Residents living near Kaaikop mountain in the Laurentians region have launched a petition to protect the area from potential deforestation — for the second time in four years.
This time, though, they’re asking to have the mountain designated a protected area, following another decision by Quebec’s Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks to authorise tree clearing on it.
Claude Alexandre Carpentier, spokesperson for the Coalition Mont-Kaaikop, says the mountain, which has the second highest summit in the Laurentians, hasn’t been altered or undergone deforestation in centuries.
“I can assure you there’s no social acceptance for deforestation projects,” Carpentier said.
The ministry is planning public consultations for the deforestation plans, but Carpentier expects those will be more like information sessions than true exchanges between the population and the government.
In 2013, the organization had gathered 8,000 signatures to save Kaaikop’s trees, staving off the threat until now.
It had won an injunction on Jan. 31 that year to stop the government from allowing the razing, but it acknowledged at the time it was just a small victory.
Cuts would be ‘disaster,’ mayor says
“New threat, new strategy!” the coalition wrote on its Facebook page at the beginning of the month, asking members once again to align themselves to the cause. Organizers are hoping to gather more than 10,000 signatures.
“The Coalition Mont-Kaaikop has been fighting to protect this magnificent natural territory for the past four years.”
Serge Chénier, the mayor of Sainte-Lucie-des-Laurentides, the municipality where the mountain is located, says the project to raze would hurt the region’s economy, which largely depends on tourists.
Many of them hike Kaaikop, from which “you can even see Montreal,” Chénier said.
Once they’re up there, the mayor says the cuts to the forest would be a “disaster.”
“If the project goes through, people won’t go there anymore,” he said.
Forest contains ‘exceptional ecosystems’
Carpentier says his group hired an independent firm that determined the forest contains exceptional ecosystems.
Meanwhile, the province is struggling to attain its goal of making 17 per cent of Quebec protected areas in time for 2020.
So far it’s only half way there, with a progress of about one per cent every year, according to a recently-published study conducted by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
The coalition says making Mount Kaaikop one of them would be a win-win.