The Gault Nature Reserve board of directors approved the Holland Report on management zones in 1968. Three separate development sectors were created to balance the goals of human use and ecosystem preservation.
The Preservation Sector provides a secure refuge for animals and serves as a reservoir of biotic diversity from which the more heavily used parts of the Reserve can be recolonized. This section of the Reserve is the least disturbed by human activity. Restrictions on access to the Preservation Sector apply to teaching activities, university research and the general public. Only long-term monitoring and inventorying activities are authorized in the Preservation Sector.
The Public Sector has two important vocations. This sector first provides access and an intimate contact with nature through its network of trails. Nature lovers, students and researchers are allowed to come in and public education and information programs help satisfy the needs of the local communities. The other vocation of this sector is to facilitate the main research activities. It is in this sector that experimental studies not allowed in the Preservation Sector can be carried out.
The Service Sector provides the support services and physical facilities to the Public and Preservation sectors. It is also acts as the entry point into the Reserve. It includes the parking lots and various buildings as well as the adjacent areas and corresponding easements (roads, power lines).
Why isn’t the Mont St. Hilaire forest being “cleaned up”?
Visitors sometimes wonder why the forest at Mont St. Hilaire has so much debris on the forest floor and so many dead or dying trees. Forests managed for the production of timber or maple syrup often create conditions that are much more open in the woods. Still today, for many people in Quebec and in many European countries where forests have been intensively managed since medieval times, a clean and orderly forest is one in which there are no dead branches, shrubs or young trees in the underbrush. The important thing to realize about the forest in the Gault Nature Reserve is that it is unmanaged and this is done on purpose! We are purposely letting nature take her course, as the great forests did in this region before the Europeans arrived. Obviously, trees in a forest do not require human intervention — they did just fine for many millennia before any foresters arrived in Quebec. In this region there are very, very few remnants of such old-growth forests that have not been managed by people for one reason or another. These remnants of “old-growth” forests provide invaluable scientific benchmarks against which the far more frequent, “second-growth” forests can be compared. Some plants and animals are found only in old-growth forests. We now know that it may take centuries for the flora and fauna of harvested forests to return to old-growth conditions even if exploitation or management were to stop. So what we have in the Gault Nature Reserve at Mont St. Hilaire is a precious remnant of old-growth forest. It is at the very northern limit of the deciduous forests that stretch south to the Gulf of Mexico and west to the Mississippi River. It is this old-growth character that contributes to the special value of the reserve for teaching and research, and also what sets it apart from the more disturbed forests on the other Monteregian Hills and in the surrounding St. Lawrence Valley.
Bonnicksen, Thomas M. 2000. America's Ancient Forests. From the Ice Age to the Age of Discovery. NY: Wiley.