Disclaimer: This guide is a summary of the Crown land disposition process and the role of a municipality and various government ministries and agencies. It is not to be used as a legal reference. The relevant statute, regulations and policies must be referred to for complete direction.

© 2015

Crown Land Management

Crown land in Ontario is managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) — 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. Crown land protects key elements of our natural heritage, supplies land for renewable energy, tourism and recreation. Many valuable resources such as forests, aggregates and minerals are located on Crown land. These resources are allocated and managed to the benefit of many communities as well as the province.

Crown land is no longer actively marketed, rented or sold for private recreational or residential use. Efforts are focused on working with northern Ontario communities and municipalities to make Crown land (excluding provincial parks and conservation reserves) available at market value to support local economic development.

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. Other factors, such as whether the land has a local, regional or national relevance is also considered.

MNRF will only consider the disposition of Crown land for cottage lots within municipal boundaries. Crown land development within municipally organized areas can contribute to the economic development objectives of municipalities, subject to the applicable provincial policies (e.g. Provincial Policy Statements under the Planning Act) and legislation. Together with financial capital, sound business plans and expertise, and community leadership, Crown land can form part of a successful undertaking.

This guide is designed to:

  1. define the role and responsibilities of municipalities/private sector developer, MNRF and other government ministries and agencies in the planning and disposition process;
  2. identify the considerations that influence Crown land availability;
  3. provide a clear and consistent process to identify Crown land cottage lot development initiatives;
  4. provide a clear and comprehensive outline of the Crown land disposition process and related approvals;
  5. provide options for municipalities to adopt a leadership role in the acquisition of Crown land to support cottage lot development.

When requests for public land are received, the disposition is considered along with factors which may warrant the land’s restricted use and/or retention (e.g. anticipated MNRF land needs, local community interests, environmental risk or compatibility with adjacent land uses).

The process to acquire Crown land is generally reactive, where the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry receives an application and initiates the disposition review process. In these situations the applicant or proponent drives the process and is required to provide information and undertake tasks (e.g. fisheries studies) that will enable MNRF to fulfill its obligations under policy and legislation (e.g. Public Lands Act, Environmental Assessment Act).

Crown Land for Municipal Economic Development

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) can enable the sale of Crown land for cottage lot development through an appropriate process that includes consultation as well as environmental, social and economic considerations. Under certain circumstances a sale may be considered to:

  • clarify title discrepancies,
  • promote economic development,
  • make land available for municipal government infrastructure, or
  • to minimize Crown liabilities from certain occupations (e.g. waste disposal sites).

Crown land may be offered for sale if the requirements for a disposition are met and it is sold at market value.

MNRF considers the disposition of public land to accommodate opportunities for socio-economic development and that are consistent with land management goals and principles.

Although this guide focuses on the acquisition of Crown land for cottage lots to support municipal economic development, MNRF will consider the disposition of Crown land to municipalities for other economic development purposes (e.g. industrial park).

The Province also acknowledges the importance of Crown land in supporting the economic development objectives of Aboriginal communities. MNRF is committed to working with First Nations to enhance community economic health and sustainability.

Over the past 15 years, a number of Municipalities have acquired or are seeking Crown land for cottage lot development including Elliot Lake, Pickle Lake, Ignace, Sioux Lookout and Coleman Township.

Additional proposals by the municipalities of Greenstone, Elliot Lake and Atikokan are ongoing. Municipalities interested in acquiring Crown land are encouraged to contact these municipalities to discuss their experience and best practices.

Section 1: Steps in identifying crown land opportunities for cottage lot development

Step 1: Initial scoping meeting

The first step in the process to acquire Crown land for cottage lot development is for interested municipalities to contact the local MNRF district to request a scoping meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the contents of the guide, review the steps in the process and outline some of the parameters. To prepare for the meeting, understand that;

  • MNRF will only consider disposition of Crown land within municipal boundaries
  • Municipalities should have an up-to-date official plan prior to the acquisition of Crown land
  • MNRF will not dispose of Crown land on naturally-reproducing lake trout lakes for new cottage lot development
  • The municipality will be required to obtain approvals and permits from other regulatory bodies before MNRF can complete the final land transfer of Crown land to the municipality (e.g. Lakeshore Capacity, Planning Act approvals i.e. official plan amendment, zoning by-law amendment)
  • MNRF will identify Crown lands that are already known to be unavailable for disposition (e.g. high cultural heritage value; land claim)
  • If Crown land use policy (CLUP) direction prohibits disposition of Crown land for cottaging, a land use amendment will need to be considered and be successful in order to proceed further.

Crown land use policy

Crown land use policy provides direction on the types of land use activities that can occur on Crown land within various land use designations such as protected areas, enhanced management areas and general use areas. An overall land use intent is defined for each land use area. Land use policy for the area provides direction relating to forest management activities, tourism, trail building and cottage development. Information on Crown land and policy direction is available online (at Ontario.ca) Crown Land Use Policy Atlas. Municipalities are encouraged to consult the Atlas prior to attending the meeting.

Crown land can only be disposed for cottage lot development if the disposition is consistent with Crown land use policy direction. An amendment to (CLUP) direction may be considered if it can be demonstrated that there is a need for the amendment, (e.g. changes in government direction, local economies, land uses, demographics and/or access to new science and information).

The proposed policy change needs to be considered for the overall land use area (not just in relation to the cottage lot proposal). The amendment process involves analysis, documentation and public consultation.

