Under Ontario’s Environmental Assessment (EA) Act, any major new public or designated private project that will have an impact on the environment is subject to an environmental review and approval, prior to being able to proceed. Under the EA process, the organization proposing the project must:
- conduct a thorough environmental analysis
- solicit public comment on the analysis
- submit a final report to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) for approval.
The EA process is designed to ensure that there is a thorough public review of the social, economic and environmental impacts of projects, and that the projects are of overall benefit to the people of Ontario.
Class Environmental Assessments (Class EAs)
Some classes or groups of projects that are carried out routinely and have environmental effects that can be predicted and mitigated, have approval under the EA Act through a Class EA.
Each Class EA sets out a planning process to be followed for any project in that class. Ontario currently has Class EAs for such classes of activities as highway construction and maintenance, and energy project development.
Occasionally, projects being carried out in accordance with a Class EA warrant a separate examination under the EA Act. In these cases, the EA Act provides for any member of the public to request MOE to require an individual EA for a specific project in that class.
Forest Management Class EA Approval
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has a Class EA approval for forest management activities on Crown lands. MOE granted the approval in 1994 for a nine-year period, after four years of public hearings by the EA Board. MOE extended the approval in 2003 with the approval of Declaration Order MNR-71, referred to as MNR’s Forest Management Class EA Approval.
Declaration Order MNR-71 contains 55 conditions that MNR must adhere to in undertaking forest management. It covers the recurring forest management activities of building access roads, harvesting trees, renewing the forest, and conducting forest maintenance; and provides direction for the preparation, review and approval of forest management plans.
The approval outlines a process that must be followed to prepare forest management plans, including assessment of environmental effects of alternatives, and public and Aboriginal consultation requirements. The process is described in detail in the Forest Management Planning Manual, a regulated manual under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act.
The approval requires MNR to develop and implement guides, policies and scientific studies that provide direction and information to be used in forest management planning and includes reporting requirements.
Maintaining the Forest Management Class EA Approval
The Forest Management Class EA approval is an “evergreen” approval meaning that MNR does not have to seek renewal of the approval. An amending condition enables amendments to be made to the approval to ensure that the approval remains current. Amendments can be requested at any time by the public, MNR or an organization. An amendment must be approved by Cabinet and the Lieutenant Governor in Council before it comes into force, and may consist of one or more changes to the conditions. In 2007, a number of administrative amendments were approved under Amending Order MNR-71/2, primarily to reflect work done by MNR since the Declaration Order was approved in 2003.
A requirement of the approval is a Five-Year EA Report, which MNR must prepare and submit to MOE on the implementation of the conditions of the approval. The first of these reports, the Five-Year Environmental Assessment Report on Forest Management, April 1, 2003 - March 31, 2008 was submitted to MOE on June 25, 2009. In addition to information on implementation of the forest management planning process, and a description of significant initiatives and major results, MNR reported on concerns, issues and problems with the conditions. Where possible throughout the reporting period, MNR took action to address those concerns, issues and problems without needing amendments to the conditions. However, for some conditions, MNR identified that changes and improvements were required.
The next Five-Year EA Report, which will cover the reporting period from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2013, will be submitted to MOE in June 2014.
For further information about the Forest Management Class Environmental Assessment (EA) Approval, please contact:
Mr. Dan Pyke
Forest Management Planning Section
Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch
Ministry of the Environment
Ministry of Environment EA web site