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Letter to the editor 1, July 15, 2021

Open letter to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC

Considering the scientific consensus on global warming and ongoing concerns over loss of biodiversity,

Mouvement d'action régional en environnement (MARE) has asked the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) to strengthen their efforts for an effective conservation and protection strategy with following proposals:

Characterize the natural environments of the region to establish an effective conservation plan.

Establish a conservation target of 17 per cent of the territory.

Establish a reforestation plan to increase forest cover to nearly 50 per cent.

Those proposals were made on behalf of the many groups fighting for the protection of the environment in Vaudreuil-Soulanges and nearby regions.

To date, the MRC-VS has replied they are continuing to gather knowledge of their natural areas and that their territory planning tools will ensure better protection. MARE is hoping the MRC-VS will take action by adopting measures corresponding to the challenges our communities are facing and will be facing in the coming years. Considering the huge pressure applied on our natural spaces by urban sprawl and agricultural expansion, our regional representatives must quickly adopt responsible and sustainable strategies for the planning of our territory. Bold actions must be made, now, to act for the climate and ecological crisis.

Despite our forest and wetlands being critical for both the agricultural fabric and urban areas, we are witnessing their catastrophic destruction at an alarming rate. In order to fight against climate change, we need to preserve these environments. Not only do they help keep our communities healthy by reducing urban heat zones and offering noise reduction, these areas are carbon dioxide reservoirs capturing CO2 while producing oxygen. They also help control flooding and the adverse effects on groundwater.

The evaluation and planning of our territory need to be done as a whole and also taking into account the importance of our region for the connectivity of the ecosystems. The MRC-VS needs to recognize the risks associated with the fragmentation of natural environments and their subsequent loss from unchecked development.

To better identify the most important natural areas to protect, municipalities must evaluate the ecological value of each of them. Despite the fact that some municipalities have already characterized some of their natural zones, we observe that many of them still have a lot to do. It’s critical to know the value of our natural areas to establish an effective conservation strategy.

Apart from protecting biodiversity, these natural sites are of great value for the health and wellbeing of our communities. Some collectives are strongly attached to a natural space and that level of attachment must be taken into account when natural areas are identified for conservation. These are places where citizens visit to connect with nature and practice recreational activities. The urgency of the challenges we face today require a transformation of what is economically justifiable when it comes to our environment.

Protection of the natural habitats is an immediate key action to fight climate change and biodiversity loss.

With only 1.4 per cent of protected areas in its territory, the MRC-VS must prioritize conservation. In order to take into account the richness of the territory's natural environments, we ask that the precise target of 17 per cent of protected territories be added to the territory development plan currently being revised. A contribution from each of the 23 municipalities could be established to achieve this objective. Each municipality must contribute to ensure access to green spaces to all. That goal has already been fulfilled by other government levels in 2020. The MRC-VS should be able to do the same.

We also ask that the MRC-VS adopt a plan for the re-naturalization of its territory. At less than 27 per cent, the forest cover of the MRC-VS is below the recognized critical threshold of 30 per cent.

We ask that the MRC-VS establish a specific plan to increase the forest cover to approach 50 per cent of wooden areas (level at which species thrive).

We are including a non-exhaustive list of natural environments for which citizen groups are fighting to protect and preserve in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region.

The MARE is committed to supporting their efforts to protect these sites.

Mouvement d'action régional en environnement (MARE)