Citizens ready to go to court to prevent “clear cuts”

“The special plan [of logging], legally, it does not hold water! Exclaims Andre Douillard.

The man is part of a small group of “forest users” lining Lake Kenogami ready to put their hand in their pockets to prevent “clearcuts” that the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP) plans to do this next summer due to the outbreak of spruce budworm (TBE).

Infested forest area reached a peak last year in Quebec, and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is particularly affected, which leads the MFFP to put in place a special cutting plan to accelerate timber harvesting before the budworm does not kill him.

However, Andre Douillard believes that this plan “does not pass the test of the law [on sustainable management of forest land]”.

The latter provides for the possibility of carrying out such cuts only in the event of “significant destruction of forest areas in a given forest area”.

Such a level of destruction is “impossible” in the forest area of ​​Lake Kenogami, says Andre Douillard, since it is a mixed forest “consisting mainly of hardwoods”.

The trees affected by the budworm, mainly fir and spruce, are therefore in the minority.

Moreover, he considers that a special cutting plan authorizes only the harvesting of the wood affected by the epidemic, whereas the special plan provides for the harvest of 45% of hardwoods and 55% of softwood species, indicated the spokesman MFFP Catherine Thibeault.

For Andre Douillard, it is as if after discovering a lettuce contaminated by a bacterium in a grocery store, the health authorities emptied it completely.

Important industry

The special cut plan is based on “economic considerations”, believes Andre Douillard, who however says he does not doubt the good faith of the officials of the Ministry, which he feels is a “pressure to deliver guaranteed supplies” to forestry companies.

“I’m not a rabid ecologist,” he says. The forestry industry in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is important, it is an economic engine. ”

However, it believes that it is inappropriate to carry out logging in an area that is under consideration to become a protected area, even though the Ministry assures that the cuts will only affect 6% of the “area of ​​interest” of the area. 275 km 2.

Quebec is missing its own target of 17% of protected areas for 2020, says Andre Douillard. “If we start to burn them, it discredits the whole process”!

The Sagueneen, “young retiree” in the field of television production, has a vacation lease for two years in the sector concerned, he attended “since childhood”.

“When I acquired that lease, I acquired it knowing that I was in a protected area under study, returned to a certain level of advancement,” he says, lamenting that “the Ministry is changing the rules. Of the game with a pattern that is not clear.

The group of citizens he is also concerned about the impact that cuts could have on the water quality of Lake Kenogami, which is the source of drinking water for some 80% of the population of the city of Saguenay.

Important means

The special cutting plan that the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks is developing was the subject of public consultations in February. In response to our request for information under the Access to Information Act, however, the Department told La Presse that it had “no corresponding documents” in its possession.

The MFFP was also unable to tell me when the plan would be tabled in the office of Minister Pierre Dufour, who must authorize it by decree.

Andre Douillard believes that it is still time for public servants “to realize that they have exceeded the parameters of the law” and rectify the situation, but his group is preparing to challenge the plan before the courts if it is adopted as is.

And he warns that their pockets are deep.

“I have as much budget as the regional MFFP branch has,” he says, adding that they have hired lawyers, a biologist, an engineer and even a public relations firm to lead the fight.

“There are a handsful of guys that will make it possible,” he says, “but it’s going to benefit 10, 100, or 1000 times more people. ”