This consultation was open from:
June 12, 2023
to August 11, 2023
We are proposing to amend Ontario Regulation 167/95 to revise three regulated manuals under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. The proposed revisions align with the Sustainable Growth: Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy and modernize the forest management planning process while continuing to provide for the sustainability of Ontario’s forests.
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We are proposing to revise the Forest Management Planning Manual (FMPM), Forest Information Manual (FIM), and Scaling Manual (SM). The proposed revisions provide an opportunity to further modernize our business processes while continuing to provide for forest sustainability. The manuals are regulated under section 68 of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act CFSA) and provide direction for the preparation and implementation of forest management plans, the exchange of forest information, and the measurement of forest resources harvested in Ontario.
We are also proposing to revise Ontario Regulation 167/95 under the CFSA to enable a regular review cycle of the forest manuals. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) would ensure that the forest manuals are reviewed at least once every ten years to ensure any relevant changes to legislation and policies, science and technology, and implementation experience are considered for future versions of the forest manuals. This regular review cycle would continue to support the ministry’s approach to adaptive management.
For the revisions to the forest manuals to take effect sections 26.1, 26.2, and 28 of Ontario Regulation 167/95 under the CFSA would be amended.
Key proposed revisions to the forest manuals
Enable opportunity for Far North communities to prepare small-scale community-based Forest Management Plans
Enabling the opportunity for Far North communities to prepare and implement a Forest Management Plan (FMP) is a new approach proposed to be included within the MNRF’s forest policy framework. Amendments to the FMPM would provide First Nation communities in the Far North the option to use the FMPM to prepare small scale community-based forest management plans. This approach will help support community initiatives and economic development (e.g., establishment of biomass energy facilities). This opportunity is not feasible under the existing forest policy framework for the preparation and implementation of a FMP due to the complexity of the planning process and the time required to prepare a FMP. This proposal would reduce the complexity of the forest management planning process (given the small footprint of potential projects) to enable the preparation of a FMP to support community needs. Revisions to the FMPM to enable this opportunity in the Far North relate to:
a) First Nation community involvement and consultation, and public consultation
b) Development of the strategic, tactical and operational planning decisions
c) Forest Management Guide for Boreal Landscapes
In Ontario, distinct geographic areas known as management units are established to allow for the effective and efficient administration and delivery of forest management planning, forest operations, and forest resource licensing. To support the preparation of FMPs in the Far North management units would need to be designated under the CFSA.
a) First Nation community involvement and consultation, and public consultation
First Nation Community Involvement and Consultation
The MNRF would continue to apply the current criteria in the FMPM to determine whether a First Nation community is in or adjacent to a newly identified management unit in the Far North. First Nation communities determined to be in or adjacent to a management unit would be offered opportunities to be involved in the preparation and implementation of the FMP, including the opportunity to communicate directly with the planning team.
The FMPM would identify roles for specific local community members in the preparation and implementation of the FMP and provide an opportunity for the local First Nation community to create an advisory group comprised of community members (e.g., elders, trappers, other land users) identified by the leadership of the community. An advisory group would provide input to the planning team.
The FMPM would also provide the opportunity for the local First Nation community to have representation on the planning team. The community leadership of the First Nation would identify one or more representatives to participate on the planning team.
Local community Indigenous Knowledge may be part of the background information that would be available for use in planning. Indigenous Knowledge is defined as the integrated body of wisdom, values, perceptions, and teachings that emerges out of the practices of everyday life of First Nation people. Adjacent communities would also be invited to share background information and Indigenous Knowledge in the preparation of FMPs.
First Nation community consultation requirements would be in addition to the public consultation requirements.
Opportunities would continue to be provided for on-going participation in the forest management planning process for newly identified management units. We are proposing to reduce the duration and the number of stages for public and First Nation consultation for these small-scale FMPs from five to three.
The consultation process for these FMPs would include three stages:
- Stage One: Invitation to Participate
- Stage Two: Review of Draft Forest Management Plan
- Stage Three: Inspection of MNRF-Approved Forest Management Plan
Stage One: Invitation to Participate would be similar to the existing process in Part A of the current FMPM. The First Nation communities and the public will be notified that the preparation of the FMP is beginning and will be offered the opportunity to contribute to the background information to be used in the planning process. Available information would be shared subject to any modifications MNRF and the planning team consider necessary in the circumstances.
Stage Two: Review of Draft Forest Management Plan would be a combination of stages two, three, and four included in Part A of the current FMPM. An information forum would be provided. First Nation and Métis communities and the public will be provided 60 days to review and comment on the draft FMP. The purpose of this consultation opportunity would be to review and comment on proposed activities and elements of the draft FMP including:
- planned areas for harvest, renewal and tending operations for the 10-year period of the FMP
- proposed corridors for new primary and branch roads for the 10-year period of the FMP
- proposed operational road boundaries for the 10-year period of the FMP
- proposed silvicultural ground rules
- proposed operational prescriptions and conditions for areas of concern and important ecological features
Stage Three: Revision, Approval and Inspection of the FMP would be similar to the existing process described in Part A of the current FMPM for stage 5 of consultation.
b) Development of the strategic, tactical and operational planning decisions
For the development of strategic, tactical and operational planning decisions for newly identified management units in the Far North, specific sections of the FMPM 2024 (once approved) would apply subject to any modifications MNRF and the planning team consider necessary in the circumstances and agree upon. Modifications may relate primarily to the application of decision support systems (i.e., forest estate models), classification of the forest (i.e., forest units), development of a base model inventory and base model, application of the Forest Management Guide for Boreal Landscapes (i.e., Boreal Landscape Guide), and consultation requirements as discussed above.
