This Section provides guidance on the development and documentation of draft and approved area-specific land use policies. The emphasis is on developing and documenting policies using the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas (CLUPA). Guidance is also provided for the relatively small number of situations where a separate land use plan document may be prepared and guidance on documentation of the boundaries of land use areas.

9.1 Developing land use policies

Land use policies should be clear, specific and unambiguous. Land use policies are intended to last for a longer period and should not normally be used to establish short term (a year or two) operational direction or prescriptions. Although it is possible to revise the policies or boundaries for individual land use areas, they should be relatively stable over time. It would not normally be appropriate to apply a Crown land use designation to a situation where a land use, or set of resource management practices, is expected to occur for only a relatively short period of time.

It is desirable to make as many land use decisions as possible during Crown land use planning, subject to the scope of planning and data availability. Deferring consideration of issues to subsequent planning can mean substantial delays, or in many cases the issues will not be appropriately addressed.

Development of area-specific policies must be carried out in the context of applicable legislation and regulation, provincial policies for the Crown land use designation as outlined in Part II of the Guide, and any other relevant policies. Area-specific policies must be consistent with provincial policies but can elaborate on provincial policies and in some circumstances be more restrictive. Where area-specific land use policy is silent on a specific activity or use, the policy for the activity is based on any applicable provincial policy.

General direction for development of area-specific land use policy includes the following.

  • Area-specific land use policies cannot be less restrictive than provincial policy. For example, the provincial policy for Remote Access Enhanced Management Areas (EMAs) states that new roads will not be open for motorized travel by the public, and local planning must be consistent with this policy.
  • With proper approvals, area-specific land use policies can be more restrictive than the provincial policies for a Crown land use designation, but they cannot be less restrictive.
  • Application of restrictions in specific situations must be consistent with the intent of the provincial policies, and the overall purpose of the Crown land use designation. For example, area-specific land use policies for EMAs must be consistent with the policy whereby modifications to resource management practices in EMAs will be implemented with no impact on wood supply, and only in exceptional cases will wood costs be affected.
  • There is considerable latitude in the development of area-specific land use policies where provincial policies are conditional in nature. For example, where provincial policies indicate that an activity may be permitted through Crown land use planning, it is usually possible to permit the activity without restriction, to identify conditions under which the activity may occur, or to prohibit the activity under specific circumstances.
  • New area-specific land use policies that effectively re-designate an area to another designation are discouraged. For example, if the area-specific policies for an area prohibit all industrial uses, while the provincial policies are relatively permissive, consideration should be given to the application of another designation or category.
  • More detailed policies can be applied to part of a land use area, if the geographic application of the policy is clearly defined. However, if the policies are significantly different for a portion of the area, consideration should be given to establishing a separate land use area.
  • Major pre-existing land use commitments must be documented in policy report(s) when new planning is carried out, so that there is a general understanding of the scope of these commitments.

Emphasis should be placed on developing clear and relatively detailed direction for General Use Areas (GUAs) and EMAs in any Crown land use planning processes, because these designations have limited provincial policies. The GUA designation has few standard policies, and thus it is essential that planning clearly defines the broad intent and specific policies for all GUAs. In some situations, a GUA may not require any area-specific policies if a conscious decision is made that there is no local land use intent for the area and standard provincial policies provide adequate management direction.

EMAs have some provincial policy direction, however for most categories the direction is limited or general in nature. As a result, more specific land use and management guidelines should be developed for existing and new EMAs. The area-specific policies for EMAs should provide greater detail and should interpret how any provincial-level direction applies to a specific area. In cases where there are significant values or major management issues, it may be appropriate to develop individual management plans, however this is not considered to be necessary for most EMAs. Where individual management plans are prepared for EMAs, any revisions to the area-specific land use policy must be incorporated into CLUPA through a land use amendment.

In developing area-specific land use policy, it is important to recognize the bounds of Crown land use planning. There are some topics or resources that cannot be dealt with in Crown land use planning, or where the treatment must be limited. For example:

  • Although Crown land use planning processes can identify interests or perspectives on the management of private lands, or lands managed by other agencies, these statements do not have any direct effect. Planning on private lands is the responsibility of municipalities and several other ministries and agencies.
  • Crown land use planning cannot bind MNRF to specific implementation actions, other than carrying out activities and granting authorizations in conformity with approved area-specific land use policies and relevant provincial policy. Implementation actions are often contingent on other approvals including the approval of funding, and plans are not mechanisms for approving these types of commitments.
  • Land use amendments, or land use plans, do not grant approvals for activities that require specific types of review or authorization.
  • There are constraints on the land use policies that can be included in Crown land use planning related to mineral exploration and development, consistent with Section 11.1.