The purpose, rationale, objectives and possible options for a proposed amendment must be identified and assessed. The Guide for Crown Land Use Planning outlines a number of factors MNRF will evaluate in determining whether a land use amendment will be considered.

If a land use amendment is required, the amendment process will be coordinated with the planning process.

Historical fact:

In the 1940's the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (formerly Department of Lands and Forests) disposed of Crown land for recreational purposes (including remote cottage lots).

During the 1960s, MNRF marketed a proactive cottage lot development program that saw MNRF act as the developer. Twenty years later, changes in planning and environmental legislation and government priorities led to the end of MNRF's role as a "developer."

Step 2: Municipality develops a cottage lot development feasibility study

After attending the scoping meeting, municipalities will need to develop a cottage lot development feasibility study. It will identify the proposed cottage lot plan within the context of economic development objectives and initiatives.

MNRF strongly recommends that municipalities carry out consultation on their cottage lot development concepts with Aboriginal communities, stakeholders, provincial ministries/agencies and the public to inform the development of the feasibility study. Early communication and consultation is good practice, which results in a better project/plan and increases the chance of a successful outcome.

The cottage lot development feasibility study should:

  • Strive to be consistent with the Planning Act , Provincial Policy Statement, municipal official plan and zoning by-law
  • Provide background information and evaluation of the development concepts – e.g. rationalize the benefits of the proposal, include any data/ information that support the concepts; documented community support
  • Consider opportunities for development on private land as well as Crown (i.e. demonstrate that private land cannot meet the need and why Crown land is needed).
  • Include Crown land options for proposed developments and provide pros/cons analysis of each option in terms of; cost, feasibility, effectiveness, environment considerations, community support, potential, economic and social benefits, etc.
  • Describe the interrelationship of the proposed development(s) and existing economic development activities/projects in the context of the community as a whole.
  • Demonstrate the use of publicly available information (e.g. Land Information Ontario) to inform the cottage lot development options (e.g. consideration of environmental values (e.g. provincially significant wetlands, nests), flood plains, staked mining claims, etc.).
  • Demonstrate that the municipality has consulted with other agencies, such as the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM), Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and housing (MMAH), Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO), Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport (MTCS), Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and that agency interests and/or requirements have been incorporated into the study. Note: consultation with other agencies to inform the plan is the responsibility of the municipality.

Municipalities are encouraged to review information available on-line when identifying potential areas for cottage lot development. The Ontario.ca website has a number of useful tools, including:

  • Crown Land Use Policy Atlas
  • MNRF Make a Topographic Map
  • MNRF Make a Natural Heritage Map
  • MNRF Renewable Energy Atlas
  • MNDM – Claim Maps

Natural heritage information can also be obtained through Land Information Ontario.

The MNDM should be consulted early on in the process by the municipality regarding mineral development interests during the review identification of eligible lands.

This up-front planning step is very important because it allows for a comprehensive look at the economic development plans of the municipality and aids MNRF in making decisions for the most appropriate use of Crown land.

Step 3: MNRF reviews the feasibility study

MNRF will review the municipality’s cottage lot feasibility study and the proposed options for development, incorporating input from other ministries (MNDM, MOECC, MMAH, and MTO), to determine up-front if there are any options that are not feasible and should not be pursued further.

This review is completed to determine whether there are constraints to the proposal. Values and information considered in this review may include:

  • all known natural heritage values such as; eagle’s nests, fish spawning, critical Caribou habitat areas
  • known or potential natural hazard lands (e.g. floodplains, contaminated lands)
  • all known cultural heritage sites
  • watercourses – e.g. warm water lakes, Lake Trout lakes, cold water streams
  • resource allocations such as trap lines, baitfish areas, bear management areas, resource based tourism
  • land claim areas
  • compatibility with adjacent land uses

Note: some values information such as the nature and location of endangered species habitat or cultural heritage sites is considered sensitive; therefore would not be made available to the public.

The information considered by MNRF at this initial review will be explained to the municipality. Considerations such as lake trout lakes, endangered species habitat, overlapping land tenure, etc. will be related to the municipality’s development objectives.

Based on MNRF's review of the cottage lot feasibility study, MNRF will decide whether to proceed to the land disposition process or deny the proposal. If the decision is to proceed, MNRF and the municipality will determine, based on all information and analysis, the best cottage lot development option to move forward to the disposition stage.

Step 4: Municipality prepares project description

Based on the feedback on the feasibility study, the municipality will develop a detailed project description identifying specific Crown land for cottage lot development. The project description will include among other things: project purpose and rationale, proposed location, land area, number of lots, access, services, potential effects, proposed mitigations, timelines, etc.

The Project Description should also identify whether the municipality proposes to acquire the Crown lands directly or through a qualified land developer based on which approach best fits the municipality’s economic objectives recognizing their capacity to complete the process. Section #3 provides more detail on both approaches.

The MNRF strongly suggests the Municipality discuss/consult partner Ministries/Agencies to identify what studies are typically requested for the specific type of economic development proposal. This may also lead to coordinating and integrating studies to minimize duplication and reduce overall costs. Some studies that may be required and should be identified within the project description include:

MOECC – May require a Lake Capacity Assessment and waste disposal site studies

MMAH – Studies are required to ensure consistency with OP and PPS for Planning Act approvals; land use capability studies, noise feasibility studies, water and sewage studies, storm water management plan

MNDM – Geotechnical studies and rehabilitation studies to address abandoned mine hazards

MTCS – Technical Cultural Heritage studies

MNRF – May request ecological site assessment to address species at risk, significant wildlife habitat, areas of natural and scientific interest, wetlands, fish habitat, wild land fire considerations, natural hazards

Section 2: MNRF's Disposition Process

MNRF has a standard procedure for any disposition of Crown land which includes completion of requirements under the EAA. MNRF may request that municipalities provide all or some of the information needed to complete satisfy these requirements.

