Forked bluecurls (Photo by NCC)

Forked bluecurls (Photo by NCC)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada cuts trees to protect an at-risk plant in the Montérégie

February 14, 2023
Saint-Anicet (Montérégie)


The Nature Conservancy of Canada is cutting trees to protect a rare plant at risk.

A dedicated team at the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is rolling up their shirtsleeves and equipping themselves with axes to ensure the survival of a rare plant in the Montérégie region. This winter, NCC will be cutting down a 1.3-hectare red pine monoculture plantation on one of its properties at Saint-Anicet, to restore one of the last remaining habitats for forked three-awned grass in Quebec.

Forked three-awned grass has been designated threatened in Quebec and endangered in Canada. This small dune plant from the wheat family grows in small tufts. In Quebec, it is only found in a 15-square-kilometre area in the southwestern part of the upper St. Lawrence region.

The conifer plantation to be destroyed is very poor in biodiversity since it is a monoculture with very few species in its undergrowth. Forked three-awned grass doesn’t do well in the shade of pine branches or in accumulated plant residue on the ground (e.g., pine needles). The plant also depends on natural disturbance processes, such as fires and strong winds, to maintain an ideal environment. When these conditions don’t occur often enough, human intervention may be necessary for the species’ survival.

NCC plans to remove part of the red pine plantation and recover the wood. The restoration of this vital habitat could also promote the recovery of other rare dune species, such as spotted beebalm and forked bluecurls. NCC will monitor the presence of forked three-awned grass in the targeted plot, as well as other at-risk species likely to grow there. Monitoring will be carried out over a five-year period.

This work has been made possible by the Partenariat pour les milieux naturels project, through which the Quebec government has granted NCC more than $53 million over four years.


“Conservation of at-risk species must always be factored into the management of protected areas. The restoration of the habitat of one of these species is therefore excellent news, especially since other native species also stand to benefit. Thank you to the Nature Conservancy of Canada for their important work in Quebec.” – Benoit Charette, Minister of the Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks, and Minister Responsible for the Laurentides Region

“Many are wondering why the Nature Conservancy of Canada has decided to cut down trees for this small plant. It’s important to know that the pines were planted in habitat suitable for forked three-awned grass and other dune plants, under the mistaken assumption that this area wasn’t very productive. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! This is a rich area, with a strong potential for biodiversity. Furthermore, the pine monoculture is a young plantation — in other words, it is of very little ecological value. This decision will allow us to restore vital habitat for forked three-awned grass and may even promote the recovery of other rare species.” – Julien Poisson, Program Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada


  • Monoculture plantations have little or no biodiversity.
  • There are only six sub-populations of forked three-awned grass within a 15-square-kilometre area in Quebec.
  • Among the major causes of the species’ decline are its rarity and limited range. This includes open, sandy areas left by the former Champlain Sea, along with other small, isolated areas in Ontario.
  • Natural disturbances limit the presence of trees within forked three-awned grass habitat, keeping it clear.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. We seek solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner, we work with people, communities, businesses and government to protect and care for our most important natural areas. Since 1962, we have brought Canadians together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares, including nearly 50,000 hectares in Quebec. With nature, we build a thriving world. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

The Projet de partenariat pour les milieux naturels (PPMN) is a four-year grant of more than $53 million from the Government of Quebec to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. It provides support for voluntary conservation initiatives to ensure the protection of natural areas of interest by establishing financial partnerships with conservation organizations in the province. The PPMN thus aims to develop and consolidate Québec's network of protected areas located on private land. 

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Ania Wurster
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