Summary of Environmental Law in Canada

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20 Forests and Forest Management


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Forests are regulated primarily at the provincial level, due to the provinces' power over property and civil rights. There are also some federal statutes that affect forestry practices.

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20.1 Institutions with Authority over Forestry


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Federal Government

The most important federal statutes governing forestry management include the Fisheries Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act. In addition, the federal government regulates forest practices on lands that it owns or administers, including Indian lands, national parks, airports, and military lands. Federal regulations for forest practices include the Indian timber regulations under the Indian Act and timber regulations under the National Parks Act. The federal environmental impact assessment process may also come into application under certain circumstances (see Chapter 7).

The Canadian Forestry Service (CFS) is part of the Department of Natural Resources. Every five years, the CFS, in cooperation with provincial and territorial governments, produces a national inventory of Canada's forests. The CFS also administers the Model Forest Program. This program was designed to establish a network of sites to demonstrate the concept of sustainable forest management in practical terms and on a working scale.

The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) was created in September 1995 to give sufficient attention to forestry issues. It is made up of the 13 ministers responsible for forests at the federal, provincial and territorial levels. The CCFM stimulates the development of policies and initiatives to strengthen the forestry sector, including the forest resource and its use. It deals with national and international issues and provides overall direction for the stewardship and sustainable management of Canada's forests. The CCFM's primary initiatives are:

In recent years, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers has reviewed the global trends that are shaping forest management policy and practices, and adopted a new vision for the sustainability of Canada's forests called Forest 2020. With this program, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers will further enhance long-term forest sustainability by promoting greater social and economic prosperity as well as improved conservation of the forest heritage, by supporting:

Other federal/provincial/territorial initiatives are:

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20.2 Forest Management on Public Lands


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There is a substantial amount of federally-owned forest, including national parks, military reserves, and publicly-owned lands in Nunavut, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

In some provinces, such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec, most forest land is owned by the provincial government. Forestry activities on provincial lands is governed by provincial statutes. Private firms need a licence or other form of tenure issued by the provincial government to engage in timber harvesting or livestock grazing operations on Crown land. These licences typically impose conditions, such as the requirement to process Canadian timber in Canada.

Provincial forest statutes set out the different forms of tenure available to timber harvesters and authorize regulations for forest planning and forest practice standards. Timber companies that hold some form of tenure must prepare and submit operational plans for approval. These plans must be consistent with resource management objectives applicable to the planning unit, if such objectives exist. Land use planning may affect forest management, for example, by designating protected areas, low intensity resource extraction areas, and areas for high intensity resource extraction.

In some provinces, legislation establishes an administrative body specifically dealing with forest issues to oversee compliance and to receive public complaints. Also, the provincial government generally sets the annual allowable cut for the province, after consideration of a range of factors set out in the legislation. However, there is a new tendency to sign Forest Management Agreement between governments and forest companies. The FMA enables the company to exploit a defined area in a manner designed to provide perpetual sustained yield. Timber harvesting stet must be conducted according to a management plan approved by the government.

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20.3 Forest Management on Private Lands


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Control of forestry practices on private lands requires legislation enacted under the provincial powers over property and civil rights, and natural resources. To date, none of the provinces have regulated forest practices on private land. British Columbia has recently passed a Forest Land Reserve Act, similar to an agricultural land reserve act, which restricts and, in some cases, prohibits removal of forest land from the reserve. Forest reserve land must be used in a way that is consistent with one or more of a number of purposes, including biological diversity. In some provinces, such as Alberta, a permit system for transporting coniferous timber harvested on private land has been established. The system is intended to prevent illegal harvesting and export of Crown timber and ensure greater protection of the environment.

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