Currently, MNRF is responsible for creating a Forest Resource Inventory (FRI) that provides complete coverage based on the area within the boundaries of the managed forest. An FRI is currently unavailable for most of the Far North, necessitating different inventory techniques to capture and map land cover information. The best available data would be relied on to provide information to support the preparation of the FMP for newly identified management units in the Far North.
The NFI provides the best available forest resource information (e.g., species composition) to facilitate meeting the strategic level planning requirements of the FMPM (e.g., forest classification, eligible areas, identification of planned harvest areas). The NFI would also support the development of specific management objectives and strategies for the forest and facilitate tactical and operational planning (e.g., identification of harvest areas, operational prescriptions for harvest, renewal and tending operations).
c) Forest management guide for boreal landscapes
The Boreal Landscape Guide provides direction to achieve the principles of the CFSA by emulating natural forest conditions that provide for the long-term health of forest ecosystems. The direction is used by planning teams to develop a FMP where the landscape is demonstrated to maintain or move toward estimates of natural forest structure, composition, and pattern. The direction is applied at large scales (tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of square kilometres) using detailed forest inventory information.
Application of the Boreal Landscape Guide direction to newly identified management units in the Far North would not be appropriate: the small sizes of these potential management units do not align with the appropriate scale for developing or managing simulated ranges of natural variability; and further, due to the lack of a detailed forest resource inventory, ranges of natural variation cannot be estimated. The proposed approach for management units in the Far North will therefore not require the detailed application of the Boreal Landscape Guide in the development of a forest management plan.
However, principles of the Boreal Landscape Guide would apply. Components of stand and site scale direction for woodland caribou consistent with the principles of the CFSA and the emulation of natural disturbance, would be implemented in forest management plans. The revised FMPM would include requirements for the planning team to assess and document how the FMP addresses the natural condition of the forest and how the harvest pattern is consistent with natural disturbances. The proposal is to have the FMPs, to the extent possible, focus on a range of cut blocks sizes resulting in a forest pattern consistent with burns and mature and old forest found within the surrounding area, in order to emulate natural disturbance in a manner that provides for the sustainability of the forest on the management unit. Additionally, the proposed amendments to the FMPM would require components of the stand and site scale direction for woodland caribou set out in the Boreal Landscape Guide to be considered in the development of the FMP. This direction is aimed at providing future habitat for caribou, and allowing caribou to re-occupy previously used or alternate habitat tracts and identifying a defragmentation strategy to reduce edge and internal structure of the forest.
A consideration in proposing this approach is the recognition that the Far North has had limited development (i.e., the existing forest condition is considered close to natural), and the anticipated small footprint of proposed forest operations. In contrast, operations in other management units (MU) in the managed forest occur at much larger scales (i.e., on average between 500 ha on smaller MUs to 8,000 ha per year on larger MUs).
Stand and Site Guide
Forest operations in the newly identified management units would remain subject to direction in the Forest Management Guide for Conserving Biodiversity at the Stand and Site Scales (i.e., Stand and Site Guide). Also, operational prescriptions and conditions would be applied using Indigenous Knowledge through the implementation of the FMP to ensure the protection of First Nation values. The FMPM would also require the planning team to implement stand and site level direction for woodland caribou habitat (e.g., harvest stands in large, contiguous tracts to mimic fire disturbances) subject to any modifications deemed necessary in the circumstances.
Incorporating the principles from the Boreal Landscape Guide, applying relevant stand and site level direction from the guides as well as stand and site level direction for woodland caribou would assist operations to avoid and minimize adverse impacts on biodiversity.
Modernization of the forest management planning process
MNRF continues to modernize the forest management planning process through ongoing implementation experience and leveraging advanced remote sensing technologies and modern analysis techniques and software. The proposed revisions to the FMPM and FIM will require spatially explicit analyses in the determination of strategic, tactical, and operational planning decisions.
Spatially explicit analyses involves the application of spatial forest estate models, consistent with MNRF’s forest policy framework, to schedule proposed forest management activities (e.g., road building and harvest) to stands in the forest to meet the social, ecological, and economical objectives for the management unit.
This improvement to the forest management planning process will provide for enhanced decision support opportunities and improvements including:
- providing a more accurate (spatially explicit) representation of the forest (e.g., consistent spatial resolution as the forest resources inventory);
- enabling better alignment with MNRF’s Landscape guides (e.g., improved ability to demonstrate the structure and composition landscape guide indicators with an operationally feasible harvest allocation);
- better integration of strategic, tactical, and operational planning components of a FMP [tactical planning (40-years of spatial allocation) will support a connection to operational planning decisions];
- enabling the integration of new science and technology (e.g., Lidar-enabled inventories, increase opportunities for automation of reporting); and
- enabling the ability to address other policy and management questions.
