Crown land use planning carried out by MNRF is guided by a range of legislation, policy, government direction and plans. This section outlines how these sources of direction influence Crown land use planning.

7.1 Role of legislation, policy and government direction

Crown land use planning is influenced by several acts for which MNRF administers including the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Wilderness Areas Act and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. Regulations associated with legislation can also have implications for planning. MNRF’s Crown land use planning also considers legislation administered by other ministries or federal agencies including: EAA, Planning Act, Places to Grow Act, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, Greenbelt Act, Mining Act, Lake Simcoe Protection Act, Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, Endangered Species Act and federal Fisheries Act.

The policies outlined in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) under the Planning Act are an important source of direction for a range of planning matters in Ontario. In the case of Crown land use planning, which is carried out under the authority of the PLA, the PPS is a reflection of government interests that MNRF considers in carrying out its work.

The Planning Act states in Section 6 (2) that: A ministry, before carrying out or authorizing any undertaking that MNRF considers will directly affect any municipality, shall consult with, and have regard for, the established planning policies of the municipality. This legislative provision applies to some Crown land use planning proposals in areas where there are municipalities.

Policy establishes the broad outcomes to be achieved through allocating Crown lands to potential specific uses and developing area-specific policies for these lands. Policy may also provide guidance on process requirements that need to be addressed in Crown land use planning. The primary source of this direction is formal government or ministry strategic level policy.

In some situations, provincial strategic policies are translated through planning or analysis into more geographically specific direction (e.g. objectives or targets or ranges for a resource or activity or value in an eco-region or eco-district). An example of this type of direction is MNRF’s Landscape Guides, which were developed to ensure that forest management reflects the most recent scientific knowledge on conserving biodiversity at the sub-regional (landscape) scale.

In special situations strategic policy may be developed in conjunction with planning processes. Ontario’s Living Legacy Land Use Strategy established certain provincial land use planning policy direction, including the Ontario Forest Accord. The Accord established commitments and principles for working cooperatively to establish new parks and protected areas, while also meeting the needs of the forest industry for a sustainable wood supply. This initiative has subsequently been formalized as Room to Grow (see Section 11.2).

Wilderness Areas are managed for the preservation of the area in its natural state so research and educational activities may be carried on, for the protection of the flora and fauna, for the improvement of the area, and for its historical, aesthetic, scientific or recreational value. However, the Act also includes a provision that nothing in the Act or in the regulations made under the Act limits or affects the development or utilization of the natural resources in any Wilderness Area that is more than 260 hectares in size (260 hectares is the equivalent of one square mile).

Over time, the Wilderness Area designation was recognized as being less effective than other tools for natural heritage protection. Provincial parks and conservation reserves have become the preferred means of affording regulated protection to areas of significant natural or cultural heritage value on provincial Crown lands. There are currently nine regulated Wilderness Areas in the area to which the Guide applies that are not located within a regulated provincial park or conservation reserve. These nine areas cover less than 800 ha. The intention is to review, through local Crown land use planning processes, these remaining Wilderness Areas to determine if natural values warrant further protection. Areas that do not warrant protection will be deregulated. Crown land use planning processes must not propose the establishment of new Wilderness Areas under the Wilderness Areas Act.

There are a variety of government documents or processes that provide direction for short to medium time periods (one to four years), such as annual ministry business plans, throne speeches, provincial budgets and other statements of government intent or priorities. These strategic documents must be considered in all planning to ensure that ministry policies and actions are aligned with government priorities.

7.2 Relationship of provincial policy and area-specific land use policies

Area-specific land use planning or policy must be undertaken and be consistent with provincial policy. Area-specific land use policy refers to direction on land use that applies to a specific portion of Ontario. The policy can apply to both a small or large area. Area-specific land use policy is almost always developed through a Crown land use planning process.

Provincial policy provides direction and takes precedence over area-specific land use policies and local plans, except where there is an explicit approval otherwise.

In situations where new or revised provincial policy has implications for area-specific land use policy, a land use amendment should be processed to align the area-specific land use policy. Different types of provincial policies have different implications for Crown land use planning. Some types of policies are non-discretionary and leave little or no room for interpretation. These policies must be automatically and consistently applied, and normally are incorporated into area-specific land use policies through administrative amendments. Unless specific exceptions are noted, approved policy that is non-discretionary applies as soon as it is approved, and the subsequent processing of an administrative land use amendment is housekeeping. Most legislative policy is non-discretionary.

Any proposals for a new or revised provincial policy that will lead to changes in area-specific land use policies should identify the expected implications during public consultation.