Forest management planning

How Crown forests are managed in Ontario and how you can get involved in the planning process.

The law

In Ontario, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is responsible for the long-term health of Crown forests (public land).

This responsibility is shared with forest product companies or groups of companies and communities.

Through forest management planning, forest managers provide for healthy forests now and in the future and provide a range of sustainable benefits (e.g. timber and commercial products, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities).

Forest management is based on 2 key laws that guide planning:

1. Crown Forest Sustainability Act

It provides for:

  • the regulation of forest planning
  • information management and exchange
  • forest operations, licensing, trust funds, processing facilities, remedies and enforcement
  • four manuals that outline the rules and procedures for forest management planning
  • independent forest audits

Learn more about the Crown Forest Sustainability Act

2. Environmental Assessment Act

Provides approvals to carry out forest management on Crown lands in what is called the “Area of the Undertaking” and the White Feather Forest in northwestern Ontario.

Every 5 years, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provides an Environmental Assessment (EA) Report on Forest Management to the Ministry of the Environment and the public on how it met EA requirements.

View MNRF’s EA approvals (Declaration orders)

Learn more about the Environmental Assessment Act

Five-Year Environmental Assessment Report on Forest Management

How forests are managed

44% of Ontario’s Crown forests are managed forests. These forests are divided into management units.

See current list of management units and map.

Management unit map

Forest management planning

In Ontario, forestry activities include:

  • providing access — building roads and bridges
  • harvesting trees — cutting and removing trees
  • renewing the forest — replacing forests after they are harvested with new forests
  • maintenance — caring for the forests
  • planning — preparing plans to carry out forest management activities

Forest management planning on Ontario’s Crown forests is based on:

  • sustainability
  • stakeholder, public and Aboriginal community involvement
  • adaptive management (continuous learning)

Forest management plans

Forester reading a plan

Before any forestry activities can take place, a forest management plan must be in place. Preparing and implementing a forest management plan is a rigorous process. It includes stakeholder, public and Aboriginal community involvement at various stages.

Forest management plans:

  • must ensure sustainability while finding a balance of social, economic and environmental values
  • are prepared by a registered professional forester with input from local citizens, Aboriginal communities, stakeholders and the public
  • are prepared/approved for a 10-year period
  • determine how much/where harvesting can occur, where roads can be built and how much forest will be renewed
  • include opportunities for public involvement

The Forest Management Planning Manual provides the direction for preparing a plan.

The Forest Information Manual provides information requirements to support forest management planning and direction on how this information is shared.

Read our Forest management manuals.

A series of forest management guides provide direction on acceptable forest management practices.

The Protocol for the Review and Approval of Forestry Water Crossings provides direction for the planning, review, approval and monitoring of forestry water crossings.

If changes to the forest management plan are required (for example, identifying a new location for an access road) after the plan has been approved, the plan can be modified by following an amendment process.

Find a forest management plan

Forest Resource Inventory (FRI)

The forest resource inventory is an extensive survey of forest resources of Ontario. FRI is the basis of forest management planning.

Forest resource inventories:

  • include information on species, sizes and number of trees in a forested area.
  • are required on each management unit every 10 years
  • must be updated at the start of each new forest management plan to reflect all changes to the forest (every 10 years)
  • are used for routine planning and modelling

Annual work schedule

  • are prepared every year for each management unit by a registered professional forester
  • identify forest operations (e.g. harvest, road construction, tree planting, aerial spraying) from the approved plan that will occur that year
  • include more details about the planned forest operations

Monitoring and reporting

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the forest company routinely monitor and report on implementation of the forest management plan. This ensures that:

  • the forest management plan is being followed
  • reports on the results of management activities are prepared
  • the activities are effective in achieving the desired results

Each year, an annual report is prepared detailing the activities completed during the year for each management unit. The annual report includes information on:

  • the amount of area and volume harvested
  • the amount of area site prepared and planted
  • natural disturbances, such as forest fires
  • road construction and maintenance activities
  • the results of monitoring

The results of monitoring, reporting and assessment are used to make any necessary adjustments during preparation of the next forest management plan.

Reports for each management unit are also used for provincial reporting on forest management.

View Annual Report on Forest Management

Forest management plan renewal schedules

Forest management plan renewal schedules are prepared annually.

See Forest management plan renewal schedules for 2014-2018

How you can get involved

Public consultation meeting

There are many uses and users of Ontario’s Crown forests. Public participation is a key component of forest management in Ontario and is required by law.

You can provide input to a forest management plan by:

  • contacting your local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry office and asking to be included on a mailing list for updates on the forest management plan
  • getting involved in a local citizens committee (members include people with an interest in forest management, including trappers, tourism operators, hunters and anglers)
  • arranging for a meeting with your local MNRF forester, the plan author or representative of the local citizens committee
  • attending public consultation meetings (look for notices in local newspapers)
  • commenting on the Environmental Registry notice, which is posted for each stage of planning

If you have concerns that cannot be addressed through informal discussions with the plan author and planning team, you can use the formal issue resolution process to resolve your issue.

Aboriginal involvement

Aboriginal communities in or near a management unit have specific opportunities to get involved in the planning process. Each community may choose to:

  • have a representative on the planning team
  • have an opportunity to develop a customized approach to consultation
  • identify Aboriginal values, e.g. sacred lands, for protection
  • help develop and review related reports

More information

For more information on how to participate:

Updated: August 21, 2020