When developing land use policies, it is important to consider the application of policies to lands under water. In most situations, water bodies are combined with the adjacent land areas, and there are no special land use policies dealing with lands under water. However, with larger water bodies, such as the Great Lakes, it may be appropriate to have land use areas that only include lands under water, or that deal with the land under water plus a limited amount of shoreline. Many of the land use policies for lands under the Great Lakes are established in legislation, regulation or policies, and thus policy reports will primarily document the application of existing policies to specific areas.

9.2 Documenting land use policies

Documentation in CLUPA and/or local plans

Crown land use planning decisions shall generally be documented in CLUPA. While possible to document area-specific land use policies in both CLUPA and a specific local land use plan, however, use of CLUPA supports the broad objectives of accessibility and transparency.

CLUPA is the source of area-specific land use policy, except where a policy report states that supplementary direction is provided by a local planning document. When planning processes are being carried out that will result in the production of a separate land use plan, the relationship between CLUPA and the land use plan must be identified in both the policy reports and other relevant document(s). The policy report must identify the nature of any supplementary direction that is in other documents. Any policies in other land use plans and documents must be consistent with those in CLUPA. New or revised policy reports should provide links to any relevant land use plans.

As noted in Section 2.2, the PLA refers to land use plans as being the source of area-specific land use policy. For the purpose of applying the provisions of the PLA, policy reports are a form of land use plan.

Additional direction in land use plans that cannot be reasonably included in policy reports can fall into two categories:

  1. land use policies that apply to multiple land use areas
  2. extremely detailed land use policy

Planning processes that will result in the production of a separate land use plan require an accompanying land use amendment that identifies the policies that will be incorporated into CLUPA. To the extent possible, new or updated area-specific land use policies must be incorporated into policy reports.

Where there are Crown land use policies documented in CLUPA, the preparation of new separate land use plans should only occur in special situations. Separate plans should normally only be prepared where:

  • there is the need to develop comprehensive policies that apply to a range of different land use areas and designations
  • there are significant issues that warrant the more detailed treatment, discussion and documentation that is usually associated with the development of a land use plan
  • there is a need to provide integrated land use and resource management direction, or
  • participants in a planning process are more likely to understand the scope and nature of planning if it is communicated through a single planning document

Supporting documents that are prepared as part of local Crown land use planning processes are appropriate vehicles for communicating and consulting on a broad range of information and direction that does not constitute area-specific land use policy (e.g. background information, options, evaluation, summaries of and response to public input, and implementation strategies). Supplemental planning documents can play a useful role in documenting the rationale for decisions but are not normally included in CLUPA.

In planning processes where a separate land use plan is being prepared, the draft, recommended and approved plans must include the proposed or approved text of new or revised policy reports. The policy reports can be included in the body of the report or in an appendix. When a plan that existed prior to the approval of CLUPA is reviewed and substantially updated, and continues to exist as a separate document, this requirement to incorporate updated policy reports must be addressed.

Format and content of policy reports

Policy reports in CLUPA must comply with the established standards for format and content.

CLUPA document area-specific land use policies, it does not document the evolution of designations or policies for an area (e.g. additions, subtractions, modifications). This background information can be included in land use amendment documentation or other supporting documentation.

The content of CLUPA policy reports must focus on land use policies, not on description. A detailed description of an area should only be included in policy reports where it is essential context for understanding the associated land use policies.

Documenting land use amendments

Proposed and approved changes to land use policies are documented through area-specific land use amendments. The amendment process provides a mechanism for ensuring that appropriate approvals are obtained for any proposed changes.

Review periods for plans

Some land use plans have in the past identified a specific time interval when they should be subject to a comprehensive plan review. This can create problems because there may be situations where a review is not warranted when the date is reached, or there are other higher priority planning projects.

Land use plans must not set a fixed date for a comprehensive review of land use policies. Plans can include a date when the need for a scoped or comprehensive review will be examined.

9.3 Developing and refining land use area boundaries

Land use area boundaries are intended to provide a clear definition of the area where a suite of land use policies apply. There are two types of boundaries – boundaries that will be implemented through policy (i.e. through incorporation into CLUPA) and boundaries that will be implemented through regulation (e.g. provincial parks and conservation reserves).

All new or revised land use boundaries must be edited in the appropriate CLUPA data layer stored in Land Information Ontariofootnote 1 Amendments to area-specific land use policies that create a new boundary or revise existing boundaries must be accompanied by a map (and associated shapefile) illustrating the boundary changes.

Where the accuracy of a policy boundary is improved through refinements to the geo-spatial data layer, but the intent of the boundary is not altered, no land use amendment is required. An amendment to CLUPA is required where proposed boundary refinements would alter the original intent of the boundary.


  • footnote[1] Back to paragraph Land Information Ontario (LIO) is the lead for managing and promoting the use of geographic information. Amendments to area-specific land use policies that create a new boundary or revise existing boundaries must be accompanied by a map (and associated shapefile) illustrating the boundary changes.