Photo: Jessica Nadeau Le Devoir
A truck carrying tree trunks to the South and raises a cloud of dust on the Road to Manawan to the north of St-Michel des-Saints.
Logging massive laid down in the wildlife reserves, regional parks, and in areas pending approval from the ministry of the Environment to be designated as protected areas has sparked a protest movement in the Lanaudière region.
At the entrance to the trail of the Matawinie, Sainte-Émélie-de-l’énergie, a small group prepares to leave on an expedition in the mountains up at the lake Kaël. A little further on, a couple of bathes in the Black river. Several cars are parked, testifying to the popularity of this national trail. Clinging to the trees, a huge banner pink stands out in all that green. “This forest is in danger ! Now enjoy it. No to the cuts. “
The banner has been asked a few days earlier by the group Mobilization Matawinie, protesting against cuts in mass laid down in the sector. “It is a national trail that people use and appreciate a lot,” says Milaine Brousseau-Ouellette, co-spokesperson for the group that has organized events in the area in recent weeks. The petition to preserve the forests in the Lanaudière region already has nearly 6,000 signatures.
The area of the lake Kaël is one of the many sites affected by cuts in the forest management plan 2020-2023. The problem is that the place, like many others in the territory, has been designated by the MRC of Matawinie as a future protected area.
“The fact that the ministry of the Environment has not finished its approval process, so that the ministry of Forests has not been able to withdraw in time the areas covered,” explains Claudine Messier, forest engineer at the MRC de la Matawinie.
This is the number of signatures on the petition to preserve the forests in the Lanaudière region.
“People have the impression that we are going to go cut in a forest that has been designated as a site of interest for a protected area, but in fact, there is not a guy in the department and there is not one guy in the industry here that’s going to have to hurry to go cut down before [the department of the Environment should be a protected area],” she adds. They have participated in that process [of recommendation protected areas], they will respect it. “
Still, the cuts have been authorized by the department of Forest and that, until such time as they are removed from the forest management plan, the protection of future protected areas depends on the good will of the industries.
People have the impression that we are going to go cut in a forest that has been designated as a site of interest for a protected area
— Claudine Messier
The prefect of the MRC, Sylvain Breton, recognized that the submission of cards that include these territories in the public consultation last February has heightened tensions. “We would have preferred that these zones are at least cross-hatched on the map, indicating that it is put on pause, the time that the department decides. It would have put a little balm [on the concerns of the citizens]. “
Other sites of interest are also threatened by cuts, including the wildlife reserves Mastigouche and Rouge-Matawin. The group Mobilization Matawinie is in rebels, but in fact, nothing prevents the logging companies to cut reserve
wildlife, explains Claudine Messier.
“In our popular language, it was always thought that the reserves were protected areas, but this is not the case. The objective of the wildlife reserves, it is to give access to the population to a forest sector in order to pursue an activity of wildlife such as hunting and fishing. Increasingly, the reserve is directed towards the recreational tourism industry of the great outdoors, but there’s always been that forest management in these territories there. “
All along the route 131 North, which meanders through the forest to Saint-Michel-des-Saints, there are several outfitters, of the ZEC (controlled exploitation zones) and regional parks, such as the parc des Sept-Chutes and the Lake regional park Bull.
The sectors cutting-authorized also include the regional park of the Chute-à-Bull, and the Forest Ouareau. “Why are we picking on this regional park ?” asks Sylvie Lavoie, campaigner for the group friends of the forest Ouareau, who wishes that the place is renowned for its activities of recreational tourism activities. “Five municipalities pay for the development of the park Ouareau and, at the same time, we just all mess with logging practices “, laments Ms. Lavoie.
During the public consultations, several groups have argued their objections. “The number of comments issued in connection with the social acceptability of the forest operations demonstrate the importance of this issue in the Lanaudière region,” writes the department of Forest in the monitoring report.
We can refuse [logging], but they will come back and back until we finally say yes. It is very difficult to protect our territory.
— Gaston Moar
The consultation process is terminated by several. “These are sham consultations, denounces Claude Samson, the group’s Eco-Corridor Kaaikop Ouareau. From the outset, we have been advised of the territory that will be cut and we are told that we are not here to change the vocation of a territory, but only to express small constraints that could be relaxed. There is no arbitration mechanism to resolve conflicts of use between citizens and the department. “
A large part of the territory covered by the land and forest is located in the unorganized territories north of Saint-Michel-des-Saints and extends on the lands of the Atikamekw of Manawan. The father of the family Gaston Moar is worried about the moose, the lakes and the ecosystem, the same as for traditional activities such as the manufacture of snowshoes and rabaska. It has been consulted, as is always the case, and it has accepted the cuts. But he has not really had the choice, he said. “You can refuse, but they will come back and back until we finally say yes. It is very difficult to protect our territory. ”
50% of the land in the plan of cuts
The territory covered by the forest management plan covers the whole of the MRC of Matawinie and a little more than 712 000 hectares. More than 50 % of the territory can be the subject of cuts in the forest, at about 4000 hectares per year. These cuts, orchestrated by the department of Forest, to meet the needs of the quebec market, particularly in lumber.