Grand Council of the Crees Supports the James Bay Advisory Committee on the
Environment call for the Precautionary Principle on Forestry Roads

NEMASKA, QC, July 19 /CNW Telbec/ - The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) publicly endorses the recommendation by the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment (JBACE) to suspend several ongoing environmental assessments of proposed forestry roads in habitat of "threatened" woodland caribou on Cree lands.

In a letter (June 21, 2010) from the JBACE to the Provincial Environmental Administrator and the Federal Administrator and President of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the committee calls for the application of the precautionary principle due to a lack of proper critical habitat mapping for woodland caribou. Currently, several forestry companies have proposed thousands of kilometres of new forestry roads in previously undisturbed forests that are known to hold woodland caribou. Woodland caribou have been classified as threatened and vulnerable under federal and provincial law since 2003 and 2005 respectively and are very sensitive to habitat destruction caused by forestry practices. According to the requirements of the Federal Species at Risk Act, development projects that affect these species must conform to prescribed recovery plans as stated in the JBACE's letter:

"...identifying critical habitat is considered by scientists to be a crucial element of the recovery plan. Yet it appears that the proponents of the forestry road projects still do not have these essential maps, and consequently, cannot determine the exact impacts of their projects on woodland caribou."

The JBACE was established as the preferential and official body that administers the implementation of the environment provisions (Section 22) of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. This includes providing advice to the Provincial and Federal Environmental Administrators who oversee the review panels that are responsible for assessing development projects in the territory. In this case, the JBACE has determined that without the proper habitat information, it will not be possible to safeguard the threatened caribou in the face of forestry development.

The JBACE's letter is in keeping with the GCCEI's April 2009 resolution calling for a moratorium on forestry development in these areas until it can be assured that the caribou will be protected. It is the contention of the GCCEI that Quebec's Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife is ignoring federal and provincial laws on endangered species to fast track the expansion of the forestry road network so that forestry companies can take advantage of a soon to expire subsidy program that provides public money for 90% of the cost of new roads.

Bill Namagoose, the Executive Director for the GCCEI responded:

"It is a shame that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife chose to build free forestry roads for companies without first ensuring the protection of threatened wildlife. This is cause for concern if Government intends to neglect responsibilities for environmental protection as part of the Plan Nord process."

Encl.: June 21, 2010 Letter from JBACE to Provincial and Federal Administrators

    
                                                                (TRANSLATION)
    June 21, 2010

    Ms. Madeleine Paulin, Deputy Minister
    Ministère du Développement durable,
    de l'Environnement et des Parcs
    Provincial Administrator, Section 22
    assessment and review procedure (JBNQA)

    Mr. Peter Sylvester, President
    Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
    Federal Administrator, Section 22
    assessment and review procedure (JBNQA)

    Subject: Application of the precautionary principle in environmental
             assessment: Opinion regarding suspension of the review of forest
             road projects given their impact on woodland caribou habitat

    Dear Ms. Paulin and Mr. Sylvester:

    The James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment (JBACE) is extremely
concerned about the impacts of planned forest roads on the habitat of woodland
caribou (boreal population), a species designated "threatened" since 2003.
    Several months ago, we recommended to the Québec minister for natural
resources and wildlife as well as to the federal environment minister that a
regional approach to impact assessment of road infrastructure be adopted. In
the Committee's opinion, reviewing roads on an individual basis does not
enable adequate assessment of their cumulative impacts. Unfortunately, no
steps have been taken in this regard. Consequently, the Committee is forced to
call for application of the precautionary principle and ask you to immediately
suspend the review of road infrastructure.
    Even though the woodland caribou recovery plan contains measures to be
implemented during environmental assessment of forest roads, we find that such
measures are impossible under current conditions. More specifically,
identifying critical habitat is considered by scientists to be a crucial
element of the recovery plan. Yet, it appears that proponents of forest road
projects still do not have these essential maps and, consequently, cannot
determine the exact impacts of their projects on woodland caribou. We would
point out that this is a minimum requirement for ensuring that the habitat of
this threatened species is taken into account. Moreover, protection of
critical habitat is also an obligation under Canada's Species at Risk Act.
    Thus, as overseer of the administration of the Section 22 (JBNQA)
assessment and review procedure, the JBACE is calling on you, as
administrators of this procedure, to order the Review Committee and the Review
Panel to stop reviewing forest road projects until the critical-habitat maps
have been submitted and can be taken into consideration during impact studies
for these projects. These habitats are critical to the woodland caribou's
survival and in the absence of this knowledge, it is impossible to assess the
soundness of planned forest roads and formulate solid mitigation measures.

    Yours truly,


    (ORIGINAL SIGNED)


    Josée Brazeau
    Vice-Chairperson

    cc:  Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief, Grand Council of the Crees and
         Chairman, Cree Regional Authority
         Isaac Voyageur, Cree Regional Administrator
         Nathalie Camden, Associate Deputy Minister of Wildlife, MRNF
         Damon Rourke, Director General, Implementation Branch, Indian and
         Northern Affairs Canada
         Richard Nadeau, Regional Director General, Fisheries and Oceans
         Canada
         André Lapointe, Regional Director General, Transport Canada
         Philippe Morel, Regional Director General, Environment Canada
         Louis Lesage, Chairperson, HFTCC
         Jean-Pierre Gauthier, Chairperson, CQFB
         Anne-Marie Gaudet, Chairperson, COMEV
         Pierre Mercier, Chairperson, COMEX
         Benoît Taillon, Chairperson, COFEXSouth
    

SOURCE Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)

For further information: For further information: Bill Namagoose, Executive Director, GCC(EI), (613) 725-7024; Romeo Saganash, Director of Quebec Relations, GCCEI, (418) 564-1598 (French Enquiries)


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