On December 14th 2012, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks, Yves-François Blanchet, confirmed that the Quebec government would establish the Tursujuq National Park. The future park will be the biggest national park of eastern North America, with an area equivalent to more than 54 times the area of Montreal Island. Covering 26 000 km2, it will triple the network of Quebec’s national parks.
A glance of the ecological and cultural values of Tursujuq
Tursujuq will be located northern Quebec in the transition zone between boreal forest and tundra. Adjacent to Hudson Bay is Lake Guillaume-Delisle, a brackish source of tidal water hosting seal and beluga population. The Hudsonian cuestas, formed by erosion, surround the lake and offer an impressive geological panorama. The Lake à l’Eau-Claire, approximately in the middle of the park limits, was created by a meteorite impact and is the second biggest lake in Quebec with an area of 1,226 km2. Tursujuq National Park will protect several valuable ecological components of northern biodiversity and habitats, including the threatened harbor seal population, plus several species like beluga whales, harlequin ducks, short-eared owls, a unique population of landlocked salmon and over 80 rare plant species.
Vestiges of human occupation dating back to more than 3,000 years have been found within the park, witnessing presence of Inuit and Cree on the territory. Those vestiges also include more recent trading posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company from the 18th and 19th centuries. Today’s Inuit and Cree inhabitants have good traditional knowledge of the territory and many still live directly from the abundant resources of the area.
Collaboration and co-management
The initial project by the Quebec Government was only covering 15 000 km2. Hydro Québec (HQ) was projecting a 1000 megawatts hydro-electricity central on the Nastapoka River, located north of the previous projected park. The Inuit, the Cree and the environmentalists requested the additional conservation of the Nastapoka watershed. Following a four years process of negotiation and consultation, HQ renounced to the territory and roughly 10 000 km2 were added to the park. The non-negligible added protected area is well illustrated in this documentary on Plan Nord (specifically at 35 min 15 sec). Tursujuq landscape can be seen between minute 32:15 and 38:30 of the following link.
The creation of Tursujuq National Park is a decision unanimously praised. Its establishment emerged from collaboration between the Quebec Government, the Aboriginal communities of Umiujaq, Kuujjuarapik, Whapmagoostui and Inukjuak, the Makivik Corporation and the Kativik Regional Government (KRG). Initially, $3 million will be invested to build basic infrastructure (reception + access road). The KRG will leads the park’s management, with a capital expenditure budget estimated at $8 million over five years, in addition to a budget to manage the park. As the president of the KRG Maggie Emudluk stated (MSDEWP 2012): “ The new park will protect not only the environment but also areas that are essential to the traditional ways of life of the Inuit and the Cree. A determined, united pressure group headed by our communities and regional organizations working with conservation groups has fulfilled its mission, which will strengthen our confidence in the efficacy of the environmental protection regime established under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA).”
Bardati, 2009, Environmental Impact assessment in Quebec, Environmental Impact Assessment: Practice and Participation, Hanna, K. S., Oxford University Press, NY, 380-401
Kativik Environmental Advisory Committee, 2012, Kativik Environmental Quality Commission http://www.keac-ccek.ca/en/environmental-procedure/screening-committee/kativik-environmental-commission.php
Kativik Regional Government (KRG), 2012, Renewable Resources, Environment, Land and Parks, http://www.krg.ca/en/general-information-renew
Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (MSDEWP), 2012, Parc national Tursujuq project, Government of Quebec http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/parcs/tursujuq/index_en.htm
Nunavik Parks, 2012, Tursujuq, Status Report, Parcs Quebec and KRG, http://www.nunavikparks.ca/en/parks/tursujuq/status-report.htm
Radio-Canada, 2012, Video, Plan Nord: les grandes manoeuvres, Découverte, Saison 2012, episode 13, Canada, http://www.tou.tv/decouverte/S2012E13
Radio-Canada, 2012, Video, Tursujuq, un nouveau parc national, Téléjournal midi, 15 décembre 2012, Canada, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH9wn2G9a0A