The Beginnings

In the 1970s, the Quebec government, recognizing that the province's population was becoming increasingly urbanized, took steps to raise awareness of Quebec's forests. The Ministry of Natural Resources, responsible for this initiative, decided to set up a network of forest education centres, or "Centres éducatifs forestiers (CEF)" in French, with the mission of promoting the understanding, appreciation and education of forest conservation in every region of Quebec. In the Outaouais region, the Forêt-la-Blanche area was chosen in 1979 as the site for the Forest Education Centre for the Outaouais region, or "Centre éducatif forestier de l'Outaouais (CEFO)", as it had been subject to very little human or natural disturbance over the years.


A Difficult Time

A drop in visitor levels in the early 1990s led the Quebec government to close the CEF network. From 1995 to 1998, the CEFO was abandoned and the Ministry of Natural Resources had to come to a decision about the future of this exceptional territory. Some proposed development projects and recreational activities that could be carried out on the territory, including all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile tours, and the sale of lots for cottages along the lakes.


The Creation of The Friends of FLB

In 1998, a group of concerned citizens got together to form the non-profit organization “Friends of CEFO” (now Friends of Forêt-la-Blanche). The organization's primary mission is to safeguard the ecological integrity of the CEFO territory. The Friends joined forces with several provincial and national groups, including Nature Québec and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, to protect the CEFO territory from proposed development projects. At the same time, the Friends reopened the interpretation centre and began restoring all the interpretive trails, which had been abandoned for several years.


The CEFO's Vision

In 2000, the Friends of Forêt-la-Blanche discussed their vision of establishing a protected area on the entire CEFO territory with representatives of the Ministère de l’Environnement. The Friends opted for the status of "ecological reserve" for the entire territory, on the grounds that this was the only protection status available in Quebec that would ensure no industrial or recreational development could take place. However, the organization wished to keep the existing trails so that the CEFO's original vocation of forest education and awareness could be maintained.


The Status of Ecological Reserve

On October 8th, 2003, following the publication of a decree in the "Gazette Officielle du Québec", the entire territory of the former CEFO became the "Forêt-la-Blanche Ecological Reserve". This became Quebec's 69th ecological reserve, the largest in the southern part of the province, and one of the only reserves open to the public. The Friends signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministère de l'Environnement (now the Ministère de l'Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs or MELCCFP) to manage the educational program on the territory of the ecological reserve. The organization became the manager of on-site activities (development of educational programs, trail maintenance, promotion, financing, etc.).


A New Agreement

In 2006, discussions began with the MELCCFP and the municipality of Mayo to involve the municipality more actively in the management of the centre, in exchange for the use of a portion of the building for community purposes (municipal library, meeting rooms, etc.). In 2008, the Ministère agreed to renovate the interpretation centre. In 2009, the Friends of Forêt-la-Blanche signed a new tripartite agreement with the MELCCFP and the Municipality of Mayo for the management of the interpretation centre. This new agreement involved the Municipality of Mayo more actively, with a seat (without voting rights) on the Board of Directors of the Friends of Forêt-la-Blanche. In 2010, the MELCCFP carried out renovations to the interpretation centre.



Following the awarding of a grant from the Ministère de l'Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs (MELCCFP), the Friends of Forêt-la-Blanche are now able to open the interpretation centre every day of the week. Visitors can benefit from the staff's expertise and advice on the various trails and interesting spots to discover.