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Natural Heritage Conservation Act

The Natural Heritage Conservation Act (NHCA) was assented to in 2002. It provides for natural heritage and biodiversity protection measures and is a framework for creating aquatic reserves, biodiversity reserves, ecological reserves and man-made landscapes, as well as for the recognition of nature reserves on private land.

It is the principal legislative tool by which Québec exercises its powers in order to meet its commitments regarding the conservation of natural settings, in particular by establishing a network of protected areas (French) representative of its biodiversity.

Act to Amend the Natural Heritage Conservation Act and other provisions

The Act to amend the Natural Heritage Conservation Act and other provisions (amending act) (French, PDF, 379 KB) came into force in March 2021. It is the most significant amendment to the NHCA since its adoption and targets the following three objectives:

  • Accelerate the process for creating protected areas;
  • Expand the range of measures to protect natural settings;
  • More fully involve citizens as well as local and Indigenous communities in the creation and management of protected areas.

Principal amendments to the NHCA

  • Optimization of the public consultation process prior to the designation of a protected area on public land.
  • Elimination of the procedure for granting provisional protection status (projected status) as a required preliminary step.
  • Introduction of a procedure for reserving territories on land in the domain of the State with the aim of establishing a protected area.
  • Introduction of three new protected area status designations:
    • Aboriginal-led protected area;
    • Marine reserve;
    • Protected area with sustainable use.
  • Elimination of the aquatic reserve status.
  • Introduction of a procedure prior to the modification of a protected area:
    • Public consultation;
    • Compensation if the modification results in reducing the total surface of protected areas in Québec.
  • Revision of the process for creating man-made landscapes, which will now take the form of recognition by the Minister.
  • Introduction of a register of “other effective conservation measures.”
  • Adjustment of certain rules that apply to natural settings designated by a plan.
  • Adjustment of the procedure for recognizing natural reserves.
  • Revision of the administrative measures and penal provisions:
    • Inspection and investigation powers;
    • Introduction of monetary administrative penalties;
    • Increase in the amounts of fines provided for in the penal provisions.
  • Transitional provisions concerning existing protective measures (sections 62 to 65 of the amending act).

Regulation respecting certain transitional measures necessary for the application of the Act to amend the Natural Heritage Conservation Act and other provisions

This regulation was enacted in February 2022 and complements the transitional provisions of the amending act concerning existing protection measures.

Act mainly to reinforce the enforcement of environmental and dam safety legislation, to ensure the responsible management of pesticides and to implement certain measures of the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy concerning zero emission vehicles (Bill 102)

This Act (PDF, 647 KB) was assented to in April 2022. Its general objectives are to standardize, upgrade and strengthen measures enabling the enforcement of legislation under the responsibility of the Minister. It enacts the Act respecting certain measures enabling the enforcement of environmental and dam safety legislation (French, PDF, 341 KB). It consolidates and harmonizes the provisions applicable to control measures by providing a common framework for the enforcement of several Acts under the responsibility of the Minister, including the NHCA.

An administrative version of the NHCA (French, PDF, 457 KB) presents the amendments made by Bill 102, which mainly affect administrative measures and penal provisions. The version incorporates the amendments made in March 2021 by the amending act.

See also