Note: some of the following steps may be undertaken simultaneously

Step 1: Pending PLA disposition or possible withdrawal of crown land under the mining Act

Once the municipality identifies Crown Land that conceptually appears appropriate for the municipality’s objectives, it is essential to make notice to MNDM of the proposed land disposition. MNDM time/date "stamps" the pending land disposition which establishes the priority of surface rights to the Crown land.

There is also the potential to request a withdrawal of the subject lands under the Mining Act. The MNDM should be consulted early on in the process by the municipality regarding mineral development interests during the review identification of eligible lands as described in Section #1.

The Municipality in partnership with MNRF then submits a request to have the subject lands withdrawn under the Mining Act. Upon withdrawal, the lands will not be open for staking or disposition under the Mining Act. This will ensure that the lands remain eligible for the proposed disposition and do not become encumbered by staking and/or dispositions under the Mining Act.

Step 2: Consultation/notification

A successful disposition will only occur with a properly planned and implemented consultation process. The municipality is the lead and will be responsible for completion of all public / agency consultation. It is recommended that consultation be initiated by the Municipality early to ensure all parties who may be affected or have an interest in the proposal are informed and have an opportunity to comment.

Potential agencies, stakeholders, resource users to consult with

Aboriginal Communities - MNRF has a legal obligation to consult with Aboriginal communities when there is a disposition of Crown land and resources. How and when (i.e. timing in process, frequency) consultation is undertaken will depend on the nature of the proposal and the input of the Aboriginal communities involved.

Sustainable Forest Licensee – Subsection 37(2) of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act requires MNRF to provide the holder of forest resource licence a 30 day notice of a proposed disposition of Crown land within their licence area. The licensee has a legal right to comment and make representations to the MNRF. The Municipality in cooperation with the MNRF will mitigate the licensee’s concerns regarding a proposed disposition.

Notice and/or consultation may be required under MNRF's Class EA RSFD based on the category to which the proposal has been screened. Consultation may also be required during related approval processes s under the Planning Act. The required consultation/notification should be coordinated as much as possible in the interest of efficiency and to reduce possible confusion on the part of the public and other parties.

Additional list of parties that may require consultation:

  • Public – e.g. recreational users, anglers and hunters
  • Resource users such as trappers, baitfish harvesters, resource-based tourism operators, Bear Management Area operators
  • Government ministries including MMAH, MTO, MTCS, MNDM, MOECC
  • Other municipalities

Note: this is not an exhaustive list, other parties may require consultation based on the nature and location of the proposed disposition.

Step 3: Screening of environmental effects

A screening of the environmental effect of the proposed disposition will be required as outlined in Section 3 of MNRF's Class EA RSFD or that may have been identified through other Ministries/Agencies in the project description. Based on the municipality’s decision as to the appropriate disposition approach the manner in which MNRF addresses its EA Act requirements may vary.

If a municipality is the proponent:

The disposition of rights to Crown resources such as Crown land granted by the MNRF is subject to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA); therefore, MNRF must meet the requirements of its Class EA RSFD prior to granting a Crown land disposition. Currently the Class EA RSFD requires that the municipality provide confirmation of the completion of its requirements under the EAA and an explanation of how these EA requirements were met (i.e. through the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment, Ontario Regulation 334, etc.).

Although the Municipality will be responsible for determining their EA coverage in this approach, the MNRF will work with the Municipality, and request appropriate studies, to ensure that all MNRF interests are considered, as well as those of partner ministries (e.g. MMAH, MOECC, MNDM, MTO, MTCS) in order to make a decision on the disposition.

If a Municipality is Not the Proponent (i.e. Private Sector Developer):

The Project Description prepared in Step four (4) will be used to screen the proposed land use and disposition under the Class EA RSFD. If insufficient information is provided to complete the screening, the Project Description will be returned to the municipality.

MNRF will screen the proposal as per Section three (3) of the Class EA RSFD. The results of this screening will determine the category to which the proposal will be assigned. The category determines any further evaluation and consultation that needs to be undertaken (e.g. notification, study requirements). The private sector developer will be responsible for gathering information, completing studies (e.g. shoreline habitat, endangered species habitat, archaeological assessments) and potentially other work in order to provide sufficient information for MNRF to meet its obligations under the Class EA RSFD and support a sound decision regarding the proposal.

The municipality/private developer is encouraged to become familiar with the requirements of the Class EA RSFD and MNRF Policy PL 4.02.01. Any questions or concerns should be discussed with MNRF as they arise.

Step 4: Disposition review and approval/denial

MNRF will guide the municipality and/or private developer throughout the review process to ensure an efficient and complete consideration of all potential impacts. The results of; Aboriginal consultation, public and stakeholder consultation, the environmental effects screening, the requirements of other government ministries/agencies and all other information gathered by the municipality/private developer during the review process will assure an efficient decision by MNRF.

Where a proposal requires approval under the Planning Act, the MMAH is the lead ministry to ensure that all Planning Act requirements and related assessments are met by the municipality/private developer (e.g. cultural heritage assessments).

The authority to approve an application for Crown land is delegated to the MNRF District Manager. This decision can only be made once MNRF's obligations under the Class EA RSFD have been met, Aboriginal consultation has been completed and MNRF has sufficient information regarding the potential effects of the proposal.

