The Gouvernement du Québec approved the designation of the Réserve de territoire aux fins d’aire protégée de la Rivière-George in 2008. The expansion of this protected area was approved in the fall of 2020 following a joint brief by 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 de la Rivière-George is a north-south corridor that protects a significant portion of the George River. From south to north along this axis, a transition is apparent between the spruce-lichen stand bioclimatic domain and the forest and shrub tundra, found especially on the tablelands on either side of the river in the northern portion of the territory. This territory is the focal point of the George River migratory caribou herd migration path, whose numbers have declined significantly over the past 15 years.
The Réserve de territoire aux fins d’aire protégée de la Rivière-George was initially designated in 2008. The current changes seek mainly to integrate territories that were subject to mining rights when the initial reserve was established. These territories are no longer subject to mining rights, and were withdrawn from mining activity in 2009, 2010 and 2011 to integrate them into proposed protected areas in the sector. Four of the five expansion zones intersect with outfitters operating territories. Furthermore, the expansions will now protect the Mushuau-nipi ancestral Aboriginal site, a highly significant site for Aboriginal nations of northern Québec and Labrador, especially the Innu. This site is pivotal to the traditional Innu way of life, which hinges traditionally on caribou hunting.
Of the 438 km2 being added to the existing territorial reserve for protected area purposes, a 47 km2 area is already registered in the Register of Protected Areas since it is also part of the Réserve de parc national des Monts-Pyramides. This small sector was not included in the Parc national Ulittaniujalik and the proposed change seeks to integrate it into the reserved territory to ensure sound linkage to the park.
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.