March 22, 2004

Montreal releases action plan to protect municipal green spaces

A draft action plan to protect and develop natural areas in Montreal proposes an investment of $36 million over three years to set aside 8% of municipal land (including 6% for wooded areas) for this purpose.

"The natural heritage of Montreal is one of our city's great riches, and should remain a key part of its identity," said Alan DeSousa, the city's executive committee member responsible for sustainable development and economic development.

The Plan for the Protection and Development of Natural Spaces is particularly aimed at protecting large wooded areas which are of great ecological value, serving as a focal point for biodiversity and frequently harboring rare plant and wildlife species. A study on the evolution of wooded areas in Montreal, which was carried out between 1992 and 2001, indicated an annual loss in the order of 70 to 75 hectares of wooded areas. This loss of more than 750 hectares of woods over the last 10 years is equivalent to the total surface area of the Plateau Mont-Royal.

The action plan calls for:

*the establishment of conservation projects in areas 15 hectares or larger in size which have great ecological value;

*the application of protective measures along the banks and shores of bodies of water and in wetlands; and

*the establishment of zones for the protection of natural areas in the city's parks.

To carry out these initiatives, the plan proposes a multilateral, dialogue-based approach involving numerous internal and external partners. As a result, the city will no longer be the sole decision-maker.

The success of this approach will depend on the participation of all concerned partners and the recognition by all Montrealers - citizens, developers, environmental groups and others - of the economic and social value of natural areas, as well as their ecological value. This involves reconciling the environmental, social and economic benefits linked to the promotion of natural spaces. The municipal government plans to set up a process for addressing specific issues relating to natural spaces. The objective is to facilitate negotiations which will produce a consensus among the main participants.

As a starting point, the city has identified ten "eco-territories," areas assigned priority for protection. For each of these eco-territories, a multi-disciplinary technical committee has been established to examine the relevant conservation and development challenges and propose appropriate solutions. The technical committees will be overseen by a steering committee made up of members of the Executive Committee, elected officials from the boroughs involved, representatives from city departments, and others.

The Office de consultation publique de Montreal has been assigned the task of convening public consultations on the action plan; these sessions will be held through March to the end of April.

More information is available from Sylvie Ouellette, 514/258-5296.

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