About Crown land

Crown land in Ontario is managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry — this includes shore lands and the beds of most lakes and rivers.

About 77% of the province’s land mass is made up of Crown land managed under the Public Lands Act, with an additional 10% of Crown land held as provincial parks and conservation reserves.

More than 95% of northern Ontario is Crown land. There is little Crown land in southern Ontario, primarily due to historic high levels of population settlement and resulting development.

Federal lands, including national parks and some harbours and canal systems, are managed under federal laws.

Learn about Ontario’s parks and protected areas

How Crown land is managed

The Public Lands Act gives the ministry the authority to manage Crown land. For provincial parks and conservation reserves, land is managed under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act.

Crown land management policies guide day-to-day and long-term management of Crown lands.

We develop these policies in consultation with the public and Indigenous communities, to guide staff, stakeholders and the public in the administration, use, disposition and stewardship of Crown land.

Crown land management policies

The process to use Crown land

To manage Crown land, we review applications to ensure activities on Crown land align with land use planning direction.

Every Crown land-related decision by the ministry (e.g., selling a Crown lot or issuing a work permit) takes into account a number of factors, including:

  • socio-economic benefits
  • environmental and ecological impacts

If the project is consistent with planning and strategic policy direction, we will then apply an environmental assessment to evaluate the effects of the proposed use.

An assessment of the potential impacts to Indigenous and treaty rights is also conducted. This will assist in informing the Crown’s duty to consult requirements.

Approved activities commonly have conditions that manage their impact on the land. Crown land tenants must also follow other rules that apply to their activity, such as fuel handling safety standards under the Technical Standards and Safety Authority.

Records of Crown land use

We maintain careful records of who has authority to use or occupy Crown land. When individuals illegally use Crown land, we may take enforcement action to resolve those situations before Crown lands are jeopardized.