Kuururjuaq Park plans move forward

New Nunavik park would ­prevent future mining in area


Nunavik’s next proposed provincial park, Kuururjuaq, is one of only a few places in the world where you may see black bears and polar bears, in the wild, on the same day.

The area won’t become Nunavik’s second provincial park for several years yet, but plans for Kuururjuaq’s development are moving ahead, with public hearings scheduled for March 14 and 15 in nearby Kangiqsualujjuaq.

Kuururjuaq’s boundaries touch the limits of the future Torngat National Park in northern Labrador and are framed by the Ungava Bay coast, encompassing 4,273 square kilometres.

This park includes the majestic Koroc (Kuururjuaq) River, which flows for 160-kilometres through a U-shaped valley, long used as a pathway for Inuit between northern Quebec and Labrador. Within the proposed park boundaries also lie the Torngat mountains, including Mount d’Iberville and the slightly smaller Nuuvugilaa, a natural, 1,466-metre tower of rock.

The region, whose beauty has been compared to the Rocky Mountains, covers a range of ecosystems from alpine to boreal and coastal. Its terrain is home to a surprising diversity of plant life, birds of prey and mammals.

Many plants and animals are at the extent of their ranges here at the 58th parallel. Quebec’s northernmost white birch stand is found near the Koroc River. Botanists believe these trees are remnants from a time when birch grew elsewhere in the region.

The task of the hearings in March is to consider the park’s provisional development plan and zoning proposals.

These are important because the park’s future boundaries and guidelines won’t affect Inuit hunting and fishing rights under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, but they will impact on the future of any mining development.

Diamond, gold and uranium prospecting companies have all found promising deposits near, and within, the proposed park boundaries.

However, Quebec policy on provincial parks says conservation takes priority over development. That means no mining development within park boundaries, or close enough to potentially damage the park’s environment.

Access to the park will likely be restricted to bush planes using specially designed airstrips and by boat for the coastal section. In winter, snowmobiles may also travel in from the Koroc River.

The proposed zoning for the park calls for two areas to be closed to visitors and development: the top of the Torngats, which may be open to scientists for study, and a portion downstream from the Koroc River to protect the park’s rare stand of birch.

The 215-page official status report on Kuururjuaq, which contains a complete description of the current knowledge on the proposed park, as well as an environmental and social impact statement on CD, are available from the Kativik Regional Government’s parks section in Kuujjuaq.

Some documents are also available on the website for the Quebec government’s Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, including information on how to submit comments for the hearings, at www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca.

As Kuururjuaq moves ahead, the park should generate spin-offs for Kangiqsualujjuaq, population 710. Kangiqsualujjuaq, which grew 9.6 per cent from 1996 to 2001, has the highest unemployment of any Ungava coast community in Nunavik.

In August 2004, Quebec Premier Jean Charest committed $10 million to a five-year deal designed to lead to a total of three provincial parks in Nunavik.

An administrative body within the KRG’s renewable resources department, called the Nunavik parks section, looks after the provincial parks planned for Nunavik and will eventually employ 40 people throughout the region.
The Pingualuit Park, near Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik’s first provincial park, or, as it’s called in French le parc national de Pingualuit, is expected to officially open in next September.

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