Noire & Coulonge Rivers protected area


Deborah Powell
Local Journalism Initiative

MRC PONTIAC – The Outaouais Regional Environment and Sustainable Development Council (CREDDO) and the Canadian Society for Parks and Wilderness – Ottawa Valley Section (CPAWS-OV) held two public sessions to gather input on the proposed protected area for the Noire and Coulonge Rivers: December 5, in-person, in Gatineau and December 6 online. A session planned for Fort-Coulonge on December 4 was postponed due to weather but will be rescheduled in January.

Since October 2019, CREDDO and CPAWS-OV have been planning activities as part of a process to create a protected area of approximately 1,150 km2 in the watersheds of the Noire and Coulonge Rivers. This project would increase the area of protected territory in Outaouais by a little more than 3%, while contributing to the efforts of the federal and provincial governments to protect 30% of its territory by 2030. On August 30, 2023, the province set aside 852.6 km2 of the territory. However, CREDDO and CPAWS suggest expanding the protection zone, in particular to include the eastern branch of the Coulonge River and to better protect the sensitive  habitats found there.A number of studies have been carried out including Economic and Social Impact Potential, Impact on the Accessibility of the Area and Management of the Forest Road Network and a Wood Turtle inventory along the Coulonge and East Coulonge rivers this past summer.

Gathering input from stakeholders and interested citizens has been an ongoing process since 2019. Feedback will be an essential part of the Management and Delimitation Proposal for the Noire and Coulonge protected area that will be submitted to the government mid-2024.

At the Gatineau meeting, members of the Club de canot-camping Pierre Radisson and the 50-50 Fish+Game Club spoke in favour of an even larger protected area and asked questions about potential management and infrastructure.

In the online session, participants from varied backgrounds asked many questions including what sort of management structure might be feasible. A member of the Green Lake and Black River Cottagers Association expressed serious concerns about the effects of increased traffic in the area, particularly of people unfamiliar with the territory, and the risks for public security given there’s little or no cell phonereception.

There are a number of additional ways to have input on the project. There is the Facebook group Aire protégée – Rivières Noire et Coulonge (Protected Area Noire/Coulonge) and a project description on the CREDDO website with contact information (for English version try a web search “CREDDO protected areas”).