Effective April 1, 2023: the Departments of Lands and Environment and Natural Resources have merged into one.

Forest Act

What is the purpose of the proposed Forest Act?

The proposed Forest Act will bring NWT legislation in line with the many values and pressures on the forest, redefine NWT forests as an ecosystem, and reconsider the types of authorizations and their need for regulation, based on three key principles:

  • The complexity, diversity and resilience of our natural forests need to be maintained through sustainable management, for the benefit of northerners today and in the future. 
  • There are many values derived from our forests, some of which are under regulation and others that are addressed through management.
  • Wildland fire is a natural part of forest ecology.

Why do we need a new Forest Act?

Prior to 1988, the federal government was manager of forestry for the Northwest Territories, and the agency that fought wildland fires. When the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) assumed responsibility for this management, the legislation developed at that time, the Forest Management Act and the Forest Protection Act was, in many ways, borrowed from federal legislation.

The Forest Management Act of 1988 simply described forest cutting authorization options and how to regulate those, along with the associated royalties, fees and penalties. There was no reference to sustainability, forest ecology and the greater needs around forest management and other values. The current Forest Protection Act is seldom used and contains no regulations; rather, those working in the area follow the Forest Fire Management Policy 53.04. There have been no major amendments to either piece of legislation since enactment.

The new Act is needed to bring legislation in line with the authorities received through devolution, to help give the GNWT a legislative base to better balance the environment with economic and social needs, and to ensure the GNWT is using the most current and comprehensive legislative tools to manage lands and resources.

A new Forest Act will provide an update to the current forest legislation by expanding the focus beyond the economic value of timber to a holistic view that allows for the sustainable use of forest resources.

What are the key components of the Forest Act?

The proposed Act will:

  • Support the ecological integrity of the forest ecosystem for the benefit of Northwest Territories residents and the environment.
  • Address current and future pressures on forest resources and employ an ecosystem based approach to forest management.
  • Present an approach to wildland fire management that reflects up-to-date best practices.
  • Maintain momentum in the ongoing devolution implementation process.
  • Redefine, clarify and modernize terminology.
  • Meet obligations and requirements set out in land claim and self-government agreements.
  • Reflect the values of NWT residents.

What are the key differences from the current legislation?

The proposed amendments will:

  • Include management of non-timber forest products and forest activities, like biomass.
  • Give regulation-making authority to impose regional or local fire bans.
  • Require Forest Ecosystem Management Plans to be completed where Forest Management Agreements are being established.
  • Require industry to produce fire prevention plans.
  • Make long-term forest harvest authorizations available, subject to approval.
  • Enable new regulations for fees, charges, fines and offences in line with northern industry practice and other jurisdictions.
  • Recognize and affirm Aboriginal and Treaty rights, including the commitments of land claim and self-government agreements.