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Part 3
Biodiversity Conservation in Quebec


Quebec Biodiversity Strategy I Legislation and Incentives I Administration and Management

A timeline of biodiversity conservation in Quebec

In 1992, the Quebec government formally endorsed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which originated at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. At the same time, Quebec began to draft a provincial strategy to implement the objectives of the CBD.

In 1996, Quebec became the first province to table a provincial biodiversity strategy. The Quebec Biodiversity Action Plan documents the actual courses of action to be carried out by the government in the subsequent four years to address the objectives of the Quebec Biodiversity Strategy (QBS).


Overview of the Quebec Biodiversity Strategy

The focus of the Quebec Biodiversity Strategy is on the conservation of living species and their habitats within Quebec and also on the sustainable use of all living resources. The QBS is actually made up of two documents, the Implementation Strategy and the Action Plan.

The Implementation Strategy contextualizes the QBD: it presents a brief portrait of Quebec's biodiversity, why it is of value to citizens of Quebec and the current status of conservation and use of Quebec's living resources. The Implementation Strategy then presents objectives, aims and measures that the government sees as necessary to safeguard the biological diversity of Quebec.

The Action Plan provides the details of how Quebec intends to address its goals over the next four years. It describes over 400 actions to be carried out by the provincial government in order to address the measures described in the Implementation Strategy.

(Quebec's implementation strategy 1996, Quebec Biodiversity Action Plan 1996)

The entire Quebec Biodiversity Strategy is available online at this site.

How is the Strategy organized?

The Strategy is divided into 12 categories, or sectors, that are listed below. For each sector, there are a number of measures that need to be carried out or met. In order to meet these measures, the necessary actions are described. The actions touch on many different kinds of efforts from increased research, to improving industrial processes, to making information available to the public, to incorporating traditional knowledge of First Nation peoples into conservation decision-making.

What are the 12 categories addressed in the Quebec Biodiversity Strategy?

  1. Implementation Approach (General)
  2. Conserved Natural Resources
  3. Wildlife Resources
  4. Forest Resources
  5. Agricultural resources
  6. Biotechnology
  7. Urban Environment
  8. Mineral Resources
  9. Energy Resources
  10. Northern Resources
  11. Environmental Emergency
  12. Education

(Quebec Biodiversity Strategy Website)

To better understand the organization of the Strategy, let's look at an example taken from the Forest Resources sector of the QBS…

Example of the relationship between aims, measures and actions in the QBS.
1. Expand our knowledge regarding ecosystems and species 1.1 Encourage research into ecosystems in protected areas
  • 98. Determine the possibility of using currently protected forests as control units in forestry research.
  • 99. Identify research priorities for parks by allowing them to serve as yardsticks.
  • 100. Identify which measures are likely to affect ecosystems.
  1.2 Assess Quebec's existing system of protected areas in terms of forestry ecosystem diversity
  • 101. Establish a suitable analysis framework and identify information gaps.
  • 102. Analyze forest ecosystem diversity within and outside protected areas.
  • 103. Develop methodology enabling parks to serve as yardsticks for measuring changes in natural ecological processes.
  1.3 Identify and expand our knowledge of exceptional forests

  • 104. Create a task force to begin work in this area.
  • 105. Identify rare or fragile ecosystems in parks or ecological reserves and grant them additional protection.
  • 107. Define, determine identification criteria, examine ways to preserve, and develop a technique for mapping outstanding forest ecosystems.

Most aspects of human activities, including economic and recreational activities, have either a direct or indirect effect on biological diversity. Therefore the QBS relies on the support of many different ministries in order to be effective. These include:

  • Ministère des Affaires municipales
  • Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation
  • Ministère de l'Education
  • Ministère de l'Environnement et de la Faune
  • Ministère de l'Industrie, du Commerce, de la Science et de la Technologie
  • Ministère des Relations internationales
  • Ministère des Ressources Naturelles
  • Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux
  • Ministère des Transports
  • Comité interministeriel sur l'éducation relative à l'Environnement
  • also Hydro-Quebec et la fondation de la faune du Quebec also joined



Integration with federal conservation efforts

Quebec conservation efforts complement Canada's efforts in many ways. For example, the St. Lawrence Action Plan is a project that relies on the joint involvement of Environment Canada and the Quebec Ministry of Environment and Wildlife. The St. Lawrence Action Plan is a major effort for the protection and conservation of the St. Lawrence River and its watershed. The aims of the plan included reduction of the contaminants entering the river, the protection of biodiversity of the river and its watershed, and the involvement of riverside communities in these efforts.