MNRF decisions during the disposition process are subject to public examination. Under the Class EA RSFD where a proposal has been screened to a category B or a higher category, persons or agencies that are not satisfied with a project proposal or the evaluation process, can request the MOECC make a Part II Order to have the project evaluated under an Individual Environmental Assessment. Where a proposal is also subject to an approval under the Planning Act, the public may appeal a decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Step 5: Sale of crown land

MNRF must ensure that the province receives a fair return for the use and acquisition of Crown land. Crown land is generally disposed of at market value established through the land appraisal (valuation) process.

Upon MNRF's decision to approve an application for Crown land, the following steps are to be completed by the proponent:

  1. Completion of an application for Crown land:
    • To verify the lands to be disposed of and the name in which the lands are to be granted.
  1. Preparation of a plan of survey for registration at the local Land Registry Office
    • If a survey is required, MNRF will issue survey requirements to the proponent utilizing "Instructions Governing Crown land surveys and Plans"
  2. Note: Crown land cannot be surveyed without authorization from MNRF, as per Section 7 of the Public Lands Act.
  1. Payment to MNRF of sale price based on market value of the vacant un-subdivided Crown land.
    • Although the sale price of proposed Crown land is determined through the initial appraisal/valuation process between MNRF and the municipality/private sector developer prior to the issuance of an RFP, the area (i.e. hectares) of land may have been refined and market conditions may have changed. An agreement regarding the sale price will be made based on the original appraisal or a review of that appraisal.

Upon receipt and acceptance of the above, the MNRF District Manager will request the issuance of letters patent to the municipality/private developer.

Note: the issuance of letters patent grants a fee simple interest in the land and creates a parcel in the Land Registry System. The land is now subject to the provisions of the Planning Act and any other applicable legislation.

Section 3: Disposition Approaches Available to Municipalities

Municipalities have a few options for the completion of the disposition process. The selection of the appropriate process is dependent on; the development goals of the municipality, the capacity and experience of the municipality, and the municipality’s vision of its role in the process.

  1. Municipality leads a public Request for Proposal process in which they seek a qualified developer to complete the disposition and development
    • An appraisal under MNRF's terms of reference (and subject to MNRF approval) is prepared and funded by the proponent and a sale price is negotiated.
    • Sale of land may be to the municipality or the developer who then completes any necessary approval processes (e.g. Planning Act approvals)
  1. Direct sale to a municipality – the municipality, as the lead proponent works with MNRF to complete the disposition process and:
    • After the appraisal is prepared under MNRF's terms of reference and receives MNRF approval, MNRF negotiates a sale price and sells the land directly to municipality.
    • Municipality completes official plan amendment, subdivision approval process or other planning process and markets lots.
    • Municipality must demonstrate to MNRF that they have met their obligations under the Environmental Assessment Act.
  1. Other approaches that may meet the requirements of a municipality can be discussed with MNRF.

Appendix A: Roles and Responsibilities in the Disposition Process


  • Municipal governments create the vision of their community’s future by identifying the focus of future development
  • Municipal governments plan in accordance with the Planning Act via Official Plans and zoning by-law’s
  • Municipal governments lead the planning and implementation of economic development initiatives with the involvement of or in partnership with the private sector and support of the provincial government
  • Municipalities with input from their constituents articulate to the province their economic objectives in a comprehensive and planned manner.

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

The MNRF under the authority of the Public Lands Act is responsible for the management and disposition of Crown land. MNRF's activities are governed by a variety of policies and other legislation:

  • The primary policy governing the disposition of Crown land is referred to as the Application Review and Land Disposition Process (PL-4.02.01).
  • The primary legislation that directs how the environmental effects of proposals for the use of Crown land will be assessed is the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA).
  • Under the authority of the EAA, a  MNRF's Class Environmental Assessment for MNR Resource Stewardship and Facility Development Projects(Class EA-RFSD) provides the framework for the evaluation and mitigation of environment effects of a proposed disposition.
  • Both the Application Review and Land Disposition Process (PL-4.02.01) and MNRF's Class EA-RSFD are available online through the following URLs:
  • During direct sales of Crown land to Municipalities EAA coverage can be obtained through the Municipal Class EA or Ontario Regulation 334 under the EAA. MNRF will participate in the EA process to ensure that ministry interests are considered. In these cases, the municipality is required to provide the MNRF with evidence that the Municipality has complied with their requirements under the EA Act.

MNRF is legally obligated to consult with Aboriginal Communities when considering a disposition of Crown land or resources. The nature and extent of consultation is dependent on a number of factors including the nature of the disposition and the existence or lack of local consultation protocols.

Crown land may not be available in certain parts of the province where active land claims are being negotiated or litigation involving Crown land is underway.

Crown land must be disposed of in a fair and open manner. MNRF may dispose of Crown land through a variety of methods, including direct sale to a municipality or First Nation. For dispositions to other parties such as private developers MNRF is generally required to follow a public process (e.g. tender, request for proposals). The disposition of Crown land may be considered to a private developer where the proposal is for a unique and innovative development proposal which is deemed to offer broad public benefits (e.g. local economic, social).

Where municipalities wish to acquire Crown land, MNRF will facilitate the disposition process.

Municipalities will have the lead role in providing the information to MNRF, undertaking public and stakeholder consultation and meeting any obligations under the EAA, Provincial Policy Statement objectives, Endangered Species Act and other applicable legislation.

