The Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, announced on May 18, 2011 that the Québec government is pursuing its objective to increase  protected areas to cover 12% of the province by 2015.  The Strategic Guidelines for Protected Areas (http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/biodiversite/aires_protegees/orientations-strateg2011-15-en.pdf) establish a framework for achieving this goal.  In accordance with the Guidelines, the Minister is to submit a 2011-2015 Action Plan consisting of four plans on biodiversity. One of the plans focuses on protected areas.

Québec’s objectives are inspired by those set at the Nagoya Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), namely, that 10% of costal and marine areas and 17% of terrestrial and inland waters be designated as protected areas by 2020. Québec has committed itself to be bound by the CBD and attended the Nagoya Conference in October 2010. Québec is committing to reach the target of protecting 10% of marine areas by 2015 five years in advance. Currently, protected areas cover 8.35% of the territory of the Province.

The guidelines identify five themes or goals.  First, aiming to achieve a “Representativeness of the network”, the government will introduce new areas in the Southern, Marine, Central and Northern zones of the Province. Different forms of management established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will be employed in the Southern zone. Regarding the Marine zone, the government is planning a roundtable of ministries and organizations to identify solutions focused on the St-Lawrence River. In the Central Zone, Québec will increase the area under protection by 12% to protect vulnerable species like the woodland caribou. In the Northern zone, the objective is also to increase the area under protection by 12% by in part protecting additional aquatic ecosystems.

Second, the network of protected areas will be consolidated by protecting more “wilderness” areas to protect certain species “particularly sensitive to human activities” (for example, the woodland caribou), reducing human activity in areas between protected areas, and by protecting species that are “the most sensitive to climate change”.

Third, the government expressed a commitment to “governance and participation by the public and aboriginal communities”. Thus, it pledges to “as much as possible” coordinate the creation of new protected areas with regional land planning institutions. The consultation with First Nations is also to continue, in particular, taking into account, aboriginal rights, concerns, procedures in Québec’s recently released Plan Nord and signed agreements.

Fourth,  the Guidelines provide that the implementation of the 2011-2015 Action Plan will take into account land rights and economic impacts on the resource industry.

Fifth, the Government commits to acquiring the requisite scientific knowledge to design its protected areas policy.