With the proposed revisions to the forest manuals, sustainable forest licensees (except for the larger companies who have already invested in spatial modeling software) will have to transition to new decision support tools for the next planning cycle beginning in 2028.
Streamlining the forest management planning and wood measurement processes
MNRF continues to identify burden reduction and streamlining opportunities within the forest management planning process. Using our adaptive management approach revisions are being proposed that reflect advice from forestry practitioners — those who put policy direction into practice through preparation and implementation of FMPs. In collaboration with the Forest Management Planning Advisory Group proposed revisions which will result in efficiencies in the forest management planning process include:
- Improving, clarifying, and streamlining the requirements for roads planning.
- Moving to a four-stage forest management planning process due to conducting modern spatial analyses. The proposed approach would not affect the current number of days provided to First Nation and Métis communities, and the public for consultation. Stage Two – Review of Long-Term Management Direction and Stage Three-Proposed Operations under the current FMPM would be combined into a single new Stage Two – Review of Strategic, Tactical and Operational Planning Decisions. The new Stage Two would involve the development of, and consultation on, strategic and tactical elements of a proposed FMP and the development and consultation on the proposed operations for the 10-year FMP. The combination of what are currently two stages of FMP development into one would reflect the enhanced information available through spatial analyses – a significant benefit of using spatial analysis is that it would enable the integration of strategic, tactical and operational planning, which in turn would provide First Nation and Métis communities and the public with a clearer understanding of where operations could occur under a FMP and how they would contribute to the strategic management objectives of the plan.
- Consolidating and improving social and economic description and assessment requirements.
- Reducing burden and ensuring the appropriate landowners and stakeholders are contacted during aerial application of herbicide or insecticide projects by revising distance from one kilometer to 500 metres where a direct written notice to landowners or occupants of the proposed treatment area will be required. This is being proposed due to availability of personal information and technological advancements in application equipment.
- Improving clarity around categorization of amendments to the FMP related to the completion of operations, transfer of roads, and advanced road construction.
Proposed revisions to the FIM result from a business value and technical review of the information contained in the forest management planning tables and the applicable data sources. In collaboration with the Forest Information and Data Advisory Group proposed revisions to the FIM include:
- providing for an information exchange format that is consistent with the purposes of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (e.g., keep tables to numbers and remove structured text within tables)
- improving the usability and accessibility of information by reducing duplication with spatial data layers, and reducing unstructured data products (e.g., images)
- supporting efficient and effective information exchange by eliminating redundant information products, aggregating tabular information products, and facilitating opportunities for automation
The Scaling Manual (SM) provides instructions and standards for the authorized movement and measurement of Crown forest resources harvested in Ontario that will be subject to applicable Crown stumpage. The SM ensures accurate volumes are calculated to generate the appropriate dollars for both consolidated revenue and the various trust accounts. The SM also defines the standards for training, licensing and approval of scalers and scaler auditors, and sets out the requirements for conducting scaling audits. Proposed revisions to the SM include:
- providing clear direction and standards for wood measurement (e.g., clarifying instructions for the measurement of Crown forest resources)
- improving regulatory compliance (e.g., referencing sections of the CFSA pertaining to permits)
- improving forest industry competitiveness by extending the scaler’s licence term from 3 years to 5 years and changing the requirement to attend a scaler’s refresher course from once every 3 years to once every 5 years
Regulatory impact analysis
The anticipated environmental consequences of the proposal are positive. The purpose of the CFSA 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 would be maintained or enhanced with the implementation of the revisions to the Forest Manuals, particularly through the use of spatial analyses which would allow for more accurate representation, assessment, avoidance and mitigation of the impacts of planned forest operations in the forest.
The anticipated social consequences of the proposal are neutral. The revised direction in the Forest Manuals would provide for neutral social impacts by providing higher quality plans to enable more effective and meaningful Indigenous involvement and consultation, and public consultation; 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 would help promote greater productivity and resource efficiency in the development of FMPs. The revised Forest Manuals would 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.
The streamlining measures identified would provide benefit to Indigenous communities, forest industry, government, and stakeholders by:
- modernizing the strategic direction of a FMP to provide for higher quality plans that enable better alignment with other policy (e.g., forest management guides), better integration of new science and technology, and provide a more accurate representation of the forest and planned forest operations.
- reducing burden for forest industry through streamlining of process requirements (e.g., roads planning, wood measurement processes, scaler licence renewal).
- using a digital lens and modern tools when developing FMP products to improve usability and accessibility of information, reduce duplication, improve the standardization of information.
- supporting forest management initiatives within Far North communities by providing a process to prepare small-scale community-based FMPs.
- updating and enhancing policy requirements to improve clarity for forest practitioners, and to provide alignment with other policy mechanisms.
Overall, no new administrative costs are anticipated as a result of this proposal.
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Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.
70 Foster Drive
Sault Ste Marie, ON
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