Big push for protection of the Black and Coulonge rivers

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A section of the Black River.

Deborah Powell

MRC PONTIAC – On June 5, the federal government awarded $300,000 to help the Conseil régional de l’environnement et du développement durable de l’Outaouais (CREDDO) and the Ottawa Valley Chapter of the Canadian Parks
and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-OV) carry out planning activities for the creation of a 115,000 hectare protected area in the Black and Coulonge rivers’ watershed in the MRC Pontiac.
Parts of the Black and Coulonge Rivers are already part of a Québec government “projected biodiversity reserve” proposed in 2018, covering 847 km2. The CPAWS and CREDDO project envisions a much larger protected area, which will help further the government’s goal of protecting 17% of the province’s land and inland waters as well as increasing the potential for tourism.
The project, totalling $605,772, with the additional funding coming from CREDDO, CPAWS and a group of partners, will result in a clearer picture of the ecological and community value of the area as well as the potential impact of a larger protected area. “Proper planning of protected areas is essential for maintaining the rich local biodiversity, but it must be done in collaboration with local stakeholders to contribute to a development that is sustainable for the region,” said Jérôme Dupras, professor at the Université du Québec en Outaouais and one of the researchers mandated to conduct the impact assessment.
“People are already coming from all over to enjoy these rivers,” said Dennis Blaedow from Esprit Rafting, a passionate promoter of local river protection who has been shuttling canoeists to the area on a steady basis since the 1990s. “This project could open the door for sustainable development of the river corridors, including monitoring and control of traffic and campsite maintenance,” he continued.
A portion of the project funding will be devoted to consultation and dialogue with all local stakeholders, beginning with an audit to identify who they are and their first impressions of the proposal. A consultative group will be formed to develop a collective vision for the proposedprotected area and future development.
“The impact-assessment study will ensure all points of view are incorporated in the planning process, including those of the Algonquin Nation, the forestry sector, the tourism sector, and our municipalities,” said Will Amos, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) and Pontiac Member of Parliament.