Proposed revisions to the Forest Manuals regulated under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act

ERO number
019-0715
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994
Posted by
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Notice stage
Proposal
Proposal posted
Comment period
December 20, 2019 - February 18, 2020 (60 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:

December 20, 2019
to February 18, 2020

Proposal summary

We are proposing to revise the four regulated manuals under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. The revisions would align with the draft Forest Sector Strategy and reduce burden for the forest industry while continuing to provide for the sustainability of Ontario’s Crown forests.

Proposal details

Ontario’s forest industry generates over $16 billion in revenue and supports approximately 155,000 direct and indirect jobs in communities across the province.  Our wood and wood products are globally recognized as coming from forests that are responsibly and sustainably managed. We are also recognized as innovators and leaders in the global industry. And yet Ontario’s forest sector has not been able to reach its full potential. 

On December 4, 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry released a draft Forest Sector Strategy that aims to stimulate job creation, promote economic growth, and reduce unnecessary burden and costs for businesses, all while ensuring Ontario’s forests continue to be managed sustainably.

The plan to create a provincial strategy for the forest sector was announced in September 2018. Since that time, the ministry has heard from Indigenous partners, industry and municipal leaders through seven roundtables across the province. Input was also received from the public through survey and email submissions.

Based on feedback, four main areas of focus were identified to shape the draft strategy: promoting stewardship and sustainability; putting more wood to work; improving our cost competitiveness; fostering innovation, markets and talent.

We are proposing to revise the Forest Management Planning Manual (FMPM), Forest Information Manual (FIM), Forest Operations and Silviculture Manual (FOSM) and Scaling Manual (SM).  The changes would modernize and streamline requirements, and reduce workload, time and costs in the preparation and implementation of Forest Management Plans.

Some of the proposed revisions to the Forest Manuals are subject to changes proposed for the application of the Environmental Assessment Act to forest management in Ontario. Links to proposals under the Environmental Assessment Act is provided below.

The Manuals are regulated under section 68 of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act and provide direction for the preparation and implementation of forest management plans. For the Forest Manuals to take effect, Sections 26.1, 26.2, 27, and 28 of Ontario Regulation 167/95 under the CFSA would have to be amended.

Proposed Revisions to the Forest Manuals

Forest Management Plan Preparation

We propose to update forest management planning requirements to further enable better use of modern technology (e.g. internet) that would save time and money and improve public access to forest management planning information. These enhancements would enable a more streamlined process for public and government review of Forest Management Plans by, for instance, allowing the public and stakeholders to review and provide comments on the preparation of Forest Management Plans online, reducing the need for in-person information centres in the future.  We are also proposing to reduce duplication of requirements related to consultation opportunities for the public, stakeholders, and First Nation and Métis communities. The forest management planning process will continue to provide consultation opportunities and the opportunity for the public, stakeholders, and First Nation and Métis communities to request issue resolution during the preparation of a Forest Management Plan (FMP). Subject to changes being made to the manner in which the Environmental Assessment Act applies to forest management in Crown forests, the Forest Management Planning Manual would be amended to remove the process for requesting an individual environmental assessment on specific planned forest operations in an approved Forest Management Plan.

Annual Notification of Scheduled Operations and Individual Project Plan Approvals

We propose to streamline requirements for submission of Annual Work Schedules, reducing burden while relying more on modern technology. Operational information will be consistent with an approved Forest Management Plan and be exchanged between forest resource licensees and the Ministry as part of an annual process to provide notification of scheduled operations. The public and other stakeholders will continue to have the opportunity to view the Annual Work Schedule prior to operations commencing. Consultation with First Nation and Métis communities on annual operations will continue to be required, and the Ministry would be able to require revisions to an Annual Work Schedule to accommodate impacts to asserted or established Aboriginal or treaty rights, before the work schedule is implemented, or during its implementation.

We would continue to require separate approvals, consultation and notification for aerial herbicide plans, prescribed burn plans, and water crossings that require a federal Fisheries Act review (i.e., higher risk water crossings).

