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Protected wetlands: the CMM, an example to follow for Saint-Donat

Lac Archambault - Milieux humides

The Metropolitan Community of Montreal (CMM) adopted on April 28, 2022 a regulation aimed at protecting several natural environments on its territory, including wetlands. A stone's throw from the CMM territory, the municipality of Saint-Donat shines with its inconsistency in authorizing the real estate development project Black Mountain Domain, damaging fragile natural environments.

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Domaine de la Montagne Noire in Saint-Donat: a cross on naturalness

North of the CMM, the town of Saint-Donat prides itself on being an “inhabited natural park”. “Natural” took a hit when the municipal council gave its approval to the Domaine de la Montagne Noire resort project, despite the strong opposition of citizens and the petition having collected more than 5,000 signatures. Alerted by theAssociation for the Protection of the Environment of Lake Archambault (APELA), we sent a letter to the municipal council on April 11, in which we also raised our concerns about the impacts of the project on the integrity of the lake's wetlands and water environments.

Credit: Domaine de la Montagne Noire

Erosion, eutrophication and habitat destruction

According to information provided to us by citizens of Saint-Donat, development work on the Domaine de la Montagne Noire has already led to the erosion of fine sediments in the wetlands at the head of Lake Archambault. These sediments will most likely end up in the lake. 

It is also recognized that real estate development near lakes increases the concentration of nutrients contained in sediments and, in general, accelerates theeutrophication, that is to say the accelerated aging of these bodies of water. Based on available information, there is also a marked risk to the health of the lake by continuing construction and development in this sensitive environment. What's more, the Domaine de la Montagne Noire project risks leading to the destruction of a bank swallow nesting site, a protected species.

Legal, but legitimate?

If this type of situation (still) occurs legally, is it legitimate? The MRC of Matawinie, which includes Saint-Donat, has established conservation priorities* projected in terms of wetlands. The municipality has authorized backfilling work to Gestion Zalehan, whose owner is the same as Domaine de la Montagne Noire, on a lot identified as a projected first priority zone.

The MRC thus recognizes the ecological value of the sector concerned, but not the municipality, which instead decides to stick to current regulations. If the future is about preserving wetlands, why is it that Saint-Donat is not keeping pace?

Destruction of wetlands: a bill to bear

As a reminder, wetlands have many benefits. While we compare trees to the lungs of the planet, we could say that wetlands are comparable to kidneys: it is thanks to these filters that lakes and rivers are “purified” of their unwanted nutrients. They also act like sponges and therefore help control runoff flows, recharge watercourses and groundwater, as well as reduce erosion and sedimentation thanks to their vegetation which stabilizes the soil. ground. 

The municipality of Saint-Donat says it recognizes on its website the valuable roles of wetlands. Perhaps we should also remind him of the economic value associated with them, since this element seems so decisive for the council. It is estimated that one hectare of wetland is worth, in terms of goods and services provided, between 6,000 $ and 24,000 $. We therefore understand that sooner or later we will have to pay for the replacement of these services that have disappeared. 

The Montagne Noire in Saint-Donat attracts many visitors. Credit: audeladupaysage.com

A strong decision from the CMM

The Fondation Rivière team also welcomes the conservation measure adopted by the CMM, which is in addition to that already provided for by the Metropolitan Land Use and Development Plan. “Any construction, any work, any work or any activity” will thus be prohibited on almost a quarter (22.3 %) of the CMM territory. The regulation will thereby protect the habitat of the chorus frog, an endangered species. This brake on urban sprawl risks forcing the CMM to review its planning practices, while continuing its ecological transition efforts. This is an example to follow for all municipalities in Quebec. Especially for one of them. 

*Conservation priorities are defined in the Regional Wetland and Water Plans (PRMHH). The PRMHH is a strategic reflection document which aims to integrate the conservation of wet and water environments (MHH) into land use planning, by promoting sustainable and structuring development. The submission of the PRMHH is planned for the summer of 2022. It will be adopted and then applied subsequently.

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