July 14/21, 2003

Declaration Order streamlines, strengthens rules for Ontario forest management

A Declaration Order issued by the Ontario Minister of Environment both strengthens and streamlines the rules for forest management in Ontario. It extends and amends the existing Class Environmental Assessment (EA) Approval for Timber Management (the Timber Class EA Approval) to allow the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to continue forest management planning on Crown lands in the province, subject to the conditions of the Order.

It also changes the name of the Timber Class EA Approval to MNR's Class EA Approval for Forest Management on Crown Lands in Ontario, to emphasize the requirements for planning for forest sustainability under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994 (CFSA).

The previous Timber Class EA Approval, in effect since April 1994, was subject to 115 terms and conditions and was due to expire May 18, 2003. The expiry date was extended to July 17, to allow more time for review by the Ministry of Environment and the government review team. The Declaration Order and resulting Class EA approval has whittled this number down to 55. This is the result of a reorganizing and amalgamation of 82 planning-related terms contained in the previous document into 26 conditions designed to help ensure sound forest management planning. Some conditions were dropped because MNR has fulfilled their requirements.

Conditions in the new Declaration Order relate to planning, clear-cutting, wood supply, old growth policy, roadless wilderness areas policy, Aboriginal consultations, growth and yield, and policy and scientific research. In addition, unlike its predecessor, the new Order has no expiry date. Instead, it requires the submission of annual reports and a review and reporting by MNR every five years on the implementation of the Order's conditions. It also provides for a mechanism to amend the Class EA and requires opportunities to be made for public input as MNR updates its manuals to incorporate proposed new conditions.

Under a key planning-related requirement, MNR must propose amendments to its Forest Management Planning Manual (FMPM) within the next year to incorporate the 26 planning conditions set out in the Declaration Order. As a document regulated under the CFSA, the Manual can be changed only through an open public consultation process, followed by Cabinet review and approval.

A new condition of the Order requires MNR's Forest Management Guide for Natural Disturbance Pattern Emulation to be applied to clearcut harvest operations. This guide specifies a range of various clearcut sizes, none exceeding 260 hectares, depending on the forest type. The goal is to carry out forestry operations in a manner that will leave the forest in a state close to that left naturally after a forest fire or other natural disturbance. By applying the emulation guide, foresters will simulate this pattern of natural disturbances, creating a variety of harvest patterns that will ensure adequate wildlife habitat and preserve biodiversity.

Another new condition requires MNR to develop, in consultation with the forest industry and other stakeholders, a wood supply strategy. This condition stipulates that the strategy's objective must be to find solutions to a projected shortfall in future wood supplies, not to set supply targets or to guarantee a wood supply. It must also align with the CFSA's long-term sustainability goals.

The Declaration Order culminates an extensive review of and public consultation on MNR's proposed changes to, and implementation of, the Class EA Approval. The final Order was approved by Order in Council on June 25. The decision, including links to relevant information on the Class EA review and the results of a final consultation period from mid-March to mid-April this year, has been posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry, www.ene.gov.on.ca, reference No RA03E0004.

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