How to get involved in forest management
Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch
The content of this handbook is intended to assist the public, forest workers, Indigenous peoples and others to gain a clear understanding of how you can help manage forests on Crown lands in Ontario and how you can get information to support your involvement. It includes information on forest management planning and operations, policy and administration. Read information specifically related to opportunities for First Nation and Métis Community involvement in forest management.
Every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information presented. It should be noted that this document is not intended to interpret rules relating to forest management planning and operations, nor does it create any new or additional policy or administrative requirements.
Overview of forest management
What is forest management?
Forest management is the use of forestry principles, policies, practices and business techniques to achieve sustainable environmental, social and economic benefits from a forest over time.
Forest management includes the activities of:
- building and maintaining of access roads into the forest
- harvesting of trees
- renewal and tending of the forest
- preparing forest management plans (FMPs) that enable these activities
Why is forest management important?
Ontario’s Crown forests provide social, economic and environmental benefits for present and future generations. Managing the health and sustainability of Crown forests is the responsibility of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the forest industry, Indigenous peoples, and the public. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry must consider the opinions of all Ontarians in making forest management decisions.
Where does forest management occur on Crown lands in Ontario?
Forest management occurs throughout a large portion of central and northern Ontario as shown in Figure 1. This area is further broken down into geographical planning areas called management units and forest management plans (FMPs) are written for these management units.
Figure 1: Management Units in Ontario 2021
What are the requirements forest management must follow in Ontario?
There are laws and policies in Ontario to ensure the sustainable management and use of Crown forests. Ontario’s forest policy framework is globally recognized for its effective management of Crown forests. It is a robust system, rooted in best available science, and founded on an adaptive management approach of planning, implementing, monitoring and re-planning based on performance and the evaluation of new information, science, and traditional knowledge.
The foundation of the forest policy framework is the Crown Forest Sustainability Act that provides for the sustainable management of Crown forests in a manner that must have regard for plant and animal life, including species at risk, water, soil, air and social and economic values.
Learn more about forest legislation, policies, manuals and guidelines.
Information on the forest management planning process
How are Crown forests managed?
Crown forests are managed through the preparation and implementation of Forest Management Plans (FMPs). These plans ensure the province’s Crown forests remain healthy and provide benefits such as timber and other commercial products, wildlife and species at risk habitat, and recreation opportunities. A FMP is prepared for each of Ontario’s management units.
What is a management unit?
Ontario’s Crown forests are divided into geographic planning areas known as management units. Management units have local names such as the Algoma Forest, Nipissing Forest or the Red Lake Forest. Most of these management units are managed by the forest industry under sustainable forest licences. Sustainable forest licence holders are responsible for forest management planning and forest operations (i.e., access road construction, harvest, renewal) subject to the requirements of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act.
The Crown, or a designated company, is responsible for preparing and implementing a FMP for management units that are not managed by sustainable forest licence holders. Regardless of who prepares the FMP, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is responsible for approving them.
You can visit the Natural Resources Information Portal to view a map of all management units and the current status of the FMP for each unit.
What is a forest management plan?
A FMP outlines the objectives over a ten-year period for a management unit and what forest operations may be completed over that time to achieve those objectives. There must be an approved FMP before any forest operations can take place in a management unit.
What guides the preparation and implementation of a forest management plan?
There are three manuals that provide direction for the preparation and implementation of forest management plans. Each manual contains technical direction and a glossary of the technical terms used. The manuals include:
- The Forest Management Planning Manual is the primary document that guides the preparation of a forest management plan for a management unit.
- The Forest Operations and Silviculture Manual sets out the principles and accepted approaches for forest management, the standards for forest operations and silvicultural practices, the minimum qualifications for forestry workers, and the procedures for the evaluation of forest management in Ontario.
- The Forest Information Manual provides direction for the exchange of forest management information between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the forest industry. It describes what information is required for forest management planning and the preparation and delivery of forest resources inventories, maps, forest operations inspections, forest values, and base data.
How is a forest management plan implemented?
Annual work schedules direct the implementation of a FMP over its ten-year period. Forest operations must be reported every year in annual reports.
The following forest management activities can only occur on Crown lands if an approved FMP and annual work schedule are in place:
- roads can be built and maintained to provide access to the forest
- roads can be decommissioned when they are no longer needed
- trees can be harvested for lumber, paper or other products
- tree planting and seeding can occur to renew the forest
- young trees can be tended to keep them growing well
Who prepares a forest management plan?
A FMP is prepared by a plan author who is a registered professional forester in Ontario under the Professional Foresters Act. The plan author is assisted by a planning team and a local citizens’ committee. The planning team includes representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the forest industry, the local citizens’ committee, and First Nation and Métis communities. Once the FMP has been prepared and is ready for approval, the plan author will certify that it provides for the sustainability of the Crown forest, and submit it to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for approval by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry regional director.
How to get Involved in forest management planning
Why is the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry asking for my involvement?
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry wants to understand your interest in forest management so it can make informed and balanced decisions. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and forest industry will ask for your input at key times as part of consultation processes associated with forest management planning.
How will I know that a consultation process is underway?
When the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry holds consultations for a FMP, it notifies the public through some or all of the following:
- direct mail or email
- notices posted in local media (e.g., newspapers, digital media such as online news sources, social media)
- notices posted on the Natural Resources Information Portal
You will find more information about consultation in the forest management planning and forest policy sections of this document.
How can I get involved or provide input on a forest management plan or policy?
During the development of FMPs or other forest management policy you can get involved by:
- Calling or emailing the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry or the forest industry contacts identified in the notices to get information or discuss a particular interest or concern you may have.
