The proposal to amend Declaration Orders MNR-71 and MNR-74 was posted on the Environmental Registry with a public comment period from October 3, 2013 to November 18, 2013. Sixteen comments were received. Of the two online submissions; one (1) contained personal information and is not available for viewing. No substantial concerns about the proposed new Declaration Order were raised and there are no outstanding issues that could not be addressed through conditions of the new Declaration Order.
The following outlines a summary of the comments that pertain to Forest Management Planning and how they were considered in the new Declaration Order.
Ten year planning period
Issue – Concern that a 10-year planning horizon would result in fewer formal consultation opportunities.
Response - Forest Management Plans will continue to have the same five stages of plan preparation and review with public and Aboriginal consultation, and opportunities for issue resolution in relation to specific planned operations. These five stages will now be for the entire ten-year term and not broken into two five year operational plans. This will provide a more focused and comprehensive consultation process. Forest Management Plans will also have public yearly annual reports and a new Mid-Plan check report. If an annual report recommends a change to the Forest Management Plan, there may be further public and Aboriginal consultation, opportunities depending on the magnitude of the recommended change.
Issue- Clarification requested on how the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) will determine who the “interested and affected persons and organizations” are for a consultation?
Response- The MNRF maintain a database of interested and affected persons and organizations for each District and indicate that anyone can ask to be added to the database. The new Declaration Order now includes definitions for both "Known Interested Persons" and "Known Affected Persons".
Issue- MNRF should incorporate socio-economic assessments in the Declaration Order amendments.
Response-Socio-economic factors are already considered part of the broad definition of “environment” in Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act. The new Declaration Order will continue to require the MNRF to use socio-economic criteria when:
- describing the Forest Management Unit, and
- developing the long-term management direction for the Forest Management Unit.
MNRF will develop methodologies to address socio-economic considerations when making forest management decisions.
Changes to Plans and Amendments
Issue- How will new information be integrated into the 10-year plan prior to the proposed Mid-Plan check or five year report if relevant?
Response- New information collected can be integrated into the Forest Management plan at any time. The MNRF indicted that should new information be obtained during an active Forest Management Plan, the MNRF would need to consider this information and address any potential impacts as appropriate (e.g. through a Plan Amendment).
Protection of Confidential of Information
Issue- Certain Aboriginal communities expressed a concern that traditional ecological knowledge and values that are collected for the purposes of participating in a Forest Management Plan are proprietary and confidential and should not be made publicly available to anyone without the prior consent of the Aboriginal community.
Response- Protecting the confidentiality of information provided by Aboriginal communities is important. A statement was added to the new Declaration Order to ensure that there is a discussion with the community on how information is made available to the planning team and public while having regard to legal requirements related to the management of information.
Issue- There should be proper consultation and protocols in place prior to any forest management activities being completed that may have an impact on the community.
Response- The new Declaration Order requires MNRF to meet and offer to develop a specific consultation approach with each Aboriginal community in or adjacent to a forest management unit. This is meant to ensure that consultation is tailored to the Aboriginal community’s needs in a meaningful way prior to the Plan’s implementation.
Issue- Clarification requested on how MNRF will distinguish between known affected and interested Aboriginal communities when some traditional areas have not been defined.
Response-The new Declaration Order requires that MNRF include in the Forest Management Planning Manual the criteria that MNRF District Managers will be required to consider when determining whether an Aboriginal community is an Aboriginal community that should be consulted on a Forest Management Plan.
Independent Forest Audits
Issue- How will comments on Independent Forest Audits be incorporated into the forest management planning process?
Response - Independent Forest Audits are a requirement of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. The new Declaration Order requires that the relevant Independent Forest Audits be a source of background information and direction for the preparation of a Forest Management Plan.
Insect Pest Management Programs
Issue- Concern with the removal of the ability to request an individual environmental assessment on Insect Pest Management Programs.
Response - An Insect Pest Management Program is time sensitive and any delays to its implementation caused by an individual environmental assessment request could have significant implications to the effectiveness of the program.
The new Declaration Order contains the provision for Aboriginal communities and public involvement in an Insect Pest Management Program through their participation on the Local Citizens Committee. MNRF is also required to issue direct notice to known and affected persons and media notices regarding an Insect Pest Management Program.
If an Insect Pest Management Program recommends the use of aerial insecticides, there will be formal public and Aboriginal consultation on the development of the aerial insecticide treatment project plan. The project plan will be used to support the development of a project plan for implementation in the Annual Work Schedule.
If issues are identified during the Insect Pest Management Program development, a person or community may use the issues resolution process to resolve the issues. If an Insect Pest Management Program recommends non pesticide protection treatments such as “accelerated harvest”, “redirected harvest” then this will result in an amendment to the Forest Management Plan.
Issue- Certain Aboriginal communities asked that the MNRF provide training on the forestry environmental assessment process and provide capacity funding for First Nations to attend meetings and obtain technical support.
Response- MNRF will offer to work with Aboriginal communities to develop a specific consultation approach during forest management planning. This could include training on the forestry environmental assessment process and opportunities for regular meetings to go over forest management processes. The MNRF indicate that it provides some capacity funding for Aboriginal people to participate in and attend meetings.
Declaration Order amending procedures
Issue- Certain Aboriginal communities asked that there be a process that requires Aboriginal people participation in the Declaration Order amendment process in the future.
Response- Depending on the magnitude of a proposed amendment, the public, Aboriginal communities, and government agencies will be able to participate in the Declaration Order amendment processes. The new Declaration Order specifically identifies that the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change may undertake additional consultation, including consultation with Aboriginal communities, that the Minister considers appropriate having regard to the nature of a proposed amendment.