The Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region is the third largest in Québec, covering an area of 106,508 km2, of which 93% is publicly-owned land. The landscape is hilly, with numerous lakes and major rivers, and is dominated by two spectacular bodies of water: the Rivière Saguenay and Lac Saint-Jean. Most public land is forest-covered, and contains many contrasting landscapes.
In 2006, the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region had 49 local municipalities and a population of 274,095. The region was also home to the Innu community of Mashteuiatsh, which wishes to take control over its social and economic development while maintaining its distinctive culture and traditions.
Public land in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region supports a large part of its economic, social and cultural development. Forests cover 88% of the land in the region, and are mostly publicly-owned. Most of the wood harvested comes from stands of fir, spruce, jack pine or larch. Nine million cubic metres of wood from the public forests are harvested and processed each year, representing 26% of the total roundwood harvest in Québec. The value of the timber harvested is almost $2 billion dollars, or 10% of the total for Québec. Forestry supports 25,000 jobs in the region, including 11,500 direct jobs.
Almost 9% of the installed generating capacity in Québec is located in the region. Most of the power stations and infrastructures are privately owned, and supply the main aluminum and pulp paper and paper plants. The recent construction of the Péribonka power station by Hydro-Québec has generated economic benefits of $460 for the region.
The region has one of the world’s largest deposits of ferroniobium, and the mine employs 236 people. Mining on public land in the region is mainly centred on construction materials such as architectural stone, industrial stone, sand and gravel, and some peat moss is extracted.
Wildlife in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region is abundant, and its wilderness areas are widely used for outdoor activities. The region has important economic potential, especially for the harvesting of aquatic wildlife such as brook trout, and big game such as moose. Wildlife-related activities generate over $130 million in benefits each year.
Cottage development, recreation and tourism
In addition to its rivers, the region has a multitude of lakes, reflected in the popularity of lakeshore cottage development and the fact that it accounts for one quarter of all the cottage leases granted on public land in Québec. In 2003, cottage development led to capital investment of $116 million and recurrent annual expenditure of $55.6 million. Public land is also widely used for blueberry production, and major growth is possible in the blueberry industry especially through dual timber/blueberry production.
The wealth of resources on public land in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, combined with an industrial history based on forestry and energy production, explains the close relationship between the population and public land. The relationship is a source of regional pride, and is at the heart of a development strategy that targets the sustainable development of the region’s abundant natural resources.