This section provides guidance on the use of Crown land use designations and presents guidelines on the use of primary and overlay designations. Provincial policies for these designations are detailed in Part II of the Guide, along with guidance on circumstances under which specific designations could be applied.

8.1 MNRF’s Crown land use designation system

In Crown land use planning, land use designations that are applied to specific areas of Crown land to show where particular land and resource use objectives are to be given emphasis or priority. Crown land use designations have several major purposes including:

  • being an important tool for communicating land allocation decisions with the associated land use intent. The land use maps identify the areas where the designations and associated policies apply
  • providing a level of certainty respecting uses that may occur on various lands, subject to meeting specific approval requirements as required
  • reducing land use conflict by supplying direction on the separation of incompatible land uses and
  • providing for resource management and other detailed planning, including some operational decisions.

8.2 Provincial policies for Crown land use designations

The provincial level policies for specific Crown land use designations serve a variety of purposes:

  • providing a common understanding of the implications of the application of different designations
  • ensuring a level of consistency in land and resource management across the province
  • providing standard wording that can be used in local planning

The degree of flexibility of the provincial policies for the different designations varies considerably. Policies for Recommended Provincial Parks and Recommended Conservation Reserves provide the least flexibility, as they are applied for the purpose of establishing future protected areas. By contrast, the General Use Area (GUA) designation provides for the greatest breadth of land use activities. Some GUAs have policies that provide explicit site-specific direction (e.g. relatively high level of protection for significant values), while other GUAs have few specific policies and rely on provincial program policies to guide potential activities. Enhanced Management Areas (EMA) generally emphasize the management of the land base for specific values.

8.3 Primary Crown land use designations

The six primary Crown land use designations are:

  • Recommended Provincial Park
  • Recommended Conservation Reserve
  • Provincial Wildlife Area
  • Forest Reserve
  • Enhanced Management Area
  • General Use Area

Policy direction associated with the six primary land use designations is discussed in Part II. The Recommended Provincial Park and Recommended Conservation Reserve designations are considered through land use planning under the PLA, then subsequently regulated by MECP under authority of the PPCRA.

The primary Crown land use designation identifies most of the land use policies that apply to an area, either through the application of provincial policy or through the development of area-specific land use or management policy. Only one primary Crown land use designation may apply for any one given area.

There can only be one primary Crown land use designation for an area.

Primary Crown land use designations for specific areas are determined through a Crown land use planning process.

Establishing a new primary Crown land use designation, or a new category of EMA requires an amendment to this Guide, other provincial level policy approval, or decisions made through legislation or regulation.

The designation of a land use area is generally determined through a land use planning process that includes public involvement. However, in certain situations MNRF could make the determination without public involvement, and the land use decision will be subsequently documented in an administrative amendment. In the case of provincial parks or conservation reserves, Crown land use planning first designates an area as a Recommended Provincial Park or a Recommended Conservation Reserve and creates area-specific land use policy for the area until it is regulated under the PPCRA.

The assignment of a Recommended Provincial Park to a park class is an important planning decision because it determines the general policy basis for future management. As Recommended Provincial Park classes have different policy environments, the class is a key factor in developing the policies for a proposed Recommended Provincial Park and, consequently, should be determined and communicated early in the planning process.

In the event a park class is not assigned during planning, MECP will assign a class during the management planning process or PPCRA regulation process.

The Recommended Provincial Park and EMA designations are both subdivided into separate types.

