This consultation was open from:
December 20, 2019
to February 18, 2020
We are proposing changes to improve forest management planning processes in Ontario by removing the duplication between the Environmental Assessment Act requirements and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s policies, regulations and guidelines.
As part of the government’s Made-in-Ontario Plan commitment to modernize the 50-year old Environmental Assessment (EA) process, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) is proposing to reduce duplication by creating a one-window approach under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The proposed changes would exempt forestry activities covered by the current Declaration Order under the Environmental Assessment Act (EA Act) in the geographic areas listed in Declaration Order MNR-75 (an area that includes portions of Central and Northern Ontario, between the Quebec and Manitoba borders).
This would remove duplication between the EA Act requirements and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s (MNRF) policies, regulations and guidelines while maintaining environmental protections. This will also ensure stakeholders have one-window for consultation and issues resolution for forest management planning.
If the proposed amendments to Regulation 334 are made, then Declaration Order MNR-75 would no longer apply to forest management. If approved, the proposed amendment would come into effect on the later of July 1, 2020 and the date the regulation is filed.
Environmental Assessment modernization
The EA Act is almost 50 years old, and since it was enacted, other processes have been put in place that duplicate requirements for projects subject to the act.
We committed to modernizing the environmental assessment process as part of the Made-In-Ontario Environmental Plan. This includes:
- addressing duplication
- providing clarity to proponents
- improving service standards to reduce delays
- better recognizing the other planning processes, while ensuring strong environmental protections remain in place
The proposed changes will remove duplication between the EA Act requirements and MNRF’s policies, regulations and guidelines. These changes are also consistent with the modernization of the environmental assessment process in Ontario.
Declaration Order considerations
MNRF submitted their Five-Year Environmental Assessment Report on Forest Management in Ontario in June 2019, which covered the years 2013-2018 (see link provided in the ‘external links’ section below). The report identified that the declaration order process:
- has not kept up with a changing forest sector in Ontario, including other policies and regulations under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994 (CFSA)
- has created burden and economic impacts due to the duplication in processes
Since the original declaration order was approved in 2003, MNRF has developed an overarching forest policy framework, which outlines how forests are to be managed in Ontario. The current declaration order results in duplication of many of the existing forest policies and forest manuals.
Consultation and issue resolution are key components of MNRF’s forest planning system. Central to the forest policy framework are the regulated forest manuals that MNRF maintains to provide direction on how forest management will be:
- planned for
- reported on
MNRF is currently proposing changes to these forest manuals (Forest Management Planning Manual, Forest Information Manual, Forest Operations and Silviculture Manual, Scaling Manual), to enable a more efficient, competitive forest sector while maintaining the sustainability of Ontario’s Crown forests.
If forest management activities are exempt from the EA Act, the following would be the primary source of direction for forest management in Ontario:
- MNRF’s forest policy framework, including the CFSA
- regulated forest manuals
- supporting forest policy, programs and procedures
MNRF would be responsible for continuing with forest management in a way that is protective of the environment.
Forest management activities on Ontario Crown lands are subject to the requirements of both the EA Act and CFSA.
In 1994, MNRF received Environmental Assessment Board approval for its Class EA for Timber Management. The 1994 decision to approve the Class EA contained 115 conditions, one of which was an expiry condition.
In 2002, the Minister of Environment made a Declaration Order exempting MNRF’s forest management activities from the EA Act (with a number of conditions, including many from the Class EA). Today, the conditions in the declaration order have been incorporated into MNRF’s existing policies, procedures or guidelines.
Currently, two orders under the EA Act exempt forest management, subject to conditions: Declaration Orders MNR-75 and MNR-41.
MNR-41 (1982) covers the area in Southern Ontario and only contains three conditions, of which only one (public consultation of aerial pesticide spraying) is still required to be fulfilled. This proposal would not impact MNR-41.
Declaration Order MNR-75 provides EA Act coverage for the majority of forest management on crown land in Ontario. The area it covers includes:
- portions of Central and Northern Ontario, between the Quebec and Manitoba borders
- the Whitefeather Forest surrounding the Pikangikum First Nation
- the Cat-Slate Forest surrounding Cat Lake First Nation
- Slate Falls Nation in Northwestern Ontario in the far north (Map 1)
Declaration Order MNR-75 currently contains 61 conditions, including:
- forest management planning conditions to be included in the Forest Management Planning Manual (e.g., consultation, issues resolution)
- non-planning conditions (e.g., monitoring, reporting, training, science, committees)
The planning conditions in this declaration order have all been met and incorporated into MNRF’s existing manuals, policies, procedures or guidelines.MNRF’s implementation of conditions with respecting monitoring and reporting have also contributed to the development of its forest management policy framework. Accordingly, the conditions would no longer be imposed under the EA Act.
There are no direct compliance costs or new administrative burdens associated with the proposed regulatory amendments related to exempting forest management from EA Act requirements. As the processes are firmly embedded within other pieces of legislation, policies and guides the EA Act requirements have become redundant.
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