Charest announces conservation plan for Quebec's north
MONTREAL - Quebec will turn 20% of its vast northern territory into internationally recognized protected areas, a plan Premier Jean Charest said is one of the largest conservation projects in the world.
"No other government in the world has protected an area so vast in such a short span of time," Charest told reporters in Montreal Sunday morning.
Quebec has given itself until 2020 to make good on its pledge.
The proposed protected area includes 12% of Quebec's boreal forest, a geographically continuous blanket of trees crucial to the fight against global warming as the forest soaks up carbon emissions.
Charest said the protected areas will adhere to the criteria outlined in the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The conservation plan is part of the massive, multibillion-dollar resource exploitation project the Quebec government announced last May. The project is called the Plan Nord (Northern Plan).
Charest said he expects its northern region, equalling roughly 1.2 million square km - a little more than twice the size of France - will receive about $80 billion in investments over the next 25 years for the exploitation of mining, forest and energy resources.
Fifty per cent of that land will be "protected from industrial activity by 2035," Charest said Sunday.
The activity that will be permitted on the extra 30% of land not considered an official "protected area," has yet to be determined, he said.
The project has to overcome several hurdles, including opposition from First Nation communities who are located on territory covered in the proposed plan.
One of the communities opposed to the project is the Innu of Pessamit, located about 360 km northeast of Quebec City.
The band council rejected the government's $350 million offer for past and future exploitation of the territory, the council claims. The Pessamit Innu want $5 billion.
The provincial government has called their demands "unrealistic."
By the end of 2010, 24 of 33 First Nation communities located in the Northern Plan territory had signed agreements with the provincial government.