Forestry, mining and hydroelectric developments will be now prohibited in a new 9,200-km2 protected zone between the George River Valley and the Monts Pyramides mountains. Monts Pyramides itself will become a park.

The announcement was made by Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Environment Minister Line Beauchamp in a press conference on October 7.

This is part of Quebec’s mandate to turn 8 per cent of provincial lands into protected areas before the end of 2008. With this recent announcement of adding 1.07 per cent, the provincial total stands now at 7.07 per cent.

“Personally I think that this is awesome. I am from George River and when I heard about this it was very good news for me and the population in the region,” said Annie Baron, a management trainee under Parks and Renewable Resources for the Kativik Regional Government (KRG).

Though Hydro-Quebec had been conducting studies on damming the George River to generate 3,100 new megawatts of electricity under the 2002 Sanarrutik agreement, the projected plan will not go through.

When Hydro-Quebec released its 2004-08 strategic plan it was revealed that damming the George River would most likely be too costly of an endeavour in comparison to the Rupert River.

The KRG could not be more thrilled with the announcement as it has been vying to get protection for the land when the Sanarrutik agreement, a deal between the Makivik Corporation, the KRG and Quebec, also opened up the possibility for protected land and park creation.

Prior to the agreement 11 areas were selected as potentials to become protected areas or parks. Created in January 2004, the Pingualuit National Park was the first one of these projects, which officially opened in November 2007. The second project created under the mandate is the Kuururjuaq park near the northern tip of the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula.

Both parks have international recognition and protection from development.

Baron said that hopefully the status of the George River Valley will eventually change from protected area to National Park. With a national park status the land would have hunting and fishing rights restricted to the Inuit. In a protected area only resource development is banned.

The George River is Quebec’s only untouched river to date and is a source of both salmon and Artie char while the valley region is home to the 385,000-strong George River caribou herd.

The valley also includes the Hutte Sauvage Lake archeological site, which is an area of convergence for the Innus, Naskapis and Inuit in the region.

In time the KRG is hoping to see a great deal more of its surrounding areas protected.

“We are working on two right now and probably in the near future we are going to work on the others,” said Baron.

During the same press conference Beauchamp and Charest announced that the 3,868- km2 Baie aux Feuilles estuary, with 17-metre-high tides on Ungava Bay, and the 1,659- km2 des Collines-Ondulees site, located near Schefferville, would become new protected parks.

New Protected Areas

National Park Reserve

1 Baie-aux-Feuilles 3868.1 km2

2 Monts-Pyramides 1934.8 km2

3 Collones-Ondulees 1659.5 km2

Territorial Reserve for Protected Area

4 Riviere-George 7282.0 km2