I recently had opportunity to spend four wonderful days on Anticosti Island with two good friends of mine. Located at the mouth of the mighty St-Lawrence River, a two hour flight from Montréal, Anticosti’s claim to fame is wilderness and wildlife - pure nature. The island, bigger than Price Edward Island, has roughly 250 inhabitants in season and a very large wildlife population, with over 160,000 white-tailed deer. They were originally introduced back in 1896 by the then owner of the island, Henri Menier, a French chocolate tycoon.
Today the island is part of Québec and is managed by the Sepaq, the provinces wildlife and parks management agency. The Sepaq offers packages for salmon fishing, hiking, camping and hunting on the island from April to December, after which the island literally shuts down leaving 150 locals to hunker down for the winter.
Our cabin, run solely on propane and solar power, was a beautiful log cabin located on a bluff overlooking the Brick River which flows out to the Atlantic past pristine beaches. The cabin had all we needed to still pull off gourmet dinners with one of our group being an amazing chef.
Two hours by car is Port Menier, the only town on the island. The forests of spruce and balsam fir were breathtaking, enormous like something right out Jurassic Park. Small winding trails permitted us to explore the inner forest revealing an array of landscapes from dense woods to wide open savannas. The quiet peace of the forest was incredibly calming, only broken by the sounds of flowing rivers and streams crisscrossing the landscape.
Each night, from the front porch of our cabin, a black fox would come and investigage us. Staring from the grassy thicket only a few feet from us, we really felt a sense of being in his backyard and that we were the surprise guests. At times, I did feel as if I was in a unique and sacred or untouched environment. What a feeling to have the privilege to explore and experience these places of awe and nature.
So the question bares asking. Are we invading or are we protecting? Canada is blessed to have a huge array of places just like Anticosti. How can we ensure the sustainability, preserving that perfect balance between educating and sensitizing while not over exploiting? Places like Anticosti want more visitors - but done with respect for the place. As a tourism industry and as Canadians, shouldn’t we be taking the lead to seeing that this is done right? Where does our responsibility start and stop?