The proposed changes to requirements for annual operations align with sections 17 and 42 of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act enacted in Bill 132, Better for People, Smarter for Business Act , and are subject to changes to the manner in which the Environmental Assessment Act applies to forest management in Crown forests.

Rationalize Need for Forest Management Plan, Annual Work Schedule, and Annual Report Tables

We propose to move FMPM table requirements into the FIM Technical Specifications to provide better responsiveness to changing information requirements and technological capabilities. Requirements for forest management planning would not be reduced; rather, MNRF would be rationalizing the need to collect specific information based on business criteria (e.g., focus on providing support for MNRF and public review of the preparation and implementation of forest management plans) and determining the best way to collect and exchange this information.

Capitalize on Modern Information Technology Capabilities

Opportunities for the public, stakeholders, and First Nation and Métis communities to participate would continue to be provided in the preparation of a Forest Management Plan. We propose to revise the Forest Management Planning Manual and the Forest Information Manual to enable better use of modern technology (i.e., social media, email, digital signatures) to inform and consult the public, stakeholders and First Nation and Métis communities on forest management planning initiatives. We propose to remove the requirement to post Information Notices on the Environmental Registry at each consultation stage while continuing to comply with the Environmental Bill of Rights. We propose to utilize modern information technology to reduce burden, create efficiencies, and increase transparency to better meet legal obligations (e.g., Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act).

Identify Further Mechanisms to Extend Forest Management Plans

We propose to change the requirements for Forest Management Plan extensions and provide further opportunities to extend a Forest Management Plan where forest operations approved under the current Plan have not yet been implemented. The Forest Management Planning Manual would specify requirements (e.g., consultation) related to the various approaches to extend an approved Forest Management Plan. Various approaches to extend an approved Forest Management Plan include enabling extensions longer than two years, providing the ability to extend Contingency Plans, and providing additional extensions to a plan to allow additional time for operations already approved under the plan to be implemented.

Reduce Requirements for Shorter-term Contingency Plans

We propose to change the requirements for Contingency Plans prepared due to a delay in the approval of a Forest Management Plan. We propose to remove the requirement to prepare a Contingency Plan Proposal as a pre-condition for the preparation of a shorter-term Contingency Plan. These shorter-term Contingency Plans would be based on the selection of non-contentious areas already consulted on through the preparation of the new Forest Management Plan or areas already approved in the existing Forest Management Plan. These shorter-term Contingency Plans would be requested and prepared by the plan author and approved by the Regional Director.

Enable more flexibility with Bridging Operations

We propose to enable more flexibility to carry over harvest areas from an already approved Forest Management Plan to a new Forest Management Plan. This will provide forest industry the opportunity to complete already approved harvest operations over a longer time period to better maximize their planning investment. These bridging areas and operations would be identified in the new Forest Management Plan and associated Annual Work Schedule and would be reported on through the Annual Reports with reference to the applicable long-term management direction. Changes to bridging operations would also allow forest operations to be completed to better achieve forest level objectives and provide for sustainability.

Extending Timeframe for Forestry Aggregate Pits

We propose to remove the 10-year time limit for forestry aggregate pits. This change would remove unnecessary administrative processes but still comply with the criteria and operating standards in the Forest Management Planning Manual related to aggregate pits. This change would also enable better alignment with Dynamic Caribou Habitat Schedules (e.g. 20-year harvest areas) and forestry practices in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence forest region.

Wood Holding Yards

We propose to enable forest industry to plan for wood holding yards through the forest management planning process rather than obtaining separate permits through the Public Lands Act; therefore, reducing burden and operating costs for forest industry.

Streamline Forest Management Plan Amendment Process

We propose to further streamline the process to amend Forest Management Plans, for instance by clarifying which types of requested amendments will be categorized as administrative, with the assistance of the Local Citizens’ Committee. This would provide a more consistent approach for MNRF when processing amendments and reduce uncertainty and time delays for forest industry.

