An Introduction to Forest Management Planning

Forest management - the cutting and regeneration of the Ontarios forests - occurs primarily on crown land, and is the subject of a public planning process.

During a forest management planning process, the needs of the forest industry, the values and other uses for the forest held by other members of the community, and environmental health of the forest are all to be considered. Plans are developed for each forest management unit - there are 19 forest management units in northeastern Ontario - for a five year plan. The planning regime includes the development of longer term strategic objectives (20 years), management plans (five years) and operational plans (the annual work schedule). Each of these are subject to some level of public consultation, with the process to develop the five year plan being an intensive exercise carried out over a period of 18-24 months.

Beginning with plans that are scheduled for approval on April 1, 2007, forest management plans will be prepared under a new forest management planning system, with a new forest management planning manual. The biggest change will be a shift from five year plans to a system of ten year plan terms with two five year operational plans.

The public is involved through local advisory committees to the Ministry of Natural Resources, through a regulated public consultation process, and through a variety of interactions between the public, the Ministry, the forest industry and other forest users.

There are five stages in the public consultation process which is a required part of developing a forest management plan. The five stages are:

Stage One - the public is notified that the forest management planning process is beginning; the  public is invited to participate
Stage Two - the public is invited to review and comment on preliminary information that has been assembled or developed for the planning process; information will include the proposed long term direction for the forest area, optional areas for logging / harvest operations, and alternatives for new road corridors will be identified; a first information centre will be held
Stage Three - the public reviews proposed road corridors and proposed area for logging / timber harvest operations, renewal and tending (planting, thinning and other related activities), and plans to protect values within the area that is to be worked in, including streams, nests, special habitat, etc.; a second information centre will be held
Stage Four - the draft plan is available for review, along with a list of alterations which the Ministry of Natural Resources is requiring be made to the plan, based on MNR's review; a third information centre may be  held, but more often the plans are made available for review in the offices of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the forest industry
Stage Five - the public is given the opportunity to inspect the plan that has been approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources; the review period is 30 days, and the plan is available for review in the offices of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Issue Resolution - this is a process for resolving conflicts over issues that arrise in the course of the forest management planning process. If concerns cannot or have not been resolved informally, through meetings and discussions with the planning team, a formal process is available to assist in resolving conflicts. Steps include putting the concern in writing to the plan author, followed by a meeting between the plan author and the concerned person or group; the next stage, if the concern is not resolved, is to refer the matter to the District Manager of the local Ministry of Natural Resources; the final stage is discussing the matter with the MNR Regional Director. Generally speaking, the earlier an issue is raised, the greater the probability that it will be resolved satisfactorily through the planning process.

Those concerns which are not satisfactorily addressed can be appealed to the Ministry of the Environment by requesting an individual environmental assessment of specific proposed forest management activities or specific aspects of the plan, such as a specific activity or particular proposed harvest area. The Ministry of the Environment will take into account what efforts were made to resolve the issue through the forest management planning excercise and the related issue resolution process.

 The planning process is conducted according to the MNR's Forest Management Planning Manual, which is  a "regulated" manual under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. The Crown Forest Sustainability Act is the provincial law which governs forestry practices on public crown land; because the Planning Manual is one of its regulations, it makes the planning process a legal requirement.

To learn more, click on the links in the brief descriptions (above), or visit the links below.