The policy report for a Recommended Provincial Park must assign the area to one of the provincial park classes below:

  • Wilderness
  • Nature Reserve
  • Cultural Heritage
  • Natural Environment
  • Waterway
  • Recreational

Policy report for EMA’s must assign the area to one of the categories below:

  • Natural Heritage
  • Recreation
  • Remote Access
  • Fish and Wildlife
  • Great Lakes Coastal Areas

The following factors must be considered in the selection of a primary Crown land use designation:

  • extent to which the provincial level policies for the designation support the proposed objectives for the area
  • ability to develop area-specific policies that address local circumstances
  • support the designation may provide for implementing the identified land use intent and management direction (e.g. are there regulatory tools associated with the designation that would help to implement the policies for the area)
  • public input on the designation
  • potential environmental, social, cultural heritage and economic implications
  • potential impacts on Aboriginal or treaty rights
  • compatibility of the policies for the designation with the land use intent of adjacent land use areas
  • commitments that have been made to a person or group, where land has been or is being donated to the province for a specific purpose

There may be other factors that will warrant consideration. For example, whether the land use designation and associated policies being considered properly support the objectives of the adjacent land use area(s). Considerations in the application of each primary Crown land use designation are outlined in Part II.

8.4 Overlay designations

Overlay designations are supplementary policies that modify the underlying primary land use area policies. Overlays or modifying policies must be read in conjunction with the policies for the primary designation. Overlay designations typically provide direction for a small number of land use or resource management activities.

Overlay areas have been primarily applied where there are defined areas with a limited set of land use policies that cut across (i.e. do not align with) land use areas. Because of this lack of alignment, the policies cannot be readily integrated into the underlying land use areas.

The policies for overlays supplement the policies for the primary Crown land use area(s). Where the primary land use area and overlay area provide direction on the same topic or activity, the policies of the overlay area will be applied.

One example of an overlay designation is Crown Game Preserves. Crown Game Preserves established under Section 9 (1) of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act prohibit hunting and trapping and the boundaries of these areas are applied as overlays on the primary Crown land use designation. Policies for overlay designations generally take precedence over the primary Crown land use designation policies.

Overlay designations may also be used where there are identified natural resource values with associated local land use policies covering a small portion of a land use area, such as deer yard overlays through central Ontario.

The establishment of new overlay designation areas is discouraged because it creates greater complexity when interpreting land use policy. Where possible, all land use policy should be integrated into the policies for the primary land use areas. In some cases, this may necessitate the division of land use areas. However, there are some circumstances (e.g. some Crown Game Preserves) where it will not be feasible to integrate the land use policy into the primary Crown land use designations for the area.

The process for the removal of overlay policies should be similar to the process that was used to originally establish the policies. Modification or removal of overlays that were established through a Crown land use planning process, would need to occur through Crown land use planning, including meeting the requirements of the applicable land use amendment process. When area-specific policies are reviewed, opportunities to remove existing overlays should be carefully considered.

8.5 Crown land use designation or value for consideration

As outlined in Section 8.3 there are six approved primary Crown land use designations. A Crown land use designation is applied to an area through a Crown land use planning process and has an associated standard set of land use policies which provide the primary land use intent for the area. In contrast, although important considerations in planning, individual values do not have any associated land use policies.

Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest

Where ANSIs have been identified and approved through formal government reviews, the ministry may consider the protection of these natural values in land use planning. Where there is a desire to protect a specific area, there are a variety of land use policy options including designation as a Recommended Provincial Park, Recommended Conservation Reserve, Natural Heritage EMA, or a GUA with area-specific protection policies.

Lake Trout Lake

A lake trout lake is a fisheries value that is often referenced in policy reports in CLUPA. MNRF has established a formal process to identify lakes that are managed for lake trout, as documented in Inland Ontario Lakes Designated for Lake Trout Management.

CLUPA is a useful vehicle for integrating the value identification and land use policies that specifically apply to the value, in order that the geographic application of policies is readily apparent. The policy report for any land use area in CLUPA that contains one or more identified lake trout lakes has a link to the document, Inland Ontario Lakes Designated for Lake Trout Management, which includes the current list of identified lake trout lakes. Revisions to the list of lake trout lakes are incorporated into CLUPA via an administrative land use amendment.

Provincially Significant Wetland

MNRF will have regard for Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSW) in Crown land use planning. A PSW is not a Crown land use designation, and its identification does not entail the application of any specific land use policies.