Review Requirements for Operational Road Boundaries

We propose to modify the current definition of “operational road boundary” to provide operational flexibility and enable efficiencies for forest industry in the preparation and implementation (e.g., plan amendments) of Forest Management Plans.

Climate Change Considerations

We propose to revise the Forest Management Planning Manual to reference how climate change may be addressed through the current requirements to prepare and implement a Forest Management Plan.

Species at Risk

We propose to revise the Forest Manuals to be consistent with legislative requirements for species at risk, specifically Bill 108 More Homes, More Choice Act. To ensure consistency with the Endangered Species Act we will be removing the requirements that would have applied to a Forest Management Plan if it was proposed to be a Section 18 overall benefit instrument under the Endangered Species Act.

Streamline Authority to Haul Approvals

We propose to streamline the requirements for the movement of harvested unscaled Crown forest resources to approved measuring locations, reducing burden and operating costs for forest industry, by removing the requirement for an Authority to Haul unscaled Crown forest resources.

Improve Clarity of Planning Direction

We propose to rationalize overlapping direction and remove duplication of requirements in the Forest Manuals to provide clear direction for implementation, and that the direction is included in the appropriate policy document. We propose to remove the requirement for forest resource licensees and MNRF to complete a Mid-Plan Check late in year four of the implementation of a Forest Management Plan. The purpose of the Mid-Plan Check was to undertake an assessment of information, changes to landbase (e.g., major disturbances) or changes to policy since the approval of the FMP and determine if an amendment is necessary. This requirement is duplicative of the current opportunity to amend a Forest Management Plan. A Forest Management Plan amendment can be requested or required by the Regional Director at any time during its implementation to address changes to policy or information or major disturbances.

Other Information

Some of the proposed revisions to the Forest Manuals are being enabled through amendments to the CFSA in Bill 132, Better for People, Smarter for Business Act.

Some of the proposed revisions to the Forest Manuals are subject to changes to the application of the Environmental Assessment Act for forest management on Crown lands in Ontario and could only be made if those changes are approved.

Links to proposals under the Environmental Assessment Act are provided below.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry/Fisheries and Oceans Canada Protocol for the Review and Approval of Forestry Water Crossings will also be revised to be consistent with the revisions to the Forest Manuals.

Public consultation opportunities

MNRF will provide opportunities for stakeholder groups to discuss the revisions to the manuals during the comment period. MNRF will also consult with First Nation and Metis communities during the comment period.

If you have questions regarding the revision process, please email ManualsRevisionProject@ontario.ca.

Regulatory impact statement

The anticipated environmental consequences of the proposal are positive. The purpose of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act is to provide for the sustainability of Crown forests and, in accordance with that objective, to manage Crown forests to meet social, economic and environmental needs of present and future generations. MNRF’s stewardship of Ontario’s Crown forests, including fish and wildlife habitat, and protection for species at risk considerations will be maintained or enhanced with the implementation of the revisions to the Forest Manuals.

The anticipated social consequences of the proposal are positive. The revised direction in the Forest Manuals will provide for positive social impacts by: providing effective and meaningful approaches to public consultation and First Nation and Metis involvement; maintaining an efficient forest management program that supports the viability of Ontario’s forest sector, which in turn translates to healthy communities and socio-economic wellness; and, enabling direction that protects cultural heritage values and resource-based tourism values in Crown forests.

The anticipated economic consequences of the proposal are positive. The planning efficiencies will help promote greater productivity and resource efficiency in the development of Forest Management Plans. The revised Forest Manuals will also enable streamlining, provide clarity regarding the process for practitioners, stakeholders and the public, and make the planning process more user friendly to the forest industry, the public and First Nation and Métis communities. No new administrative costs are anticipated as a result of this proposal.

Supporting materials

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Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch
Address

Roberta Bondar Place Suite 400
70 Foster Drive
Sault Ste Marie, ON
P6A 6V5
Canada

Office phone number

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

The comment period was from December 20, 2019
to February 18, 2020

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