The Chief Forester of Quebec has just published his analysis of the impact of present and past forestry practices on the Woodland Caribou. The main findings reported by the Chief Forester reflect the following factual situation. The points below include comments to bring out some of what was said as well as what is in the report, as follows:
- The results of their study reveal that over a large part of the territory the destruction of caribou habitat is too severe to ensure the survival of the woodland caribou.
- On 30% of the territory the destruction of caribou habitat is at this time less than 35%, a level that he believes could support caribou herds. That means of course that at the present time 70% of the territory is inhospitable to caribou.
- The Chief Forester states that the present strategies: protected areas, caribou management plans and the ecosystemic strategy of forest management have not protected the caribou, just the opposite. (Comment: The protected areas that have been put in place are very small and were chosen largely because they were not in commercial forest zones. None of them were chosen to protect caribou. Moreover, while a strategy for managing the woodland caribou has been developed, to date the Department of Natural Resources and Wildlife refused to adopt the plan which was put together under contract to the Department by Quebec’s best caribou biologists.)
- The Chief Forester recommends the development of a long-term strategy to find the best methods for protecting the caribou. (Comment: Such a recommendation could be a ‘study it and it will go away’ strategy to avoid real decisions. In fact the caribou will go away long before such methods are found especially if the clear-cutting continues at the present rate and if the last remaining largely untouched Broadback Forest is not protected.)
- The areas of forest are analyzed according to their relative ability to support a herd of caribou. In Eeyou Istchee the area over the height of land (Baril-Moses Area) is shown as over-cut with no possibility of supporting caribou. Similarly the area south of Mistissini and north of Assinica Park are areas that cannot support caribou herds. The areas in the Broadback Basin in the south of Assinica Park and to the west of the park are listed as “uncertain” as to whether they can support caribou. The area west of the uncertain zone on the Broadback River called the Broadback Forest is listed as an area that can likely support caribou. Finally, in Eeyou Istchee, the area west of Matagami and toward the Ontario border is listed as “uncertain”. In the Saguenay Lac St. Jean area there is no chance of the forest supporting caribou, except in the northern part of that area where there is one small area of good habitat and another of uncertain status. On the Cote Nord, the forest is best towards the east and the area on the west towards Lac St. Jean area, is listed as not supportive of caribou
- (Comment: The Chief Forester projects the growth of the forest over 50 and 100 years and finds little difference in the size of the areas disturbed by the forestry practices over 50 and 100 years. (Given that the caribou are declining in number at this time, it is likely that over 50 or 100 years the caribou will disappear if cutting practices are not improved.)
- Perhaps a finer analysis of relative degrees of road penetration per unit and the degree of contiguity of the forest would help to better understand the comparative usefulness of one unit versus another for the purposes of caribou protection.
- The study is quite well done and deserves to be a part of the measures necessary to protect the caribou, also important would be: long and short term all-season monitoring of herds to understand caribou movement and herd viability, forest protection measures, application of new techniques for optimizing the use of the forest resource, etc.
The Office of the Chief Forester Of Quebec: http://forestierenchef.gouv.qc.ca/
The Report of the Chief Forester on the Woodland Caribou: