Sustainable forest management
How Ontario’s forests are managed to ensure forest health now and into the future.
Why it is important
Sustainable forest management provides for the long-term health of Ontario’s forests while providing social, economic and environmental benefits to Ontarians.
Close to 90% of Ontario forests are publicly owned and known as Crown lands. 44% of these Crown lands are managed forests. Forest management activities within this area are required by law to be managed sustainably.
Sustainable forest management helps Ontario’s forests:
- remain healthy and productive
- support a strong forest industry and provide people with jobs and forest products (lumber, paper, fuel, medicines, chemicals and more)
- conserve biodiversity, enhance or protect wildlife habitat, watersheds, and other values, and reduce the build-up of greenhouse gases (a major cause of climate change)
- support Ontario communities, provide recreation opportunities (hiking, hunting, fishing and more), and provide a healthy living environment
Managing Crown forests
The Crown Forest Sustainability Act describes forest sustainability and regulates the protection and sustainable use of Ontario’s forested lands. To achieve sustainable forest management, there is:
- a comprehensive system of legislation, regulations, policies, standards and guides
- a forest management planning system
- a compliance program and independent forest audits to monitor progress
- public reporting on the status of all aspects of forest management
Ontario’s sustainable forest management practices are based on the most up-to-date science and continuously improved.
How Crown forests are managed
Ontario’s managed forests are divided into geographic planning areas, known as management units.
Forest management plans
Before any forestry activities can take place, a forest management plan must be prepared.
Forest management plans:
- are prepared by a registered professional forester with the input of local citizens, Aboriginal communities, stakeholders and the public
- are prepared for a 10-year period
- follow the Forest Management Planning Manual
- determine how much/where harvesting can occur, where roads can be built and how much forest will be renewed
- must ensure sustainability while finding a balance of social, economic and environmental values
Most of Ontario’s Crown forests are managed by forest companies under 20-year Sustainable Forest Licences. Licences are subject to renewal every 5 years, depending on the results of a licence review.
- work with government and others to prepare and implement a forest management plan for their licence area
- prepare an annual report of activities completed
- monitor compliance with the plan
- renew the forest after harvesting trees (grow a new forest)
- pay a stumpage fee to the province for the right to harvest timber
- pay Crown charge fees toward renewing the forest
Most of Ontario’s Sustainable Forest Licence holders are certified by one of the following:
- Canadian Standards Association
- Forest Stewardship Council
- Sustainable Forest Initiative
Companies use certification to promote their products in the marketplace. Ontario’s regulated forest management system for Crown lands provides a good basis for forest companies to pursue third party certification.
Managing private forests
Private forests make up about 9% of Ontario’s forested lands. They contribute to Ontario’s timber harvest and provide other products such as maple syrup.
The Ontario government encourages responsible forest management of these private forests through information and incentives.
Landowners who are actively managing their woodlots may be eligible for the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program.
Tree seeds in Ontario
The ministry does not provide seeds or seedlings. Please contact your local nurseries:
- to buy tree seeds or seedlings
- for more information on products and services such as native flowers and shrubs