March 2011    Print this article

Outstanding geological sites: an initiative in geodiversity protection

Dominique Richard, geologist, M. Env., MRNF
Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), geodiversity is “the variety of rocks, minerals, fossils, landforms, sediments and soils, together with the natural processes which form and alter them.” Some natural windows into the world of geology or geomorphology, known as “geosites” or “geoparks”, display important geodiversity features that have significantly contributed to our understanding of Earth’s history. In order to preserve these sites for future generations, Québec’s Mining Act was modified in 2005 so they may be given legal status under the designation of outstanding geological sites (OGS).

What is an outstanding geological site?

Section 1 of the Mining Act defines an OGS as “land whose geological, geomorphic, landscape or biological characteristics are of educational value, or of interest for scientific research or conservation purposes, and that deserves to be protected, in particular because it is threatened, rare or vulnerable”. OGS are divided into twelve categories: cavern; cave; fossiliferous; mineralogical; lithological; stratotype; historical or cultural; landscape; geosystem; ecosystem; meteorite impact; and glacial structures and landforms.

Objective and purpose

The main goal of assigning legal classification to an OGS is to ensure its protection. The Mining Act entitles the Minister to legally classify an OGS by publishing a notice in the official gazette of Québec. The precise boundaries of each OGS must be indicated on maps kept at the Registrar’s office.

If an OGS meets the definition of a protected area as defined by the Natural Heritage Conservation Act of the Ministère du Développement Durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP), it will also be recorded in the protected area registry and may then be included in the World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA), a project jointly run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the IUCN.

OGS background

In June 1992, during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, 150 countries (including Canada) signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Québec government adheres to the principles and objectives of this agreement.

In the fall of 2001, the Québec government unveiled its Québec Protected Area Strategy (QPAS). This strategy mainly concerns ministries that intervene in land issues, namely the MDDEP and the Ministère des Ressources Naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF). It presents the basics of sustainable development and the goal of increasing Québec’s protected area network to 8% of the province’s surface area, in the hopes of working toward a stable planet with a promising future.

In 2005, the Mining Act was modified and arrangements were made to classify and protect outstanding geological sites. For more information, please consult the Mining Act (R.S.Q., chapter M-13.1).

By March of 2009, the SQAP’s goal of protecting 8% of land in Québec had been reached. A target of another 4% was added to the initial objective. It is now expected that 12% of Québec’s territory will be protected by 2015.

At the present time, legal recognition has not yet been granted to any OGS in Québec. However, 63 geosites were presented for consultation in 2009 and 2010, and the MRNF’s goal is to officially classify 50 OGS between now and June 2013.

Selection and consultation process

The MRNF has established guidelines describing the steps to follow in matters of obtaining legal classification for an OGS. The basic steps are: assess a proposed site, prepare a descriptive record, and verify any rights, titles and permits associated with the site. After this, various branches of the MRNF must begin a consultation process, and then the MDDEP must carry out consultations with aboriginal and urban communities, municipalities, and professional mining associations.

Once this process has been completed and no obstacles were uncovered that would prevent legal recognition, the Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife can officially classify the site by publishing a notice in the Gazette Officielle du Québec.

How to submit an OGS proposal

Since the amendments to the Act in 2005 allowing legal recognition of an OGS, more than 300 geosite or geoparks have been proposed by eager and generous people who love geology and nature.

To learn more about OGS, please consult the OGS website (in French).

If you wish to propose a new OGS, please download the form. Once filled in, it should be mailed or e-mailed to:

Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune
Direction de l’information géologique du Québec
880, chemin Sainte-Foy, 3e étage
Québec (Québec) G1S 4X4

E-mail :

Example of an OGS

In order to provide a more concrete idea of what an OGS might represent, examples of proposed geosites (in French) can be found at the following OGS website.

In addition, several proposed sites are presented in poster format as part of the series of GT documents available from the Examine database:

GT 2009-05 - Le parc Leblanc - roches volcaniques et effet des glaciers. 2009,  by   Lelcerc, F., De Corta, H. 

GT 2009-06 - Le parc Allard - roches volcaniques et effet des glaciers.  2009, by   Leclerc, F., De Corta, H.

GT 2009-07 - Les canelures glaciaires de la rivière du Sault Plat.  2009,  by   Martineau, G.

GT 2009-09 - Les plus anciennes roches de la planète découvertes dans le nord du Québec.  2009, by Maurice, C., O'Neil, J. 

GT 2002-01 - Géologie du parc national d’Aiguebelle : « Marchez sur des milliards d’années ».  2003,  by   Goutier, J., Melançon, M.  1 microfilm.

GT 92-01 - Minéraux du mont Saint-Hilaire, Québec.  1992, by   Remick, J. H., Bellemare, Y.  1 Colour Poster, 96,5 X 63 cm Format. 1 microfilm.

GT 88-01 - Mont Saint-Hilaire, une des collines montérégiennes. 1988,  by   Lasalle, Y. 1 Colour Poster, 63 X 96.5 cm Format. 1 microfilm.

GT 003 - La chute Montmorency. 1968, by Bureau, R., Riva, J.  23 pages.  1 microfilm.

GT 002 - L’histoire géologique de la région de Percé. 1968, by McGerrigle, H. W.  34 pages.  Map 1627 (Scale 1/63 360). 1 microfilm.

And finally, a geological heritage poster provides an overview of several of these sites:

GT 2007-03 - Le patrimoine géologique du Québec. 2007, by MRNF.


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