March 6, 2006

Organizers receive unprecedented response to Quebec campaign for protection of natural areas

Four environmental organizations operating in Quebec have received an overwhelming response to a public outreach campaign targeting the provincial government's lack of action on protected areas. The "Sleeping Like a Log" campaign was launched in mid-February by World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada), the Quebec Network of Ecologists, Nature QuÈbec/UQCN and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). Its aim was to obtain at least 10,000 signatures on a Web-based petition to be presented to Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

Public response to the campaign took off: the initial objective of 10 000 signatures was achieved within a mere 24 hours. A week later, some 100,000 people, including both Quebec residents and others, had indicated that they support the increased protection of Quebec's territory.

The four partner groups point out that Quebec is lagging behind the rest of Canada and the international community when it comes to dealing with protected areas: barely 3.4% of its territory is really protected from industrial activities, far below the international average of more than 12%. Since the Quebec Protected Areas Strategy (QPAS) was unveiled in 2001, not only have its objectives not been reached, announcements of new protected areas are scarce.

The Coulombe Commission report on public forest management in Quebec recommended that 8% of the province be protected by 2006, and that 12% of the boreal forest be protected by 2010. The campaign partners have singled out two intact boreal forest sites and are asking the government to set them aside as a step toward achieving the recommended objective of 8% protected areas.

The 7,400-square-kilometre site, called "Pascagama," is bordered by the Abitibi-TÈmiscamingue, Nord-du-QuÈbec and Mauricie regions. The "VallÈe des Montagnes Blanches," is a woodland caribou "nursery" approximately 9,000 square kilometres in size, bordering the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and CÙte-Nord regions. The groups hope to receive a rapid response from the provincial government on the two virgin territories proposed for protection after they present the signed petition to Premier Charest this spring.

The campaign has gained the support of more than 50 provincial, national and international organizations, as well as individuals. Supporters include other environmental groups, First Nations communities and stakeholders in the tourism and recreation industry.

The petition may be found on the campaign Web site, www.sleepinglikealog.com. A full list of supporters may be viewed on-line at www.auxarbrescitoyens.com. More information is also available from StÈphanie Jagou at WWF-Canada in Montreal, 514/866-7800, ext 25, E-mail sjagou@wwfcanada.org.

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