Text Size


Conservation Authority Role in Land Use Planning

Streamlining Planning and Regulations
Conservation Ontario worked with a provincially lead, multi-stakeholder Committee including representatives from the municipal, development/building and environment sectors in the development of the Policies and Procedures for Conservation Authority Plan Review and Permitting Activities (MNR, 2010). This provincially approved document confirms and clarifies the roles of Conservation Authorities, and identifies key requirements for good client service.

Report: Policies and Procedures for Conservation Authority Plan Review and Permitting Activities [Ministry of Natural Resources, 2010)

*NOTE:All references in this document to the Federal Fisheries Act, Conservation Authorities having responsibilities under section 35 of this Act, and/or reviews under this Act are no longer applicable as of November 25, 2013 due to amendments to the Fisheries Act. Please see this FACTSHEET for further information about this change. Conservation Authorities may still continue to undertake advisory reviews involving fisheries and aquatic resources under the Planning Act and/or as a watershed management agency under the Conservation Authorities Act.

This MOU replaces the original 36 individual Conservation Authority agreements under the pre-2013 Fisheries Act. It reflects the long standing working relationship DFO has had with Conservation Authorities and builds on the changes that have occurred with the amendments to the Fisheries Act and the DFO shift from the Fish Habitat Management Program to the new Fisheries Protection Program. Under this MOU the parties will work together to develop a collaborative approach to fisheries and aquatic resource protection in Ontario.

Conservation Authorities (CAs) are watershed-based resource management agencies, whose mandate includes a variety of responsibilities and functions in the land use planning and development process. Overall, the role of Conservation Authorities in the planning and development process is to eliminate unnecessary delay or duplication in the process while ensuring that decisions are informed by the best watershed science available.

Delegated Responsibility to Represent Provincial Interest in Natural Hazards
CAs have delegated responsibilities to represent provincial interests regarding natural hazards encompassed by Section 3.1 of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 (PPS, 2005). These delegated responsibilities require CAs to review and provide comments on policy documents (Official Plans and comprehensive zoning by-laws) and applications submitted pursuant to the Planning Act as part of the Provincial One-Window Plan Review Service. In 2001, Conservation Ontario signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that defined the roles of and responsibilities of each agency with respect to delegated responsibilities for natural hazards. The Memorandum of Understanding (CO/MNR/MMAH, 2001) can be viewed here.

Watershed Based Resource Management Agency
CAs, as ‘public bodies’ pursuant to the Planning Act, are to be notified of policy documents and planning and development applications as prescribed under the Act. CAs may comment as per their mandate to the municipality/planning approval authority on these documents and applications. In this role, the CA is responsible to represent its program and policy interests as a watershed based resource management agency. In this regard, CAs operating under the authority of the CA Act, and in conjunction with municipalities, develop business plans, watershed plans and natural resource management plans within their jurisdictions (watersheds). These plans may recommend specific approaches to land use and resource planning and management that should be incorporated into municipal planning documents and related development applications in order to be implemented.

Planning Advisory Service to Municipalities
CAs may perform a technical advisory role to municipalities, as determined under the terms of a service agreement with participating municipalities which may include, but is not limited to, matters related to the assessment or analysis of environmental impacts associated with activities near or in the vicinity of: sensitive natural features such as wetlands, river and stream valleys, fish habitat or significant woodlands; hydrogeology and storm water studies; and, in some cases, septic system reviews. By providing planning advisory services for the review of Planning Act applications, Conservation Authorities and municipalities can ensure the implementation of a comprehensive resource management program on a watershed basis.

The planning advisory service agreements allow the Conservation Authority the opportunity to provide advice to the municipality on the interpretation of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). With the exception of natural hazards for which Conservation Authorities have delegated responsibility to represent the provincial interest, this advice is not represented as a “provincial position”.

Conservation Authorities as Landowner
CAs are landowners, and as such, may become involved in the planning and development process, either as an adjacent landowner or a proponent.

Regulatory Responsibilities


CA Act Regulations: In participating in the review of development applications under the Planning Act, Conservation Authorities will (i) ensure that the applicant and municipal planning authority are aware of the Section 28 regulations and requirements under the CA Act, and, (ii) assist in the coordination of applications under the Planning Act and the CA Act to eliminate unnecessary delay or duplication in the process. More information on the Section 28 Regulations can be viewed here.

Other Delegated Regulatory/Approval or Review Responsibility: Individual CAs may enter into agreements with federal and provincial ministries and municipalities to undertake delegated regulatory/approval responsibilities and/or reviews (e.g. septic system approvals under the Ontario Building Code).

In the past, Conservation Authorities served as the first point of contact and the local service provider for Fisheries Act review, and had entered into agreements with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to facilitate this process. Changes to the Fisheries Act effective November 25, 2013, have resulted in the cancellation of these agreements. Please seee this FACTSHEET for further information about this change. Conservation Authorities may still continue to undertake advisory reviews involving fisheries and aquatic resources under the Planning Act and/or as a watershed management agency under the Conservation Authorities Act.