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

Bird, forester, hikers, boy fishing

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.

Learn more about our forest related laws and series of policies.

Find out how we monitor forest management and sustainability.

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

Forest plans, forest views, canoe on lake

Learn more about forest management planning.

Forest licences

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.

Companies must:

  • 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

Forest certification

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.

Find out how forests are renewed, tended and protected.

How to get a licence to use trees from Crown forests.

More about forest certification in Ontario.

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.

Aerial view of private forest, maple tree tapped for syrup, forest, seedling

Tree seeds in Ontario

The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry 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
Updated: June 30, 2021
Published: May 30, 2014