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Natural Heritage Conservation Act

The Natural Heritage Conservation Act (NHCA) has made it possible to establish numerous protection measures for natural environments.

It provides a framework for creating the following types of protected areas:

  • Biodiversity reserves (both proposed and permanent);
  • Aquatic reserves (both proposed and permanent);
  • Ecological reserves (both proposed and permanent);
  • Man-made landscapes (both proposed and permanent);
  • Nature reserves.

Québec Protected Area Targets

Adopted in 2002, the NHCA is one of the principal legislative tools that enable Québec:

  • to set up a network of protected areas that is representative of its biodiversity;
  • to achieve its protected area targets stemming from international commitments.

The table shown below lists the Government of Québec’s targets and the proportion of its territory that benefitted from protection status as of March 31, 2021.

Government commitments for 2020 Current protected proportion
Continental Québec (land and freshwater environments) Target: 17% 16.70%
Plan Nord Target: 20% 19.15%
Marine environments (marine protected areas) Target: 10% 10.4%

Bill 46 – Act to Amend the Natural Heritage Conservation Act and Other Provisions

The Government of Québec tabled Bill 46 on November 14, 2019, marking the start of a process for modernizing the NHCA. In so doing, the government is seeking to meet the expectations of actors involved in creating protected areas and provide Québec with the means to tackle new conservation and biodiversity issues.

The proposed amendments have the following goals:

  • Accelerate the process of creating protected areas;
  • Broaden the range of natural environment protection tools;
  • More broadly involve the citizens and indigenous and in the creation and management of protected areas.

Principal amendments proposed in Bill 46

  • Creating protected areas will be faster and more efficient, with an optimized consultation process leading to the designation of public land territories.
  • The suggested territories will immediately benefit from permanent protection status, bypassing the need for provisional status, a step which in fact will be abolished.
  • Two new protected area status designations will be created:
    • Marine reserve status, which will enable protection to be granted to marine areas;
    • The protected area with sustainable use status, which will enable the sustainable use of natural resources on portions of these protected territories.
  • Public consultation will from now on be mandatory prior to the withdrawal of portions of permanent protected areas or, in fact, abolishing them. It will also become mandatory to take conservation measures that fully compensate for reductions in area size
  • The process of creating man-made landscapes will be modified to allow municipalities a greater say. It will mean a ministerial approach that recognizes conservation measures by municipal actors that are consistent with their regulatory and planning powers.
  • The aquatic reserve status will no longer exist and be folded into the biodiversity reserve status.
  • An other effective conservation measures register will be introduced. The other measures could be considered in reaching post-2020 targets.

Documentation and laws


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