit’s Innu Council, not surprised not to have been consulted.
Several proposals “go against the law or its spirit,” said the director-general of the North Coast Regional Council for the Environment, Sébastien Caron, who therefore expects them to be rejected.
The forest company Boisaco did not call back The press.
The CSN calls for better forest management
The Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) is calling for improvements in Québec’s forest management as it worries about workers in the forest industries it represents. The central union is joining forces with Nature Quebec to put pressure on the Legault government in this direction, the two organizations announced on Thursday. “Government decisions are impoverishing forests, which could affect the quantities harvested, fiber quality and the jobs that come with it,” says Louis Bégin, president of the CSN’s Fédération de l’industrie manufacturière, in a press release. “While the Legault government adamantly views forests as just the timber that can be cut down there, everyone loses out in the change,” adds Alice-Anne Simard, Nature Quebec director general.