Educational activities are also among the objectives pursued by the creation of ecological reserves. These activities are permitted as long as they are compatible with the primary goal of the reserves, namely the integral and permanent conservation of natural environments, and they are necessary to achieve this goal.
In this context of preservation, nature discovery programs can, for example, be set up within an ecological reserve. However, precautions must be taken, since such programs often require infrastructure development (trails, sidewalks, bridges, shelters) that may not be compatible with the integral protection of the environment. This explains the limited number of ecological reserves where these educational programs exist, among them the Île-Brion Ecological Reserve and the Tourbières-de-Lanoraie Ecological Reserve…and of course the Forêt-la-Blanche Ecological Reserve.
Even if it has a legal status of protection, an ecological reserve is not sheltered from all the human activities that take place on the surrounding territories. Many activities near an ecological reserve, which are related to industrialization, development or exploitation of terrestrial and aquatic environments, such as agricultural drainage, pesticide application, manipulation of water levels, toxic spills, gas emissions or the development of sanitary landfills, are likely to have impacts on the ecosystems of the protected environment.
It is therefore necessary to control the various activities outside a reserve that could have a negative impact on the conservation or natural evolution of protected ecosystems, without necessarily using regulatory or administrative controls. These means of control may involve the collaboration of partners such as regional county municipalities, municipalities and other government departments, parapublic corporations (e.g. Hydro-Québec and the Société de protection des forêts contre le feu), landowners, agricultural producers and industries.
To do this, numerous educational interventions must be put in place: this is the other dimension of the educational vocation of ecological reserves. This involves the organization of meetings and concerted activities aimed, in all regions of Quebec, at getting stakeholders (public, parapublic or private) to think about ways of developing, managing and operating which are the least damaging possible for certain ecosystems in their region, particularly in the vicinity of ecological reserves. This is another way ecological reserves contribute to education for sustainable development.