The Future of Crown Land Planning

by Robert Stewart
FALL 1997

  1. A desire to harvest trees on a piece of land.
  2. Demands for a new Provincial Park.
  3. Interest in potential mining exploration.
  4. Concerns about safeguarding wildlife habitat.
These are just some of the issues that provincial Crown land managers must consider when preparing their annual operational plans. Often, they must grapple with conflicting priorities and goals from different interest groups. Thankfully, their jobs will be made a lot easier because of a new direction adopted by the Department of Lands and Forestry . It's called Integrated Resource Management, or IRM for short.

Integrated Resource Management is a planning and decision-making process that attempts to consider the many interests and issues within the wildlife, parks, forestry, and minerals sectors that affect Crown lands. Once these are considered, an operational plan is formulated. This plan attempts to balance the many concerns with provincial guidelines so that long term sustainable benefits are optimized and conflicts among uses are minimized.

Work on developing and implementing an Integrated Resource Management strategy for provincial Crown lands began in 1995. Initially, baseline land and resource information was gathered for Cumberland and Colchester counties as part of a pilot project. Public consultations took place, and 46 issues were raised to the department. Some of these included:

  • requests for increased use or protection of Crown Lands
  • interest in the development of detailed operational management plans for Crown lands
  • demands for better road access to natural wildlife areas
  • concerns that many non-natives don't understand and accept aboriginal rights to hunt, trap and fish on Crown lands
  • requests for better management and protection of freshwater resources on Crown lands
Sometimes requests may be in conflict with one another in regard to a particular piece of land. Trying to reconcile such requests is part of the challenge of Integrated Resource Management. Ultimately however, IRM means making choices, since there are an abundance of demands and a finite resource base.

It was subsequently decided to proceed with IRM planning province-wide. In the Central Region of the province, public consultations will take place this fall for Halifax and Hants counties. Once these are completed the DNR planning team will set regional objectives based on provincial program goals, public input, and their own inventory work. They will develop several management options or scenarios from the regional objectives. Another round of public consultations will be help to allow interested parties to provide feedback on the IRM options. Following review and evaluation, the final strategy will be implemented.

In the Eastern Region of the province, the same process of consultations, setting of objectives, review, and evaluation will be followed. Eastern Region's DNR planning team is presently gathering baseline land and resource information.

In the Western Region, initial gathering of baseline land and resource information will start my the end of 1997.

While the development and implementation of an IRM strategy on provincial Crown lands is proceeding, it must also be recognized that most natural resources (such as wildlife, forests, or minerals) straddle legal land boundaries. This can create many challenges in land and resource use planning, especially in light of the fact that only about 25 per cent of the total land area in Nova Scotia is provincial Crown land. As a result, the Department of Lands and Forestry encourages the use of IRM-style planning on all land in Nova Scotia as a means of effectively managing natural resources province-wide. It is doing this by promoting and sponsoring a variety of initiatives such as the Private Land Forest Management Program, the Eastern Joint Venture Habitat Program, the Private Land Stewardship Program, and the Public Extension Information Program.

The use of Integrated Resource Management planning principals is now widely accepted by governments and private landowners across Canada. Already, several other provinces have begun implementing their own IRM strategies. Here in Nova Scotia, the Department of Lands and Forestry recognizes the key role that IRM can play in improving the management of all lands province-wide. The department's new IRM strategic land and resource use plan will set guidelines for addressing economic, environmental, and recreational concerns. This plan will form a basis for managing sustainable development of Nova Scotia's Crown lands and their natural resources in the future.

IRM's General Principals:
environmental responsibility


maintenance of biodiversity

multiple use

optimization of social and
economical benefits of resource use