Quebec designates 34 new protected areas in the eastern and northern parts of the province

·3 min read

The provincial government's stated target was to protect 17 per cent of its land and maritime territory by the end of 2020, and this week it reached that goal by designating 34 new protected areas.

They include parts of the Lower North Shore, the coasts of Anticosti island and a section of the Moisie River, north of Sept-Îles.

Other locales on the list that will be permanently off-limits for development: the Caribous-Forestiers-de-Manouane-Manicouagan wildlife area (north of the Manicouagan hydro reservoir), Matinipi Lake, Blanc-Sablon and Harrington Harbour.

The new designations, which will be codified in law in early 2021, cover 12,600 square kilometres. About 275,000 square kilometres of Quebec land is now protected. The conservation target was set in part to abide by international agreements.

For Anticosti in particular, the move represents a major step forward in the view of Environment Minister Benoit Charette.

He said the island, which was eyed for oil and gas development earlier this decade, could be protected in its entirety in the coming weeks.


Environmentalists and conservationists applauded the moves, but Pier-Olivier Boudreault, a biologist for the Société pour la nature et les parcs (SNAP Québec) counts them as only a partial victory.

Boudreault is especially disappointed that the government opted not to protect the Magpie River, which flows south from the Labrador Plateau and empties into the St. Lawrence River east of Sept-Îles.

He said the efforts to designate the river for special protection date back at least 10 years, conservationists recently presented a petition to the government featuring 11,596 signatures.

The Magpie is one of the last remaining wild rivers in the province to not have special protected status.

"This isn't over. We're going to continue to work. And 17 per cent is only a partial milestone. The target will be 25 per cent in 2025 and 30 per cent in 2030," Boudreault said.

On the plus side, Quebec has become the second province in the country to meet its land protection targets (British Columbia being the first to do so.)

Courtesy of Louis Fradette
Courtesy of Louis Fradette

In the Lower St. Lawrence region, a portion of the Chic-Choc mountain range in the back country near Matane has also been deemed a protected area. It is roughly 200 square kilometres, although local activists had been pushing for an area twice that size.

"It's half of what we asked for, but it's more than the territory initially proposed by the Conseil régional des élus," said Louis Fradette, a spokesperson for the Conseil de protection des monts Chic-Chocs.

"We're satisfied, but not entirely. We'll continue to work to protect every mountain that is higher than 800 metres, we still have a few to get to."

The committee has been clamouring for a protected area in the region since 2007.

As Charette indicated, the new designations mean the Chic-Chocs and the other areas will be shielded from mining and forestry companies in perpetuity.