June 13-20, 2005

Pilot projects will promote biodiversity on agricultural lands

Quebec's agricultural producers (the UPA, Union des producteurs agricoles) and the Quebec Wildlife Foundation (Fondation de la faune du Québec) recently announced a series of ten pilot projects to be implemented under the auspices of their joint Program to Develop Biodiversity in Streams Crossing Agricultural Land. The projects will be supported through an agreement signed by the program's founding partners and the Desjardins Group, which is joining their initiative as principal private financial partner, investing $200,000 over a five-year period.

"This agreement of partnership with the Fondation de la faune and UPA coincides perfectly with the concerns for sustainable development that Desjardins wishes to set down in a policy to be adopted next fall. We hope that the partnership will help raise awareness among our business members of the importance of taking the major principles of sustainable development into consideration in their business models," said Alban D'Amours, president and CEO of Desjardins Group.

The UPA and the Foundation launched the biodiversity program in January for the purpose of preparing sustainable models for agricultural/wildlife development of streams whose watersheds are located primarily in agricultural land. At present, the budget allowance for the five-year program is estimated at $8 million over five years.

Quebec's departments of Natural Resources, of Agriculture and of Environment, along with the province's agricultural funding agency, will provide technical and/or financial contributions.

The ten initial projects planned for 2005 involve nine farming regions in Quebec with a total surface area of approximately 50,000 hectares. They encompass the watersheds of the Ste-Anne, Richelieu, Boyer, Fouquette, Rivière du Nord, Batiscan and L'Assomption rivers, among others. Nearly 500 farm producers are participating in this widespread environmental operation.

"This year, Year One of the program, thirty-five projects have been submitted for review. This high level of participation confirms the will of the agricultural community to intervene in issues concerning environmental protection," said UPA president Laurent Pellerin.

In 2005-2006, a minimum of $650,000 will be invested in project start-ups. Each project will yield solid achievements based on landowner workbooks describing site situation, recommended work and foreseeable results for each farm producer. Pilot projects will undergo periodic follow-up and a year-end review. Experiences in the field will lead to the publication of a Guide to Developing Biodiversity in Streams Crossing Agricultural Land for use as a reference tool.

More information is available from Marie-José Ouellet of the Quebec Wildlife Foundation, 418/646-1832, E-mail mj.ouellet@riq.qc.ca, from Eliane Hamel of the UPA, 450/679-0530, ext 8591, or on the Desjardins Group Web site, www.desjardins.com.

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