From our Experts

Photo : © Mario Francoeur

From our Experts

The Coalition des Montérégiennes: Taking Action to Protect Mount Royal and its Sister Hills

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The movement to ensure that the Monteregian Hills are recognized and protected is gaining momentum and the Coalition des Montérégiennes has taken major steps in this direction.

To learn more about the most recent advancements, we asked Jean-François Roy, Les Amis de la montagne’s Urban Planning, Environment and Heritage Advisor, to answer our questions!

Photo : Instagram @mich.nasr

Q : What are the Monteregian Hills?

A : The Monteregian Hills are a group of 10 rocky massifs that took shape some 125 million years ago. In the St. Lawrence Plain, their summits can be seen from dozens of kilometres away and their silhouettes dotting the landscape are easily recognizable. From west to east, the Monteregians include the Oka Hills and mounts Royal, Saint-Bruno, Saint-Hilaire, Rougement, Saint-Grégoire, Yamaska, Shefford, Brome and Mégantic.

It should be noted that the Coalition also includes Mount Rigaud in its conservation efforts because it shares similar issues with the Monteregian Hills, even though they don’t share the same geological origin. In total, the territory covered by the Coalition spans an area of 250 km and includes about 30 municipalities.

Q : What’s so special about these hills? What sets them apart?

A : These hills mark the landscapes of the Greater Montreal, Montérégie and Estrie regions. They are part of the daily lives of nearly half of all Quebecers, who go there to reconnect with nature and recharge. The benefits of the Monteregians don’t stop there, however; they also provide essential services like drinking water, pollination and carbon sequestration, to name but a few.

The hills also play ecologically essential roles. They are among the last large, natural rocky massifs in southern Quebec and constitute a veritable haven for biodiversity. Among other things, they stand out by the diversity of the ecosystems they harbor, such as forests, wetlands, plains and rocky escarpments. These exceptional environments are home to rare sugar maple-hickory stands, as well as nearly 70% of the amphibians and reptiles, over 70% of the bird species and more than 40% of all the mammals in Quebec.

Q : What led to the creation of the Coalition des Montérégiennes?

A : The hills’ natural environments are under greater and greater stress, which is threatening their ecological integrity and sustainability. The fact is that climate change, increasing use and visitorship, real estate development, non-native invasive species and certain human activities are accelerating their environmental degradation.

Faced with these growing challenges, we felt it was urgent to band together to take action. In September 2021, 9 conservation agencies decided to join forces to demand an action plan for the protection of these areas. Thus was born the Coalition des Montérégiennes.

Q : So the purpose of the Coalition des Montérégiennes is to address this environmental stress?

A : Yes! Today, the Coalition des Montérégiennes has 13 member organizations that are of one voice in voicing their concerns about the future of these natural spaces. By pooling their knowledge and expertise in the areas of conservation, education and mobilization, the Coalition members have succeeded in gaining the attention of the municipal and government authorities regarding the urgency of accelerating the recognition, protection and connection of the Monteregian Hills. 

More specifically, we wish to achieve the following objectives:

  • Acquire more natural areas and further protect them and their valuable biodiversity 

  • Develop the connectivity between the hills 

  • Ensure that accessibility to these areas is in line with conservation efforts

  • Ensure regional cohesion and planning

  • Develop the agencies’ capabilities

  • Make sure that these exceptional hills in southern Quebec are known and recognized

Q : You mentioned the objective of developing connectivity between the hills. Why is this important? 

A : We all have a stake in working together and pooling our efforts to ensure that the Monteregian Hills remain healthy. Each one of them is a crucial, ecological hub. The more connected we make them, the easier it is for species to travel between them. It’s important to add that in the face of climate change, the ability for species to move from one healthy ecological hub to another is becoming crucial to their survival. 

Q : Do you have a strategy for meeting all of these objectives?

A : Yes, I’d even say we have several! In fact, on April 4th of this year, the Coalition launched a major regional conservation and connectivity plan for all the Monteregian Hills, along with local conservation plans for each of them.

Les Amis de la montagne hopes that its conservation plan for Mount Royal’s ecological network will strengthen the capacity of its partners and of civil society across the mountain’s vast territory to act collectively. With this in mind, the plan sets out mobilization and collaboration actions designed to promote the pooling of resources and support informed decision making. Through several initiatives, it also aims to increase the capacity for action of the volunteer community that has worked with Les Amis for the past 35 years to improve the quality of the mountain’s natural and green spaces.

To learn more, read the Plan régional de conservation et de connectivité (in French only) on the Coalition’s interactive web platform, and the summary of Les Amis de la montagne’s Plan de conservation du réseau écologique du mont Royal (in French only).

Q : Can the general public do anything to help meet the objectives of the Plan de conservation du réseau écologique du mont Royal?  

A : Of course! Every community has a role to play in environmental conservation. For one thing, Les Amis de la montagne invites everyone to join the many volunteers who already donate their time and efforts to the cause.

In the meantime, we can all start with the following simple, thoughtful actions that go a long way:

  • Adopt environmentally responsible behaviours in natural settings
  • Participate in clean-up events and activities that enhance and highlight the value of the territory
  • Support conservation efforts by making financial donations to local organizations
  • Be agents of change by raising awareness about the importance of protecting the Monteregian Hills among friends, family and elected officials.

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