The maintenance of biodiversity has always been an important part of the plan through the protection and restoration of wildlife habitats and through development of recovery plans for threatened species, such as the beluga whale.

(Saint-Lawrence Action Plan Website)

Cooperation with NGOs

Quebec UQCN logo.gifhas also cooperated with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the local, national and international level. Projects undertaken with NGOs include education and information initiatives. For example, the Union quebecoise pour la conservation de la nature (UQCN), in partnership with many organizations including the Quebec government, has established the Ecoroute website designed as a resource and information source on the Quebec environment and sustainable development.

As well, the Quebec government has supported the initiatives of NGOs to design and implement conservation programs. Two notable examples are the Endangered Spaces campaign and the Natural Heritage Data Center. The Endangered Spaces WWF logo.gifCampaign, discussed in greater detail in 3.1 of the Species vs Landscapes chapter, was launched by WWF Canada to conserve biological diversity by protecting a network of representative natural areas in Canada. The campaign was formally endorsed by all provinces and territories of Canada by 1992. The Natural Heritage Data Center was created by the Quebec Ministry of Environment and The Nature Conservancy logo.gifWildlife in 1988, representing Quebec's contribution to the Natural Heritage Program and Conservation Data Center Network established by the international conservation organization, The Nature Conservancy. The purpose of these data centers is to collect and make available information about species at risk in a province or state.

Legislation and incentives that support biodiversity protection

The government can ensure that biodiversity is protected by enacting legislation and regulations. There are four major laws that promote conservation of species while other laws are geared towards general environmental protection. The exact text of laws and regulations can be found at Les Publications du Québec website.

Conservation legislation

Parks Act

The Parks Act, which was enacted in 1978, provides the legislative background for the establishment (and abolition) of parks (conservation or recreational) in Quebec. This law forbids hunting and resource extraction in provincial parks, regulates the selling or exchange of a park and gives the Quebec government the authority to establish regulations for the use of each park.

Ecological Reserves Act

The Ecological Reserves Act, enacted in 1974, addresses the establishment of ecological reserves. Reserves are established to: · Conserve habitats in their natural state · Conserve areas for scientific research and education · Protect vulnerable or endangered species. The Act includes details about the establishment of a reserve, acquisition details, restricted activities within the reserve, access rights, inspections.

Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species

The Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species was enacted in 1989 and is the provincial law that offers legal protection to species that are threatened or endangered. Among other things, this act establishes:

  • Procedure to designate a species as being at risk
  • Rights and responsibilities of the government with regard to species protection, and protection of their habitat.

In more detail, this Act provides the means to both designate a species as being at risk and to legally protect endangered species. These are two very different procedures.


Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife

The Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife establishes (enacted in 1983):

  • Responsibilities of the government with respect to protecting wildlife populations. One important application is the regulation of fishing and hunting in Quebec.
  • Responsibilities of conservation agents to apply laws relevant to conservation (such as the 3 mentioned above)
  • Responsibilities for the education of the public about these laws and regulations.


Environmental legislation

Environmental Protection act

Since 1972, The Act respecting the Protection of the Environment aims to establish conservation programs, outline plans to protect and manage the environment and set up emergency response plans which help prevent any form of contamination or destruction of the environment.

(Les Publications du Québec Website)

Other acts promote the protection of the environment

Several other acts, geared towards regulation of various industrial activities (forestry, mining, pulp and paper) or environmental components (air, water, soil) contain provisions for the protection and rehabilitation of the environment, and, by extension, protection of habitats and ecosystems that maintain species biodiversity.