MNRF will make a decision to approve or deny the disposition application based on an evaluation of all information provided and a consideration of identified of values and interests.

Other Government Ministries and Agencies roles with regard to the development of Crown land include:

Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing (MMAH)

  • Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) is the lead ministry for the review and approval of undertakings under the Planning Act, and for the administration of the Municipal Act:
    • is the province’s lead ministry (One-Window Process) for the review and approval of applications (e.g. official plan amendments, zoning by-law amendments, subdivisions) made under the Planning Act and coordinates all ministries' comments and input
    • provides support to municipalities with planning approval authority and planning advisory services
    • responsible for ensuring consideration of the Northern Growth Plan & Provincial Policy Statements

Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM)

  • Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) is responsible for the provincial minerals sector, including administering of the Mining Act and managing Crown mining rights, as well as leading and coordinating government programs aimed at growing the Northern Ontario economy, building strong northern communities and creating job opportunities in the North, including the administration of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario on behalf of the Province
  • administers the non-discretionary dispositions (e.g., unpatented mining claims, leases) under the Mining Act
  • collects, maintains and distributes information regarding geoscience and mineral resources in Ontario
  • assesses mineral potential, and provides geological expertise and advice, including for prospective areas for exploration and geological and mining-related hazards
  • reviews applications under the Planning Act with regard 1) that mineral resources, including areas of significant mineral potential, shall be protected for long-term use; and 2) for the sound management of lands affected by natural geological hazards and mining-related hazards
  • provides support to northern communities to identify and foster economic development opportunities, as well as work with northern communities, businesses, key economic sectors, and other stakeholders to access a wide range of economic development programs and services

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC)

  • Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is responsible for the granting of approvals under the EAA, the Water Resources Act and the Environmental Protection Act
    • reviews applications for and issues Certificates of Approval for a variety of waste management systems (e.g. municipal landfills, large septic waste systems)
    • approves and monitors the implementation of class environmental assessments such as the Class EA RSFD
    • reviews applications under the Planning Act with regard to impacts on water quality and quantity, waste disposal and hydrogeology; reviews lake capacity assessments

Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO)

  • Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is responsible for the administration of the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act
    • administers provincial highways
    • requires permits for proposed entrances and building construction adjacent to provincial highways
    • refer to the following website for detailed direction.
    • reviews applications under the Planning Act with regard to implications for existing highways and future requirements

Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS)

  • Is responsible for the administration of the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA).
  • The Ontario Heritage Act binds the Crown; therefore MNRF must adhere to the Act when considering the disposition of Crown land, specifically the Standards and Guidelines for Conservation of Provincial Heritage Property (S&Gs).
  • The S&Gs require MNRF to identify and manage provincial heritage properties within their control, including certain provisions when these properties are disposed.
  • Responsible for the conservation, protection and preservation of the cultural heritage of Ontario. This includes built heritage (i.e. buildings, other structures), cultural heritage landscapes, and archaeological resources (e.g. burial mounds, pictographs, earthworks)
  • Reviews applications under the Planning Act and projects under the Environmental Assessment Act with regard to the conservation of cultural heritage

Ministry of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure (MEDEI)

  • MEDEI is responsible for the disposition of real property owned by the Ontario government
  • MNRF cannot sell or lease real property (referred to as acquired land1 in MNRF policy)
  • MNRF may facilitate applications for real property, but MEDEI undertakes the transfer of these lands
  • where acquired lands are of interest the municipality shoBarneyuld consult with MEDEI in the beginning of the disposition process

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)

  • Promotes Ontario’s food industry and food safety, rural economic programs and protection of farmland and businesses that thrive on agricultural production

Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)

  • Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is responsible for the administration of the Fisheries Act
  • reviews proposals that may affect fish habitat to determine if it will be impacted
  • provides direction to proponents as to how to avoid unacceptable impacts on fish habitat
  • may enter into agreements with proponents to authorize impacts on fish habitat
  • More info: www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Transport Canada

  • Transport Canada is responsible for the administration of the Navigable Waters Protection Act
  • reviews and approves works that may impact navigation, such as bridges and shoreline works
  • More info: www.tc.gc.ca

Local Health Units

  • Local Health Units are legislated under the Ontario Building Code Act for the inspection and approval of septic systems with a capacity of 10,000 litres or less

This is not an exhaustive list of government ministries or agencies that may play a role in the Crown land disposition process. Other permits or approvals may be required based on the nature of the proposal.

Appendix B: Considerations that Affect the Availability of Crown Land for Development

  • Horizons 2020, MNRF's strategic vision expresses a desire to promote "new economic opportunities and strategic investments to promote productivity, innovation and efficiency in the ways we use and market our resources, while ensuring the preservation of the diverse ecosystems that provide them"
  • MNRF's goal in managing Crown land is to contribute to the environmental, social and economic well-being of the province by providing for orderly use and sustainable development of Ontario Crown land.
  • The Strategic Direction of Management of Ontario Crown Land Policy describes eight objectives for achieving MNRF's Crown land management goal.

MNRF's challenge is to balance these objectives, in particular "promoting environmental protection" and "supporting development."

MNRF must evaluate the potential impact on the environment when considering an application for Crown land. Environment is defined to include the following:

  1. air, land or water;
  2. plant and animal life, including human life;
  3. the social, economic and cultural conditions that influence the life of humans and community;
  4. any building, structure, machine or other device or thing made by humans;
  5. any solid, liquid, gas, odour, heat, sound, vibration or radiation resulting directly or indirectly from human activities, or;
  6. any part or combination of the foregoing and interrelationships between any two or more of them, in or of Ontario" (MNRF Policy PL 4.02.01 – Application Review and Land Disposition Process).

