Centuries-old forests on Laurentians mountain face cutting — again

Residents living near Kaaikop mountain in the Laurentians region have launched a petition to protect the area from logging — for the second time in four years.

Group won injunction to stop government from allowing cuts in 2013, but the threat of razing is back, it says

Advocates say the Mount Kaaikop in the Laurentians region hasn't been altered in centuries. They're trying to protect it from deforestation for the second time in four years. (Radio-Canada)

Residents living near Kaaikop mountain in the Laurentians region have launched a petition to protect the area from logging — for the second time in four years. 

This time, though, they're asking to have the mountain designated a protected area, following another decision by Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks to authorize tree clearing on it. 

Claude Alexandre Carpentier, spokesperson for the Coalition Mont-Kaaikop, says the mountain, which has the second highest summit in the Laurentians, hasn't been altered or logged in centuries.

"I can assure you, there's no social acceptance for deforestation projects," Carpentier said.

The ministry is planning public consultations, but Carpentier expects those will be more like information sessions than true exchanges between citizens and the government. 

Coalition Mont-Kaaikop says the forest on the mountain hasn't been touched in centuries. (Courtesy of Coalition Mont-Kaaikop)

In 2013, the organization gathered 8,000 signatures to save Kaaikop's trees, staving off the threat until now. 

It won an injunction on Jan. 31 that year to stop the government from allowing the razing, but it acknowledged at the time it was just a small victory.

Cuts would be 'disaster,' mayor says​

"New threat, new strategy!" the coalition wrote on its Facebook page at the beginning of the month, asking members once again to align themselves to the cause. Organizers are hoping to gather more than 10,000 signatures. 

"The Coalition Mont-Kaaikop has been fighting to protect this magnificent natural territory for the past four years."

Serge Chénier, the mayor of Sainte-Lucie-des-Laurentides, the municipality where the mountain is located, says the proposal to allow logging on the mountain would hurt the region's economy, which largely depends on tourists.

Many of them hike Kaaikop, from which "you can even see Montreal," Chénier said. 

The mayor says the cuts to the forest would be a "disaster."

"If the project goes through, people won't go there anymore," he said.

Forest contains 'exceptional ecosystems'

Carpentier says his group hired an independent firm that determined the forest contains exceptional ecosystems, making it even more crucial to protect.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government is struggling to contribute to Canada's goal of protecting 17 per cent of the country's land in time for 2020.

Cutting down parts of the forest would lead to a dip in tourism in the region, said Serge Chénier, the mayor of Sainte-Lucie-des-Laurentides. (Courtesy of Coalition Mont-Kaaikop)

So far it's only halfway there, and Quebec may be holding it back, according to a recently published study conducted by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

The study found nine per cent of the province, one of Canada's largest, is protected. In the past six years, the government has only added about one per cent more.

The coalition says making Mount Kaaikop one of the protected areas would be a win-win. 

with files from La Presse Canadienne