Wednesday, July 17, 2024

What the heck isa ZEC, anyway?

Connor Lalande
Pontiac August 10, 2023
To the average Pontiacer, hearing the term ZEC likely elicits images of picturesque lakes, unbroken forests, frolicking deer and smoky campfires. Places to hunt, fish, canoe and revel in the rich mosaic of Quebec’s geography, ZEC’s represent the best of the pristine nature to which the people of the Pontiac are fortunate enough to still have ready access.
But what actually are they? While perhaps somewhat of a silly question for those in the know, a ZEC’s administrative structure can be as elusive as the game hunted within its boundaries.
ZEC’s - Zones d’Exploitation Contrôlée (Controlled Exploitation Zones) – are hunting, fishing and outdoor territories found throughout the Province of Quebec. In total, there are 63 ZEC’s covering nearly 48,000 square kilometres. According to the ZEC [DM1] website, the network boasts “9,100 private chalets” and “more than 4,000 campsites located in wilderness and remote areas”. In an average year, more than 650,000 people visit the ZEC network.
In most cases, ZECs are primarily made up of state land that is administered by non-profit organizations that are responsible for overseeing access, conservation and development.
ZEC Pontiac, as an example, has been administered by the Pontiac Reserve Association since 1978 when several private hunting and fishing clubs were amalgamated into the ZEC’s current form.
While each ZEC administrative body has autonomy in the management of its area, the Fédération québécoise des gestionnaires de zecs (FQGZ) is the general assembly of the ZEC network that seeks to support and harmonize conservation and recreation within the areas. The FQGZ’s provides technical support to individual ZECs based on regulations adopted at general assemblies.
Within the ZEC framework, 11 regional groupings exist. Made up of geographically proximate ZECs, those within a particular grouping often share administrative and technical resources. In the Outaouais area, four ZECs make up the regional grouping – ZEC Pontiac, ZEC Bras-Coupé-Désert, ZEC Saint-Patrice and ZEC Dumoine in Rapides-des-Joachims.
ZECs are generally considered to be less restrictive than wilderness areas administered by federal or provincial agencies, albeit lacking some of the infrastructure – such as washrooms and interpretation centers - found in other wilderness areas. Unlike certain provincial and federal parks, for instance, dogs are allowed in all 63 ZECs.
“Unlike other wildlife areas, it is not necessary to plan the stay well in advance or to plan reservations,” reads a description on the ZEC website, translated into English.
Designed to be as accessible as possible, those who want to visit must simply register at a reception desk, pay required fees and declare their exit upon leaving, and report any fish or game they may have harvested.
Access fees differ for each ZEC and are set by individual administrative bodies.
A unique model of nature conservation and recreational access, ZEC’s empower local communities in the role of conservationists.
More information on ZEC’s can be found at


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