This definition demonstrates how complex the environment is and the scope of the potential impacts MNRF must consider when reviewing an application for Crown land.

First Nations/Aboriginal and treaty rights

MNRF must consider Aboriginal and treaty rights during the review of every application for the disposition of Crown land. Where there may be an impact on these rights, MNRF must consult with the affected Aboriginal community. The traditional use of Crown land by an Aboriginal community, existing "allocations" of resources (e.g. traplines) and future requirements (e.g. expansion of reserve lands) must all be considered. Applications may be denied if they are deemed to be incompatible with traditional uses, existing uses or projected needs of Aboriginal communities.

Natural heritage values

MNRF is responsible for the sustainable management of a variety of natural heritage values. Plants and animals and their habitat that may be affected by a proposed disposition of Crown land are identified. The location of the land being considered for disposition may be modified to accommodate the habitat of a plant or animal. Applications may be denied if the impacts are considered unacceptable or cannot be mitigated.

Cultural environment

The Ontario Heritage Foundation (OHA) is the foundation of the legislative framework for cultural heritage conservation in Ontario. However, it is supported and complemented by many other acts and regulations such as the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA), Planning Act and PPS, Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, Green Energy Act, etc. to create an integrated provincial framework for heritage protection.

The purpose of the EAA is to provide for the protection, conservation and wise management of Ontario’s environment. The EAA defines environment broadly to include cultural conditions that influence the life of humans or a community. Cultural heritage resources are important components of those cultural conditions. Therefore, a standard aspect of EA processes in Ontario involves assessing the impacts an undertaking may have on known or potential cultural heritage resources and addressing those impacts.

Species at risk

Ontario has a rich diversity of wild plants and animals. The populations of more than 200 species in Ontario are in decline. These are species at risk; plants, fish, mammals and birds that are at risk of disappearing from the province.A number of factors contribute to a species at risk status. These include habitat loss, pollution, disease, land use and resource management activities, as well as the spread of invasive species.

There are four categories of "at risk": extirpated - a native species that no longer exists in the wild in Ontario, but exists elsewhere (e.g. Greater Prairie Chicken); endangered – a native species facing extinction or extirpation (e.g. Golden Eagle); threatened – a native species at risk of becoming endangered in Ontario (e.g. Woodland Caribou); special concern – a native species that is sensitive to human activities or natural events which may cause it to become endangered or threatened (e.g. bald eagle).

MNRF will consider the impact of any proposed disposition on species at risk and their habitat. The Endangered Species Act provides for the protection of species at risk and their habitat. In addition, other legislation (e.g. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act) provides for the consideration of species at risk.

Fish and wildlife habitat

The MNRF manages Crown land with the objective of maintaining a healthy environment for all species of fish and wildlife. To meet this objective, MNRF identifies and records the habitat for many species. For example, moose aquatic feeding areas are identified as values. The potential impacts of forest harvesting and other resource allocations are considered when planning these activities. Crown land will not normally be disposed of where there may be unacceptable impacts on fish and wildlife habitat.

MNRF policy also directs whether Crown land may be disposed of adjacent to the habitat of certain species. For example, Crown land will not be disposed of on Lake Trout Lakes where the disposition would result in development such as new cottage or residential lots. Refer to the enclosed copy of PL 4.02.01 Policy, Appendix ‘A' for the complete policy regarding the disposition of Crown land on Lake Trout Lakes.

Provincial policy statements, planning act and the growth plan for Northern Ontario

The Provincial Policy Statement provides policy direction on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development. Section 3 of the Planning Act requires that all decisions and advice affecting land use planning matters "shall be consistent with" the Provincial Policy Statement.

When considering an application for the disposition of Crown land MNRF must also objectively consider the intent of the Provincial Policy Statements issued pursuant to the Planning Act.

D-Series guidelines

D-Series is a guideline (not a legislated requirement) and its application by planning approval authorities is useful is assisting in the implementation of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014. Consideration of the D-Series Guidelines throughout the disposition of Crown land application process may help to avoid adverse effects that are often caused by incompatible land uses.

The D-5 Guideline (Planning for Sewage and Water Services) may help to ensure that planning approval authorities plan appropriately to avoid water quality impacts that may result from individual onsite sewage and water services and to make sure that servicing decisions are consistent with applicable legislation, regulations, policies and guidelines, and the Provincial Policy Statement.

When considering an application for the disposition of Crown land, MNRF must also objectively consider the policy direction and intent under the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, 2011 strategic framework document. One of the key goals of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is the effective use of land and resources, with development primarily focussed in settlement areas (policies and This ensures the maximal use of existing public infrastructure, reduced costs for municipalities providing services to a vast rural area, and minimal negative impacts on the environment.

The policies for rural areas identify overarching strategic actions that should be undertaken to support healthy, integrated and viable rural areas within municipalities. For example, planning authorities, including those in Northern Ontario, should:

  • build upon rural character;
  • leverage rural amenities and assets;
  • protect natural features and areas;
  • promote diversification of the economic base; and
  • provide opportunities for sustainable and diversified tourism.

Local planning decisions by municipalities are key to the implementation of the Provincial Policy Statement. These decisions, which determine the future of communities, include the preparation of planning documents, such as:

  • an official plan, which sets out the municipality’s general planning goals and policies to guide future land use; and
  • zoning by-laws, which set the rules and regulations that control development as it occurs.

