The Montérégie hills need $150 million to protect them. A coalition of 12 organizations unveiled a conservation plan on Tuesday that aims to “protect, restore and connect” each of the 10 mountains over the next five years.

The Coalition of Montérégiennes brings together Mounts Royal, Saint-Bruno, Saint-Hilaire, Rougement, Saint-Grégoire, Yamaska, Shefford, Brome and Mégantic, as well as the hills of Oka. Although not part of the same geological formation, Mont Rigaud is also a member of the coalition.

The group released its conservation plans for each of the mountains on Tuesday, as well as an overall plan to ensure connectivity between them. The Coalition des Montérégiennes predicts that a budget of $150 million will be needed to carry out the various measures in the program by 2027.

Many problems threaten the natural environments of these hills. For Pascal Bigras, Executive Director of Nature-Action Quebec, the four main threats are invasive alien species, residential development, recreational tourism activities and overgrazing of flora by white-tailed deer.

“Despite everything that has been said about deer and their impact on natural environments, we are still at the same point,” said Mr. Bigras. The new plan calls for agreements to be reached with the Ministry of the Environment by 2025, to manage deer overpopulations.

Another important issue is the connectivity between the hills, says Julien Poisson, director for southern Quebec at the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “You have to be able to protect land on the outskirts [of the hills] to ensure better connectivity, especially for small wildlife. »

The Montérégie hills are also victims of their popularity. “These are open-air hospitals,” Pascal Bigras jokes, referring to the many studies that demonstrate the health benefits of natural environments. “We need to better regulate public access to these environments to preserve them,” says Julien Poisson.

If the amount requested is significant, Pascal Bigras says he sees a “great openness” of the different levels of government, especially since the COP15 on biodiversity held in Montreal last December.

The Montérégie hills are home to 40 exceptional forest ecosystems. 68% of amphibian and reptile species and more than 70% of bird species found in Quebec are found there.

The coalition was created in September 2021, the result of the bringing together of many conservation organizations so that their concerns “are brought with the same voice to municipal and governmental authorities”. In 2012, a report already indicated that five of the nine hills faced “high” or “very high” pressures for residential, commercial or tourist development.