The Gouvernement du Québec approved the designation of the Réserve de territoire aux fins d’aire protégée des Caribous-Forestiers-de-Manouane-Manicouagan following the submission in the fall of 2020 of a joint brief from the Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, and the Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks. The legally protected status contemplated for this territory is that of a “biodiversity reserve,” which is governed by the Natural Heritage Conservation Act.
The Réserve de territoire aux fins d’aire protégée des Caribous-Forestiers-de-Manouane-Manicouagan is part of the Grande aire protégée des Caribous-Forestiers-de-Manouane-Manicouagan. With the adjacent Réserve de biodiversité projetée des Caribous-Forestiers-de-Manouane-Manicouagan (7 814 km2), they are protecting over 10 000 km2. The ultimate objective is the creation of a biodiversity reserve covering an area on the order of 10 200 km2, in keeping with the needs of the woodland caribou, a species with large home ranges. The Aire protégée des Caribous-Forestiers-de-Manouane-Manicouagan seeks to protect the woodland caribou and its habitat. Three of the heaviest concentrations of woodland caribou in Québec are found there. This ecotype of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) has been designated a vulnerable species in Québec pursuant to the Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species, and threatened in Canada pursuant to the Species at Risk Act. This protected area is part of the Plan d’action pour l’aménagement de l’habitat du caribou forestier that the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs launched in 2016.
Except for the exploration activities regulated by the government reserve, no natural resource exploration or exploitation activity (mining, energy and forests) is allowed in the territory of the territorial reserve for protected area purposes. The Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and the Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks will ensure the maintenance of the administrative and legal provisions that their prohibition requires. Moreover, the government departments contribute to ensuring compliance with the key objective of such territories, i.e., nature conservation.
Since May 14, 2018, because of the mineral potential pinpointed, an order of the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources has made this territorial reserve for protected area purposes a reservation to the State. The order subordinates mining operations to the conditions set by the Minister and that are compatible with the protection objectives respecting woodland caribou and its habitat. It is anticipated that the entire territorial reserve for protected area purposes will be integrated into the proposed biodiversity reserve, except for the sectors where mineral rights are active as of May 14, 2022, and the sectors that afford access to them. The sectors that are not integrated into the PBR in 2022 can also be integrated if, on May 14, 2028, the assessment of mineral potential has not shown that the sectors contain inferred mineral resources.