Crown resource allocation and land use

Crown land use planning

The majority of Ontario’s Crown land is subject to land use policies. Land use policies include general land use intent for an area along with permitted and restricted uses (e.g. protected areas, public access, and commercial tourism). MNRF's land management decisions must consider this land use direction. Land use policies may be amended, subject to a formal, public process, where a proposed use is not currently compatible with the policy. For more information: MNRF's Guide For Crown Land Use Planning. /document/crown-land-use-planning

Public recreational use

Access to Crown land, lakes and rivers provides the public with many opportunities for recreation. The public values this access very highly. The potential impact of a proposed disposition on public use is evaluated to ensure public access is not unnecessarily altered or lost. Where public use and or access will be impacted, alternative access may be required to be considered.

Forest resources

Ontario’s forests are managed under the authority of the CFSA. The Act provides for the allocation of forest harvesting rights via the issuance of Forest Resource Licences. The most significant form of these licences is the Sustainable Forest Licence (SFL). An SFL provides the licence holder (e.g. large forest product company) with the right to harvest and manage the forests on large areas of Crown land.

The impact of a proposed sale on the licence area of an SFL must be considered. Under the CFSA, MNRF is legally required to provide notice of any proposed change (e.g. sale of Crown land) in the area subject to a SFL. The SFL holder has the right to appeal the proposed change.

Mineral resources

The purpose of the Mining Act is to encourage prospecting, staking and exploration for the development of mineral resources and to minimize the impact of these activities on public health and safety and the environment through rehabilitation of mining lands in Ontario. The Act provides for the staking of Crown mineral rights, registration of claims and issuances of leases. A mining claim holder has the exclusive right to explore and develop the mineral resources. In addition the claim holder has the priority of rights to the surface rights.

When considering the disposition of Crown land for other uses MNRF cannot grant a disposition under the Public Lands Act without the consent of the claim holder. MNRF will consult with MNDM when considering an application for Crown land. MNDM's role is to review the application to determine if the land has been staked or otherwise disposed of under the Mining Act and if there is a potential for mineral resources that would preclude the disposition of the Crown land.

The PPS requires that mineral resources, including areas of significant mineral potential be protected for long-term use. The municipality should consult with MNDM early in the process to determine and consider the mineral resource potential of the area and the presence of pre-existing Crown commitments made under the Mining Act, and the potential implications of the proposed development on them.

Renewable energy and transmission lines

Renewable energy and other commercial and industrial land uses are located on Crown land and are authorized by a variety of leases, licences of occupation and land use permits and easements. Water power and wind power facilities are situated in various locations and electricity transmission and distribution lines link homes and communities across the province. Hydrocarbon pipelines span the province on Crown land and communication towers are located on strategic hi serving industry and communities. Proposals for the use of Crown land are evaluated to ensure they do not compromise the operation of existing energy related infrastructure or eliminate future opportunities.

Aggregate resources

The extraction of Aggregates is governed by MNRF under the Aggregate Resources Act. Aggregates on Crown land are used by the Ministry of Transportation and private companies for a variety of commercial and industrial purposes. Any decision to dispose of Crown land must consider aggregate resource potential. MNRF will not "sterilize" aggregate resources that may be required for future uses (e.g. provincial highway construction) through the disposition of Crown land for other uses.

Other commercial resource allocations

MNRF issues licences under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act for a variety of commercial resource harvesting activities. These include trapping, baitfish harvesting, wild rice harvesting and commercial fishing. These resource harvesting activities may be impacted by a proposed disposition of Crown land. The impact of the loss of land area or proposed activities adjacent to a licenced area will be evaluated, and the licence holder will be consulted. For example, a wild rice harvesting area could be negatively affected by a proposed shoreline development.

Resource-based tourism

MNRF authorizes the use of Crown land for commercial outpost camps and other tourism operations. The sites are generally small in area (i.e. less than one hectare). However, tourism operations, particularly remote outpost camps, influence other land uses. For example, forest harvesting operations are modified to ensure that the aesthetics of an area are not altered to the detriment of a tourism operation. In reviewing an application for Crown land MNRF will ensure the proposed land use is compatible with existing or potential tourism development.

Appendix C: Examples of Disposition Process Options

1) Municipality leads a public Request for Proposal process in which they seek a qualified developer to complete the disposition and development process. Sale may be to the municipality or the developer.

Example: Township of Addington Highlands requested that MNRF make Crown land available on Sheldrake Lake (refer to Figure 3) for possible tourism development. MNRF assessed the Crown land on the lake to determine if an eligible site could be made available.

Figure 1 - Location of Proposed Development within the Municipality


Figure 2 - Crown Identified for Proposed Development


The Crown land shown green on Figure 4 was identified as eligible for the development of a tourism facility subject to the completion of MNRF's disposition process, including Class EA requirements. MNRF screened the conceptual development proposal under the Class EA RSFD and ranked it as a Category ‘C' project. This category defines the process that a developer will have to fulfill in order to acquire the Crown land.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) was developed by the municipality in consultation with MNRF. The RFP presented the development proposal of the municipality and the disposition requirements of MNRF.

An initial RFP in 2007 failed to attract a developer. Upon review of comments received from prospective developers MNRF and the municipality agreed that two factors likely contributed to the failure of the initial RFP: 1) the market value of the Crown land was not provided, leading to uncertainty as to a developer’s costs; and, 2) the lands were only available for rent not sale, thus not providing sufficient security for the required financing of a development.

