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Saving the Wetlands

Posted by: Sylvie LaRose
My proudest moment volunteering with APEL (l'Association pour la protection de l'environnement du lac Saint-Charles et des Marais du Nord) was when we were finally able to turn our wetlands complex into a nature reserve. In 2002, Quebec's Minister of Environment, André Boisclair, officially recognized our Réserve naturelle des Marais-du-Nord. Now, these beautiful wetlands are one of the first private natural reserves thriving in the province of Quebec.

I saw this moment as the culmination of 30 years of work by APEL. Turning des Marais-du-Nord into a private park means that our organization can continue its mission to protect fragile habitats from development, a core-goal of APEL. It was both a symbolic and a very real step for APEL in its mission to protect and conserve Lac Saint-Charles and the Marais-du-Nord.

But the work didn't end with this recognition. Immediately after our nature reserve status was granted, I helped organize a cleanup with volunteers right away to restore habitats that had been neglected and damaged. APEL's goals are to promote biodiversity as well as public education. So along with picking up trash, we installed interpretation signs to increase awareness about our conservation efforts and the importance of wetlands. In 2003, as a direct consequence of our work, I was pleased to represent APEL in receiving the Phénix de l'Environnement prize from the province of Quebec, highlighting our efforts in restoration and conservation of the Marais-du-Nord wetlands complex. 

As a volunteer, I have always tried to promote the concept that wetlands are fragile and valuable. Wetlands act as natural buffers and protect the quality of our water. They are a natural sponge and filter, removing pollutants from water--they play an important role in the life of many species of wildlife. In our area, Lac Saint-Charles is connected to these wetlands and this lake is the drinking water reserve for close to 300 000 citizens living in Quebec City. It is clear from a human point of view and an environmental, that protecting these wetlands is essential.

Today, the Marais-du-Nord is a paradise for all nature lovers with 8 km of interpretation trails surrounded by exceptional vegetation.  More than 30,000 visitors come each year to admire our outstanding fauna and flora. Visitors can observe 159 different bird species, like the golden eagle--a rare species in our region, the osprey, the common loon, and the pileated woodpecker.  Every time I walk the paths, hear a visitor's appreciation or see families enjoying the surrounding nature, I quietly savour my pride. 

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