Posted at 5:00 a.m.
Discussions are taking place on the sly between the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) and the forest industry to try to avoid the reduction announced by the chief forester of Quebec in the volume of harvestable wood on the Côte- North, especially in the area frequented by the Pipmuacan caribou herd, we learned.
The “calculation of allowable cuts” for the 2023-2028 period, announced in February, forecasts a 7% drop in the maximum volume of timber that can be harvested annually, a decrease caused mainly by the spruce budworm epidemic ( TBE), an insect pest, then explained the chief forester.
Several avenues are however being explored by the MFFP and the industry to avoid this decline, such as postponing the regeneration of old forests or the harvesting of smaller trees, shows a document sent to The Press by a source familiar with these discussions and whom the chief forester confirms having “seen”.
Entitled Proposals aimed at improving the regional development strategythe document presents the list of “elements sensitive to the allowable cut”, the proposed modifications, their impact on the calculation of the allowable cut and the “comments of the beneficiaries”, i.e. the forestry companies, for each of the management units of the region.
These discussions take place without the knowledge of the regional actors usually involved in forest planning, deplores a person who occupies a position of forest engineer at the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, whose name we are withholding to avoid reprisals.
“The only ones who know are the industry representatives, a few people in the department and the Office of the Chief Forester,” she says.
The members of the Integrated Resource and Territory Management Table (“GIRT Table”, in forestry jargon), which must “ensure that the interests and concerns of the people and organizations concerned by the management activities are taken into account. forestry on public land”, were not consulted (see other text).
They will probably be faced with a fait accompli.
Person occupying a post of forest engineer at the MFFP
The document setting out the ways to mitigate the decline in forest possibilities was prepared by an “internal committee” of the MFFP set up after the presentation of the calculation by the chief forester, explained to The Press a second person who occupies a post of forest engineer at the MFFP.
It was “sent to deputy ministers for decision-making,” she explains, pointing out that these discussions are usually done “upstream” of the calculation of allowable cuts. “It’s the first time I’ve seen such a process,” she says.
In caribou habitat
The proposed changes would have an impact in particular in management unit 097-51, where the highly threatened Pipmuacan woodland caribou herd lives.
According to the chief forester’s calculation, the reduction in allowable cuts for the 2023-2028 period will be 21% for the “fir, spruce, jack pine and larch” category, which constitutes the bulk of the industry’s harvest. .
To avoid this decline, it would inevitably be necessary to eat away at the last large intact forest massifs in this sector, which constitute the essential habitat of the caribou, warns one of our sources.
“If there is no drop, we are sure to abandon the caribou,” she says. It is not sustainable to continue to log as we log while protecting the caribou. »
However, the MFFP would be “more sensitive to the issues of the forest industry than to all the others combined, ecological, social, indigenous”, notes this source.
We are told that the industry lobby is strong and that we have to swallow our saliva.
Person occupying a post of forest engineer at the MFFP
“Malaise” among professionals
The situation upsets the professionals of the MFFP all the more as the proposed modifications “are not made by forest engineers, but by administrators”, explains one of our sources.
“Malaise is the word that comes up the most,” she said. This is shared by all of my colleagues and even by some managers. »
The proposed measures would have negative effects in the medium or long term, warns this source, citing the proposal to postpone until later the achievement of the regeneration targets for old forests, “when we should hurry to regenerate them”.
Cutting more wood in the short term will inevitably decrease the amount of wood available in the longer term, she warns.
“Eventually, I will face a shortage of wood,” she says. If it’s not in the next five years, it will be in the next 10 to 15. »
The Chief Forester will decide
The Chief Forester of Quebec, Louis Pelletier, confirms having received the document containing the changes to forest management proposed by the MFFP.
“That does not mean that I will retain all of this 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 determine [les possibilités forestières] in order to ensure the sustainability of the forest, explains Mr. Pelletier, himself a forest engineer.
“At the end, it’s me who signs,” he says, recalling his independence from the MFFP.
The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks did not respond to questions from The Press.
Expected decrease in allowable cut in management unit 097-51, where the Pipmuacan woodland caribou herd lives, for the 2023-2028 period
Source: Office of the Chief Forester of Quebec
Forest regime under threat, experts worry
Quebec’s proposals aimed at mitigating the decline in allowable cuts on the North Shore affect the foundations of the sustainable forest management strategy, worry the experts consulted by The Press.
” The Ministry [des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP)] takes the liberty of questioning what is at the heart of the forest regime”, and this, “without formal political reorientation”, protests the biologist and forest engineer Louis Bélanger, retired professor from Laval University.
“We had put this in place to avoid overexploitation of forests that would not respect the conservation of biodiversity,” he said, believing that the changes studied are contrary to the spirit of the new forest regime, which replaced in 2013 that which dated back to the 1980s.
It is “obvious that industrialists will be in favor of reducing ecosystem-based management methods”, because this would result in additional volumes of wood for them, observes a former employee of the MFFP, whose name we are withholding to avoid reprisals. .
This forest engineer thus considers it “problematic” that the Department and the industry are discussing harvesting in old forests and in “spatial organization compartments (COS)”, an opinion shared by Louis Bélanger.
These are the last forests in places where there have been huge cuts, [donc, en les récoltant]we will recreate even larger areas of young forests, which we should minimize.
Louis Bélanger, biologist and forest engineer
The changes studied will “necessarily have the effect of increasing 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 inconsistent” 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 Woodland and Mountain Caribou is being held, he adds.
Lack of transparency denounced
The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks should have been transparent, believe the experts consulted by The Press.
“This kind of discussion should have taken place with all the representatives of the Integrated Resource and Land Management Table [Table GIRT] “, says the former employee of the Ministry.
However, it is by a call from The Press that the members of the Table GIRT of the management unit 097-51, which covers the sector frequented by the caribou of the Pipmuacan, learned of the proposals of the MFFP.
“I hope that these proposals will be brought to the GIRT Table” and that their impacts on all forest users will be presented, “and not only those affecting the allowable cut”, declared Nicolas Ferron, general manager of the Upper North Shore Watershed Organization.
The MFFP is “little by little shelling ecosystem-based management for the benefit of the forest industry”, reacted Marie-Hélène Rousseau, forest engineer at the Innu Council of Pessamit, not surprised not to have been consulted.
Several proposals “are contrary to the law or its spirit,” said the director general of the Regional Council for the Environment of the North Shore, Sébastien Caron, who therefore expects to see them rejected.
The Boisaco forestry company did not call back The Press.
The CSN calls for better forest management
The Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) is calling for improvements to the management of Quebec forests, worried about the forest industry workers it represents. The central union is joining forces with Nature Quebec to put pressure in this direction on the Legault government, the two organizations will announce on Thursday. “Government decisions impoverish the forests, which risks having an impact on the volumes harvested, the quality of the fiber and the jobs associated with it,” says Louis Bégin, president of the Fédération de l’industrie manufacturière. of the CSN, in a press release. “While the Legault government stubbornly sees forests only as the wood that can be cut there, everyone loses in the change,” adds Nature Quebec’s director general, Alice-Anne Simard.