- Getting informed - visit the Natural Resources Information Portal to find your area of interest and review the forest management information provided (Natural Resources Information Portal - Forest Management Plans Online)
- Attending information forums (e.g., open houses) identified in the notice where information may be displayed in maps, documents and tables. Representatives will be available to answer questions and discuss any concerns you have about the FMP or project. You can submit written comments at the information forum.
- Becoming a member of a local citizens’ committee to provide advice to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district manager and the planning team on the development of a FMP. Members typically include people with an interest in forest management such as trappers, tourism operators, hunters and anglers, First Nation and Métis peoples and other stakeholders.
What is the Natural Resources Information Portal?
The Natural Resources Information Portal is a website that supports your involvement in forest management by providing access to draft and approved FMPs prepared for management units in Ontario. Forest management plan notices are posted here to support your understanding of where in Ontario FMPs are being developed and enable your review and submission of comments. Natural Resources Information Portal - Forest Management Plans Online.
What is the role of the local citizens’ committee in forest management planning?
The local citizens’ committee’s main role is to represent the interests of the public and Indigenous peoples by providing advice to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district manager and the planning team during the development and implementation of the FMP.
You can request a meeting with a member of the committee at any time during the planning process to discuss the FMP or for assistance with the forest management planning process.
What does the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry do with the comments I provide?
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry considers all comments from the public, First Nation and Métis communities, and stakeholders during the FMP or policy development processes. You can review the information that has supported the development of the FMP on the Natural Resources Information Portal to see how comments were considered.
When can I get involved in the preparation of a forest management plan?
There are five stages of consultation involved with preparing and approving a FMP. At the beginning of each of the five consultation stages, public notices are provided and may include direct written notices (e.g., letter, email), media notices (e.g., newspapers, digital media such as online news sources, social media) and notices posted on the Natural Resources Information Portal. The notices will tell you if a FMP is being prepared and the stage of plan development. There are five stages of consultation in preparing a forest management plan. Those stages are described in more detail later in this handbook and include:
- Stage One – Invitation to Participate
- Stage Two – Review of the Proposed Long-Term Management Direction
- Stage Three - Review of Proposed Operations
- Stage Four – Review of Draft Forest Management Plan
- Stage Five – Inspection of Approved Forest Management Plan
How long does it take to prepare a forest management plan?
It takes approximately three years to complete a forest management plan. Figure 2 provides an overview of a forest management planning schedule and identifies the timeline for each of the five stages of FMP development.
Figure 2: Forest management planning schedule
How can I get involved in the preparation of a forest management plan?
Public and Indigenous input is an important part of the forest management planning process. The planning team wants to hear from people and organizations who are interested in, and affected by, forest operations.
Here are some ways you can find out about and get involved with FMPs. You can:
- visit the Natural Resources Information Portal and review the notices to see what FMPs are being prepared that interest you
- review the current FMP for background information
- look for notices posted in media (e.g., newspapers, digital media such as online news sources, social media) for each stage of consultation and make note of the key Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Sustainable Forest License contacts
- contact your local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry office and ask to be included on the FMP mailing list
- arrange a meeting with Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry staff, the plan author, or a representative of the local citizens’ committee
- participate in information forum(s) to speak with members of the planning team or local citizens’ committee. You can also submit comments at the information forum
- write a letter to the plan author or the local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry work centre to identify your interests related to the FMP
Are there other forest management planning or implementation processes and documents that I can get involved in or view?
Public and Indigenous input is an important part of forest management planning and implementation. In addition to the opportunities to get involved in the preparation of a FMP, you have opportunities to get involved in the preparation of a:
- Contingency Plan – an interim FMP that may range from one to three year and is intended to permit the implementation of operations between the expiry of the current FMP and the approval of the next FMP
- Forest management plan extension – provides opportunity to add more time to the period of a FMP, where approved operations remain to be carried out, so the plan can continue to be implemented
- Forest management plan amendment – a change that may be needed during the implementation of a FMP
- Insect pest management program – a planning process the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry completes to determine the types and locations of operations that are required to remove or control an insect pest
You also can view:
- Annual work schedule – identifies forest operations from the approved FMP that are scheduled to be implemented during a specific year
- Prescribed burn plan – identifies areas on the management unit where fire will be used to help manage the forest
- Annual aerial herbicide and insecticide programs – identifies specific areas on the management unit where the applications of herbicides by an aircraft will be used to control vegetation that might compete with trees growing on a site after it has been harvested or the application of insecticides to control pests within the management unit
Issue resolution in forest management planning
What if I have a concern that hasn’t been resolved?
Sometimes the plan author or planning team are unable to address a concern you have brought forward to them to your satisfaction during the preparation of:
- a FMP
- a FMP amendment (minor, major or long-term management direction)
- a contingency plan
- an insect pest management program
When that happens, you can start a formal issue resolution process by submitting a request in writing to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. In your request you should identify:
- your issue(s)
- if your issue(s) relates to the long-term management direction or proposed operations of the FMP and include the location of the forest operations of concern
- facts or evidence you have gathered to support your issue(s)
- a proposed solution
What does the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry do with my request?
Upon receipt of your request, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will review it to ensure the issue is within the scope of the FMP issue resolution. Issues whose resolution is not within the scope and which will not be considered by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry include:
- matters outside the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry's mandate
- Crown land use planning; or
- matters that would require a legislative or regulatory amendment, or a change in the direction or guidance set out in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry manuals, policies or guides
Once your request has been reviewed, you will either be invited to attend a meeting (i.e., conference/video call or face-to-face) to discuss your issue(s), or you will receive notification that your issue is out of scope of the issue resolution process.
Who will hear my issue?
If you are invited to attend an issue resolution meeting, either the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district manager or regional director will hear your issue(s), depending upon the stage of FMP development when you raise your issue(s). You will receive a written response from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district manager or regional director that heard your issue(s).