Planning tools

Public land use plan

92% of Quebec is in the public domain. The principle tool for managing this land base is through the public land use plan as designated in the Loi sur l'affectation des terres du domaine publique. According to this Act, public lands are classified as one of three categories:

  1. Lands where resource extraction is excluded
  2. Lands where resource extraction is permitted
  3. Lands where resource extraction is a priority

The public land use plan can therefore also set aside public land to be protected from resource extraction, which includes activities such as logging, energy resource acquisition and mining. (Zinger, 1998, pers comm.)


Quebec is divided into 96 regional county municipalities (RCMs) and 3 urban communities. Under the Loi sur l'aménagement et l'urbanisme, each is required to have their own development plan. These plans make provisions for the protection of natural areas such as wetlands. In other words, even at the level of the RCM, lands can still be zoned for conservation areas, if they haven't been designated as parks, reserves or areas excluding resource extraction. (Zinger, 1998, pers comm.)


Administration and management

The Quebec government aims to protect native biodiversity through two approaches: the protection of habitats and individual species protection.

Protected habitats

What is a protected area?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines a protected area as:

An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.

This definition includes many different purposes for which an area may be protected, from wilderness protection to recreation to resource management. Therefore, in 1994, the IUCN developed an international system of classifying protected areas all over the world into one of six distinct categories:

Cat. I: Strict nature reserve/Wilderness area: protected area managed mainly for science or wilderness protection.

Cat. II: National park: protected area managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation.

Cat. III: National monument: protected area managed mainly for conservation of specific natural features.

Cat. IV: Habitat/Species management area: protected area managed mainly for conservation through management intervention

Cat. V: Protected landscape/seascape: protected areas managed mainly for landscape/seascape conservation and recreation.

Cat. VI: Managed resource protected area: protected areas managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

These categories imply a gradient of human intervention. While there are few, if any, places in the world that can still be described as untouched by humans, and truly natural, a natural system can be considered as a system where human impact has not surpassed the impact of other indigenous species and has not affected ecosystem structure. Thus categories I to III are concerned with the protection of natural areas, categories IV to VI deal with protected areas experiencing human modification and intervention. (IUCN, 1994)

To date, a small percentage of Quebec lands are protected.
Protected areas in Quebec must have as their primary objective the protection and maintenance of biodiversity. This means that any activities carried out on protected areas must not alter the ecological structure of the protected area. Some of these incompatible activities include clear-cutting, monoculture forest plantations, mining, energy exploitation and non-sustainable harvesting. (MEF, 1998)

World Wildlife Fund estimated that, as of 1998, 4.2% of Quebec is slated for protection, but only 0.5% is actually legally protected as natural areas (IUCN categories I to III), covering some 6.5 million hectares. Another 2.2% of Quebec is classified as protected areas with human intervention (IUCN categories IV to VI).

It is also interesting to note that 75% of all protected lands in Quebec are found in the northern forest biomes, with the remaining 25% divided among the tundra, taiga and hardwood forest biomes.

(Progress report for Quebec 97-98, WWF 1998; Zinger, 1998, pers. comm., MEF 1998)

The breakdown of the 1990 protected land between the five biome types was:

pie chart of rpotected areas.gif


What are the categories of protected lands in Quebec?

The province of Quebec also has its own system of classifying protected areas. Acquisition or management of protected areas can fall into the hands of the federal or provincial government, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector or the local community provided that the objectives of protected areas are met.

Protected natural areas in Quebec fall into 18 categories. The categories encompassing the most protected area include:

  • Wildlife habitats (36 000 km2)
  • Provincial parks (5 500 km2)
  • National parks (886 km2)
  • Ecological reserves (702 km2)
  • Salmon rivers (the shores) (744 km2)

The 1997-1998 provincial government's Annual Report on protected areas can be found at the Quebec Ministry of Environment and Wildlife website.

As well, see the section on Endangered Spaces Campaign designed by WWF in 3.1 of the Species vs. Landscapes chapter.

