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Simon Shields, Lawyer

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Wild Animal Law of Canada

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Sustainable Forest Development Act (Quebec)

(current to 01 November 2016)
Note Re Application of the Sustainable Forest Development Act ('SFDA')

The Sustainable Forest Development Act applies to forests in Quebec, both privately and Crown-held.

This law bears on the wildlife issues of:
  • HABITAT
The full current text of the Sustainable Forest Development Act and it's Regulations may be viewed at the Quebec statute website.
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Most provincial forestry statutes are much less about protecting forests and animal habitat, and much more about mitigating the excesses of unrestrained commercial forestry practices. Quebec's Sustainable Forestry Development Act ('SFDA') - at least if we are to judge by it's preamble - tries to advance a more balanced and varied goal with it's references to "ecological processes and the ecological balance" and to "protect land and water ecosystems and preserve biodiversity". However a more cynical view would be that these non-commercial concerns are only articulated as they can conveniently be included under the rubric of 'sustainability', a term which can just as easily be applied in it's purely commercial sense.

In support of this cynicism, it's worth pointing out that the key term (and in the title of the Act itself): 'forest development', is defined overwhelmingly in it's commercial sense:
4(1)
“forest development activity” means an activity related to timber felling and harvesting, the operation of a sugar bush, the construction, improvement, repair, maintenance or closure of infrastructures, the carrying out of silvicultural treatments, including reforestation and the use of fire, fire protection, the suppression of insect epidemics, cryptogamic diseases and competing vegetation, and all similar activities that tangibly affect forest resources;
Additionally, 'wildlife' as such are considered only in the following meagre provisions:
  • one of several issues that may be addressed when developing 'forest development standards' (in the Regulations) is "forest development activities affecting wildlife protection, management and utilization activities in controlled territories within the meaning" of the Conservation and Development of Wildlife Act (see that module) [SFDA 38(8)];

  • forestry permits are required to carry out "activities required to create wildlife, recreational or agricultural development projects" on public forest lands [SFDA 73(5)].
As to habitat protection, there are numerous references to 'ecosystems' [ie. "maintenance and improvement of the condition and productivity of forest ecosystems" as a requirement of the sustainable forest development approach: SFDA 2(2)] but it seems plain from the balance of provisions of the Act and it's Regulations that 'condition and productivity' are directed towards commercial sustainability rather than any interest in habitat protection. Indeed, the Act presents the key concept of 'ecosystem-based development' ["development that consists in ensuring the preservation of the biodiversity and viability of ecosystems by reducing the differences between developed and natural forests": SDFA 4(2)] in ambiguous terms that could quite consistently be applied by turning the province into one big tree farm (which would quite satisfactorily reduce the difference between cut and uncut forests).

What limited forest 'protective' provisions there are in the SFDA regime are directed at forest fire prevention, and the prevention and mitigation of the effects of destructive insects and cryptogamic diseases [SFDA Title VI, Forest Protection Regulation].

Even then, what regulation there is of commercial forestry [contained in the Standards of Forest Management for Forests in the Domain of the State Regulation] is, from a habitat protection perspective, limited to narrow buffer strip requirements to protect shores, banks, lakes, watercourses and other natural features (typically from erosion, but also to preserve water quality).

In short, any concern about protecting forests for their own sake or as wildlife habitat, appears to have been relegated to parks legislation, which is of course much more localized and thus limited in geographical terms.



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