André Boisclair, Minister of State for Municipal Affairs and the Metropole, Environment and Water and McGill University Principal Heather Munroe-Blum, have given a boost this morning to the supporters of Mont Saint-Hilaire by signing an agreement of principle to further protect the Gault Nature Reserve of McGill University and the mountain.
By designating the Gault Nature Reserve of McGill University as a "nature reserve on private land" under Act 129 on the conservation of the natural heritage, the Government of Quebec joins McGill University and its partners in the Mont Saint-Hilaire Nature Conservation Centre to give greater protection to the Gault Nature Reserve and its immediate surroundings. In 1978 this area was the first Canadian site to be designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program.
Thanks to McGill's efforts -- in accordance with the condition of Brigardier Andrew Hamilton Gault's bequest to the University of his 10 sq. kilometer estate at the summit of Mont St.Hilaire in 1958 "...that its beauties and amenities may be preserved for all time to come, not only to the immediate interests of the university itself, but through its corridors of learning, as a great heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the youth of Canada." -- visitors can admire today the splendor of a countryside which dazzled Frère Marie-Victorin 74 years ago. In 1929 the author of La Flore Laurentienne wrote: "What a dazzling experience! The whole mountain, the enchanting power of the harmonious greens of the maples, beeches, oaks and birches, and in the bottom of the treasure-chest, the roughly-cut opal of Lake Hertel. Before our eyes, like the open page of an atlas, is spread a vast portion of the Laurentian Shield! In a single glance we embrace the entrance to Lake Champlain and the mouth of the Richelieu, Saint-Hyacinthe and Montreal, and the villages which spread out from the river all the way to the American border".
In designating the Gault Nature Reserve as "nature reserve on a private land" the Government of Quebec is helping McGill University in its quest to preserve this precious little piece of "old growth" forest. It is the old-growth character that contributes to the special value of the reserve for teaching and research, and also that sets it apart from the more disturbed forests on the other Monteregian Hills and in the surrounding St. Lawrence River Valley.
Minister Boisclair also announced a $150,000 grant for the renovation of the McGill University Gault Nature Reserve's visitors pavilion as well as for improvements to the public areas and to the education activities which are offered jointly by McGill University and the Mont St. Hilaire Nature Centre. The Mont St. Hilaire Nature Centre is McGill's close partner in the management of visitors' access and maintenance of the Gault Nature Reserve's public area.
McGill Principal Munroe Blum is delighted with Minister Boisclair's position that Mont Saint-Hilaire should assume a leadership role in an projected committee to study the best way to protect the Monteregian Hills. Representatives of the Nature Centre and of McGill University would participate in the committee.