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Nature Reserves: How to Preserve your Property's Natural Attractions

Are you particularly proud of the land, wood lot, marshland, peat bog, or any other striking landscape feature you own? Does your property have significant natural attractions such as mature forest, a marsh, a lake, a moose winter yard, turtles or any rare species? Is the view from your property on the surrounding landscape exceptional? Is your property part of a much larger scenery that gives your town a Photos : Jacques Allard, Jean-Sébastien Hébert and Pierre Pouliotgenuinely unique character?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you possess a precious resource. Such natural attractions and landscape features are a valuable indicator of the quality of your environment, which contributes in turn to the environmental health of your community.

Supporting voluntary conservation of ecosystems, species and landscapes

In order to support property owners (individuals or organizations) in their will to safeguard the ecosystems, species and landscapes deserving protection on their property, the Québec government adopted the Natural Heritage Conservation Act on December 18, 2002, which allows the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks to recognize private properties as recognized nature reserves (article 54 and after).

The purpose of the Natural Heritage Conservation Act is to safeguard Québec's natural heritage. The Act provides measures facilitating the establishment of a network of protected areas representative of Québec’s biodiversity. Under the provisions of the Act, private lands can be recognized as nature reserves. In order to have land recognized, the land in question must have biological, ecological, wildlife, floristic, geological, geomorphic or landscape features that are significant and warrant preservation, and the owner of the land must file an application. It is possible for the owner of the land to make management arrangements with a non-profit conservation organization that will manage the property. Such agreements need to be approved during the recognition process. Recognition of land as a nature reserve may be perpetual or for a term of not less than 25 years.

The Act also prescribes the conditions under which land can be recognized as a nature reserve. One condition is that the owner of the land must agree to apply specific conservation measures. Such agreements can be amended and the Minister has the right, in certain cases, to withdraw recognition of a nature reserve.

This statute makes possible the preservation of the natural components of a private land without the owner having to part with his rights on that land. It allows the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques to establish a partnership with the owner within the framework of the private stewardship project. This project may have arisen from the owner’s thought or through a joint undertaking between an owner and a not-for-profit conservation organization.

Applying is easyPhotos : Jacques Allard, Jean-Sébastien Hébert and Pierre Pouliot

Any property owner wishing to have its property recognized as a nature reserve may do so in writing to the Ministère by using the document intituled Guide and application for recognition form. The application must contain:

  • the name and address of the owner(s)
  • a description of the property and its cadastral designation
  • a summary site plan showing existing buildings, facilities, infrastructures and installations, as well as a brief description of these
  • a copy of any authorization or permit requested by law or regulation concerning any activities carried out on the property
  • the significant features of the property that warrant preservation: marshland, lakeshore or riverbank, plant or animal habitat, exceptional plant community, striking landscape, presence of a rare species, etc.
  • the term of recognition applied for: perpetual or for a term no less than 25 years
  • a description of the conservation measures to be implemented
  • a list of the activities to be allowed or prohibited on the property
  • the management arrangements of the property, and (if this is the case) that this will be done by a not-for-profit conservation organization
  • a copy of the deed for the property to be recognized as a nature reserve

Photos : Jacques Allard, Jean-Sébastien Hébert and Pierre PouliotFurthermore, one of the preliminary requirements for recognition defined in the Act, is the signing of an agreement. Two options are available: the owner may enter into an agreement with the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks, or the Minister may approve an agreement entered into between the owner and a not-for-profit conservation organization.

In both cases, the agreement will contain the following provisions: a description of the property, its characteristics, the term of recognition, management arrangements for the property and, where applicable, identification of the conservation organization that will assume management of the new nature reserve, conservation measures to be implemented, and a description of the activities allowed and of those prohibited.

In accordance with the Act, the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques publishes a notice stating that the property is recognized as a nature reserve in the Gazette officielle du Québec and in a newspaper circulated in the region concerned or, if there is no such newspaper, in the region closest to the recognized property. The recognition takes effect on the date of the publication of the notice in the Gazette officielle du Québec.

Moreover, the Minister requires the registration of the agreement in the land register. The agreement, once registered, is binding on all subsequent owners of the property. Lastly, the Minister issues the owner a certificate attesting that the property has been recognized as a nature reserve and will require the registration of the nature reserve in the Register of the protected areas in Québec.

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The many advantages of having your property recognized as a nature reserve

Having your property recognized as a nature reserve has many advantages, such as:

  • The Act allows owners to protect ecosystems, species and landscape features on their property, without having to give up their rights on the land, by creating a conservation partnership with the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks.
  • The Act recognizes the involvement of a not-for-profit conservation organization in a private stewardship project by associating the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks in an approved agreement between the owner and a conservation organization.
  • The Act is an alternative to the acquisition of a dominant tenement, in cases where a servitude cannot be imposed.
  • The Act provides a simple, flexible framework for recognition of a property, particularly for registration of a legal conservation status.
  • The owner sets out the conservation conditions through an agreement entered into with the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks, alone or jointly with a not-for-profit conservation organization. In other words, the owner may propose measures corresponding to different protection levels, or may maintain or authorize certain activities judged to be in keeping with the preservation of the property’s natural assets.
  • If the owner so desires, the Act may guarantee perpetual preservation for the benefit of future generations.
  • Through its penal provisions, the Natural Heritage Conservation Act simplifies for the owner or conservation organization the necessary administrative steps and proceedings as a result of trespassing on or damages to property recognized as a nature reserve.
  • Recognized nature reserves are exempt from all municipal or school property taxes.

Do not hesitate to contact conservation organizations in your area. By spearheading many conservation projects on Québec’s private lands, these organizations have been the first to make land owners aware of their property's significant natural features and the need to protect them. They also have considerable expertise as managers of natural sites. Their commitment to safeguarding our natural heritage is underscored in the Natural Heritage Conservation Act.

Photos : Jacques Allard, Jean-Sébastien Hébert and Pierre Pouliot

Guide and application form for recognition of a nature reserve

Guide and application form (Word, 259 Ko)

For any other information, you can contact the Information Center of the Ministère:

Tel : 418 521-3830 (National Capital region
1 800 561-1616 (elsewhere in Québec)
Fax : 418 646-5974
Internet : www.mddelcc.gouv.qc.ca

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