While the Cree have been hard at work to see the Broadback River and the area surrounding it declared a protected area, a new campaign has been launched by the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).
According to Pier-Olivier Boudreault, a biologist and project manager for conservation and forestry under SNAP Québec (the CPAWS Quebec Chapter), the organization has been involved with the Cree for nearly a decade with this project, helping to map out the region desired project.
While the Cree Nation Government submitted a proposal to Quebec to see the Broadback area protected under the Plan Nord, Boudreault said that with the recent re-launch of the Plan Nord by the Liberal government, now is a good time to express public support for the project in the hopes that it helps to see the project finally realized.
Boudreault said that while the Plan Nord (now the Plan Nord 2) proposes to see about 50% of the region above the 49th parallel recognized as protected, actually only about 20% has been earmarked so far and another 30% is still being discussed. The other region under consideration for conservation is the Kovik River Project in Nunavik.
“The government also had an engagement to create one or two large protected areas with about 10,000 protected square kilometres and right now the only proposal on the table that fits this is the Broadback,” stated Boudreault.
“This is why we decided to launch the campaign right now, to show the government that there are people behind it not only from within Cree territory but also Quebec.”
What makes this project unique however is that rather than having a form letter that supporters can sign to tell the government that this is what they want to see done, these letters are going to Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come. As Boudreault explained, this is because the Cree already have so much leadership in environmental conservation and have already seen areas protected through Cree leadership.
Within days of launching the campaign, 1768 letters had already been signed and sent. Boudreault is anticipating many more as the Broadback region includes an area that would see woodland caribou habitat safe from development and SNAP Québec’s caribou protection project has more than 13,000 supporters.
In response to the campaign, Coon Come welcomed the letters as the communities of Waswanipi, Oujé-Bougoumou, Mistissini, Waskaganish and Nemaska, who all share the Broadback watershed area, have been asking the Quebec government for years to protect this area from further development.
“Unfortunately the Quebec government has not responded, and it remains open to commercial logging and other forms of industrial development that threaten the Cree way of life in the area,” said Coon Come.
“As you know, many environmental groups have had success with campaigns that ask concerned citizens to send letters to government officials, urging them to take action. It had come to my attention that CPAWS, which has worked tirelessly in support of protecting the Broadback area, has developed a new approach to demonstrate to the Quebec government that this area is in need of real protection.
“They are requesting that people send letters to me, expressing their support and encouragement for our efforts to protect this area from mining and forestry development. So far I have received many letters not only from people from Quebec, but also from Texas, California and other countries around the world.”
The Grand Chief went on to say that the letters gave him a sense of great encouragement and renewed hope.
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