Since the 1980s, Gaston Déry has made Île aux Pommes his main focus when it comes to protecting nesting areas for migratory birds.
I’m a child of the river. As a kid, my playground was the St. Lawrence. I'd spend hours enjoying its many treasures. My grandfather taught me about the importance of loving, respecting and protecting it. He kept saying: "get closer and listen to nature, it never lies". Over the years, I've developed a close bond with ‘my’ river. It remains a source of inspiration and serenity for me. It's a place that carries a great sense of pride and identity for Quebecers. It’s a gem to all those who live by its side. What a privilege to have the most beautiful river in the world… right here at home.
I'm a pioneer of the Quebec environmental movement. Throughout my career, I've held various strategic positions. As President and CEO of the QLMA, I worked on developing Quebec's first environmental policy for the lumber industry. As the first General Manager of SOPFIM, I helped develop the Forest Protection Strategy. As Vice-President of POLE-QCA (‘Quebec international’), I set up exchange networks in Quebec City’s business community, contributing to the economic growth of the region.
As Vice-President, Sustainable Development for world-class consulting and engineering firm Roche, I worked on ‘solving the sustainable development plus engineering equation’. And finally, as Vice President, Social Responsibility of QSL, I introduced SR into this national and international maritime entity. I remain involved in the maritime industry to further develop the St. Lawrence.
Being concerned with preserving nature and making it sustainable, I began restoring the habitats of Île aux Pommes in 1980, to provide nesting areas for eider colonies of the St. Lawrence estuary. I spent 40 years of my life protecting and enhancing the island’s biodiversity. I made it the first private reserve in the Lower Estuary. I'm often asked to give talks on the river, its beauty, its richness and the need to protect it.
Proving that "ordinary" citizens can play a decisive role in protecting and enhancing the river, since they live in symbiosis with the St. Lawrence and have a true sense of belonging.
Île aux Pommes has become a worldwide reference in the field of conservation, and my efforts have been recognized by both levels of government. At the provincial level, I was awarded a Phénix Award in 2007. The Premier also made me a Knight of the Ordre national in 2020, in recognition of my role in the environmental field. It's the most prestigious honour to receive in Quebec, and an important acknowledgement of citizen involvement. At the federal level, the Governor General made me a member of the Order of Canada in 2017, in recognition of my dedication to the enhancement of natural heritage and my contribution to sustainable development.
All ‘users’ and ‘managers’ of the St. Lawrence, from the public and private sectors of all kinds and origins, must work together to ensure sustainability of the river.
The Société de protection et d'aménagement de l'île aux Pommes protects the private reserve and inspire citizens to help maintain biodiversity (by increasing the number of protected areas on land). This is essential to human survival. Our biggest challenge is to secure funding for our conservation efforts. By supporting us, donors show that every bit of help counts, and that it's the sum of individual actions that makes a difference in the end.
My dream is that future generations will love it as much as I do. We protect what we love... My dream is also to see the St. Lawrence become as important to people as a friend would be. As Saint-Exupery said in The Little Prince: “It was just a fox like a hundred thousand others. But I made him my friend, and he is now unique.”
EcoMaris would like to thank Gaston Déry for this interview. You can find news about Gaston by clicking on the following (French) link: https://gastondery.com/