Wildlife Habitats

Wildlife habitats serve to protect the habitat of a target species or group of species. Human intervention and resource exploitation is permitted in these areas as long as there are not any detrimental effects to the habitat of the targeted species and the activities do not violate the primary objectives of protected areas. Because controlled exploitation is permitted in these protected areas, most are classified as category IV areas under the IUCN system.

Wildlife habitats fall under the Règlement sur les habitats fauniques de la Loi sur la conservation et la mise en valeur de la faune (L.R.Q., ch. C-61.1).

(MEF, 1998)

Provincial Parks

There are two broad classes of provincial parks: parks for conservation purposes and parks for recreation purposes. Parks established for conservation serve as permanent protection for exceptional natural areas (Miguasha, Île Bonaventure and Percé Rock). Recreational parks also serve to protect areas that are representative of Quebec's natural heritage but also facilitate recreational, nondestructive activities such as hiking and skiing.

Provincial parks are regulated by the Loi sur les parcs (L.R.Q., c.P-9) and all forms of exploitation, use and disruption of this type of protected area are forbidden, except for sport fishing in some areas. Such areas are classified as IUCN category II areas.

Nineteen provincial parks have been designated in Quebec for the purpose of conservation and recreation. Click here to see a list and map of the provincial parks.

(MEF, 1998)

National Parks

National parks serve to protect areas that are representative of large-scale regions of Canada to encourage appreciation, education and interpretation of nature and for the enjoyment of future generations.

National parks are under federal jurisdiction and are regulated by the National Parks Act (S.R.C., c.N-13). Like provincial parks, no resource use or extraction is permitted in national parks, giving them an IUCN category II designation.

To see a list of the national parks in Quebec, visit the Parks Canada website.

(MEF, 1998)

Ecological Reserves

Ecological reserves differ from provincial parks in that their primary goal is to protect pristine ecosystems or areas of great ecological significance.

An area may be designated an ecological reserve for one of many reasons: because it is a fragile, rare or pristine landscape or in order to protect an assemblage of representative species of an ecosystem or rare and endangered species.

Regardless of why an area is designated as an ecological reserve, all reserves represent areas relatively unimpacted by humans. As such, activities on reserves are limited to scientific research and some educational activities. Unlike other areas of special status in Quebec, recreational activities and resource extraction are entirely forbidden. As such, these areas are classified under IUCN category Ia.

Ecological reserves fall under the Loi sur les réserves écologiques (L.R.Q., c.R-26.1). There are currently 57 ecological reserves in Quebec encompassing over 70 000 hectares (700 km2).

A more detailed description of ecological reserves, as well as a list of Quebec's reserves are found on the Quebec MEF website here.

A map of the reserves is also available from the Quebec MEF website, here.

(MEF, 1998)

Salmon rivers

While the rivers themselves are not regulated, the banks of the rivers are considered as protected areas. Under the Loi sur les Forêts (L.R.Q., c.F-4.1, art. 28.2), a 60 m.-wide band on each side of the river is protected from logging activity in order to protect salmon spawning (breeding) habitat, which needs to be cold and free of sediment.

Since other resource exploitation is permitted within this class of protected area (i.e. hunting), it is classified as an IUCN category VI area.

(MEF, 1998)

Quebec also has other conservation areas that do not get classified as protected areas because their primary goal is not the protection of biodiversity or wildlife. These may include In-situ areas such as hunting camps and zones of controlled exploitation (ZECs) or ex-situ institutions such as zoos and botanical gardens. However, we have focused this portion of the text primarily on natural areas.

Protected species

A significant proportion of both vascular and vertebrate species are at risk

The 374 plant species susceptible to be designated as threatened or vulnerable make up almost 20% of all vascular plant species in Quebec. 11% (77 species) of all vertebrates are also considered to be at risk. Many of these either live in aquatic habitats or originate in the St. Lawrence watershed.

More information on the distribution of species at risk can be found in the Species at Risk section of the website.

species per biome table.gif


Part 2: Species vs Landscape Protection


Part 4: Conservation in Canada