To address the concerns identified during the initial RFP process, MNRF commissioned an appraisal to determine the market value of the Crown land. After discussions with the municipality, MNRF decided to offer the lands for sale versus the initial offer of a land use permit with a lease or sale possible in the future. A second RFP has been prepared reflecting these changes and was to be issued by the municipality in the fall of 2008. The municipality decided to delay the issuance of the RFP due to the current economic situation.

2) Sale of Crown Land Directly to a Municipality

Example: Township of Pickle Lake

The Township has successfully completed the disposition process on two occasions leading the development and sale of cottage lots on two lakes within the municipality. Crown land on Kapkichi Lake was sold to the Township in 2003, with thirty-four lots being developed and sold in 2004. The Township initiated a second proposal for Pickle Lake in 2005.

Outline of the process - Pickle Lake:

  • February, 2005 - Initial meeting with MNRF to discuss proposal – Township indicates it will be the proponent
  • MNRF undertook a review of proposal to determine if there were any known values or concerns that would preclude the sale. With no significant concerns being identified MNRF requested a formal application for the Township.
  • Consultation with MNDM followed by the withdrawal of the subject Crown land under the Mining Act
  • MNRF laid out the process for completion by the Township including studies of shoreline survey of habitat, archaeological assessment, NW Health Unit inspection of proposed lots for suitability for Class 4 septic system, water quality/lake capacity
  • June, 2005 - MNRF initiated First Nation consultation
  • 2005 – Township completed studies such as an archaeological assessment. The results were shared with the First Nation and the public.
  • In the late summer of 2006, formal comments from local First Nation were received. Between September 2006 and November 2007 meetings were held to talk about and resolve First Nation concerns. Some land was deleted from the proposal to mitigate First Nation concerns.
  • In February 2008 MNRF advised the First Nation’s Chief and Council that the disposition was to be approved. MNRF believed it had met its duty to consult and had made reasonable accommodation of the expressed interests of the First Nation
  • July 2008 - the land sale to the Township was completed.

Appendix D: Additional Reference Materials

MNR Policy & Procedure PL 4.02.01 Application Review and Land Disposition Process

Class EA for MNR Resource Stewardship and Facility Development Projects (RSFD)

Appendix E: Process for the Acquisition of Crown Land for Municipal Cottage Lot Development

Section 1 of Guide: Identifying Crown Land Cottage Lot Development Opportunities

Phase #1: Up-Front Planning

Step 1: Initial Scoping Meeting

Municipality contacts MNRF and staff meet for early scoping meeting (other ministry involvement as appropriate) to:

  • review the Crown land acquisition process and information needs, determine eligibility of Crown land areas (e.g. only within municipal boundaries, not on Lake Trout Lake, outside of aboriginal claim areas, etc.)
  • identify needs/opportunities for concurrent Planning Act applications and any planning studies that may be required

Step 2: Municipality Develops a Cottage Lot Development Feasibility Study

  • Feasibility study includes conceptual cottage development options
  • Consider opportunities to prepare other preliminary studies concurrently (e.g. economic development plans)
  • May include consultation with Aboriginal communities, the public and/or other Agencies

Phase #2: Defining the project

Step 3: MNRF reviews the feasibility study

  • MNRF reviews the Cottaging Feasibility Study and any other relevant studies in consultation with MMAH, MOECC, MNDM and other agencies as appropriate
  • MNRF (with partner ministries) will determine, based on its review, if the cottage lot development option(s) are feasible or not
  • For feasible proposals, municipalities will be asked to prepare a Project Description and submit a formal Application for Crown Land

Step 4: Municipality prepares project description

  • Municipality in consultation with MNRF (and other ministries) develops and submits to MNRF, a detailed project description (e.g. size, location, access, services, potential effects, proposed mitigation, timeline, etc.) and a formal application for Crown land
  • MNRF and other ministries advise municipality of any additional studies, reports or assessments that may be required
  • Municipality identifies preferred disposition approach – sale direct to municipality or sale to developer

Section 2 of guide: disposition process

Phase #3: Environmental Assessment Process / Disposition Process

Evaluation of environmental effects

  • Step 1: MNRF accepts application and notifies MNDM of PLA pending disposition and requests withdrawal under the Mining Act
  • Step 2: Initiate early consultation with Aboriginal communities and public per Class EA RSFD or disposition process
  • Consider opportunities to undertake concurrent consultation efforts or preparation of other planning studies, reports or assessments to meet obligations or requirements of other legislation (e.g. Planning Act)
  • Step 3: Screen for potential environmental effects and evaluate based on public input and information, studies, etc.

Disposition denied - end of process

Step 4: Disposition review and approval/denial

  • MNRF and other ministries will review relevant studies, reports and assessments and advise municipality of any additional requirements to be fulfilled (e.g. EA Act, Planning Act or other legislation)
  • MNRF will consider public/aboriginal input, other agency interests and requirements, potential environmental effects and proposed mitigation to make a decision of whether to proceed with the disposition or to deny the request

Disposition approved - proceed with sale

Step 5: Sale of Crown Land

  • Once an application for Crown land is completed by the municipality / developer and approved by MNRF, MNRF issues survey instructions to the municipality for the preparation of a survey
  • Once the survey has been completed to the satisfaction of MNRF and Crown Land Surveys, the Municipality / developer makes payment to MNRF for the market value-based sale price and the MNRF District Manager requests issuance of the letters patent

1 Acquired land – real property that is owned by the Province of Ontario in the name of the Infrastructure Ontario or its predecessors (Ministry of Government Services, Public Works) and managed by MNRF for programs such as forest management.