The Minister of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change, Benoit Charette, was to make public his strategy for protecting the habitat of forest and mountain caribou last June.

The worst forest fires experienced by Quebec, which occurred in the spring and during the summer season, changed the situation. Indeed, Minister Charette, in consultation with his colleague Maïté Blanchette-Vézina, Minister of Natural Resources and Forests, considered it essential to make an assessment of the burned areas before unveiling this strategy expected by all.

Some groups criticized the minister for this decision, accusing him in particular of blocking the submission of this strategy and declaring that the forest fires constituted a false pretext to justify its postponement. They deplore the absence of a deadline for the submission of the provincial caribou protection strategy and once again denounce the inaction of the Quebec government for the recovery of this endangered species.

Faced with the exceptional scale of forest fires in Quebec this summer, the chief forester, Louis Pelletier, said he was concerned about the future of the forests and recommended that the government review forest management practices.

He specifies in a press release that “the forest of tomorrow will not be that of today and it will be even more different from the forest of the past. I therefore believe that our forest management as carried out for several years in Quebec must evolve in the face of the challenges posed by the adaptation of our practices to new climatic conditions.”

He also specifies that “climate change is progressing 10 times faster than the adaptation capacity of the forest. Forest fires, which burned 1.5 million hectares in Quebec in 2023, have disrupted wildlife habitats, forest activities and communities, which will have repercussions for several years.”

Obviously, climate change has an impact on all living beings, including woodland caribou. Scientific research concludes that warmer summer temperatures affect caribou, which suffer from heat stress when temperatures exceed 25oC1. They also encourage the emergence of biting insects that harass caribou. The latter react by moving more at the expense of time spent feeding, which has a direct impact on the reproduction of females and the survival of fawns2.

In Quebec, more than 200 municipalities and nearly 30 First Nations communities live and depend on forest territory. We must involve these communities in planning decisions and take into account the different dimensions of sustainable development in the development of the Caribou Habitat Protection Strategy and the review of forest management practices.

The government will soon make important decisions on the future of the forestry sector which will have direct effects for all regions of Quebec and their populations. We consider it essential to carry out an in-depth reflection on sustainable forestry which takes into account the sensitive issues of today, particularly climate change, the preservation of biodiversity and respect for all stakeholders.