120History & Evolution of the Ontario Stewardship Program

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) originally initiated the Ontario Stewardship program in recognition of the significant challenges faced by those who have a common interest in maintaining, developing and protecting natural environments and sustainable resources.

In years of relative financial affluence, it was typically more common for organizations to operate with ‘single and separate’ purposes.   However, the greatest progress will be made by organizations that can see ‘common and compatible objectives’ and work together for their mutual benefit.  Stewardship councils, led my MNR community liaison staff, originally created Stewardship Councils across the province with this goal in mind.  With time, MNR has ‘stepped back’ somewhat and is encouraging direct leadership at the individual council level, but MNR staff continue to as serve as resources, as do staff from other agencies and organizations pertinent to resource management principles and practices.

Vision & Purpose:

To work together within communities to plan and and implement resource stewardship initiatives that are beneficial to maintaining or enhancing resource management and ecosystem health within our communities.  A cooperative approach will be integral and is more likely to be achieved through the strength of building relationships and identifying common interests, rather than through acting separately and depending upon a strictly legislative approach.  This vision recognizes the fundamental need to acknowledge the reality of financial restraints, the importance of landowner rights and responsibilities, as well as the benefit of creating a network with others who wish to support responsible stewardship projects driven from the community level.

Bringing people together for the purposes of land stewardship requires the development of trusting, effective and supportive working relationships.  To do that, people must see that they share a common goal (e.g. stewardship) and can agree that they have mutual, or at least compatible, objectives.   This would and should involve a cross-section of people, including landowners, landowner and resource associations, land interest groups, and associated resource agencies.


This program acknowledges that its outcomes must ultimately be of tangible benefit to landowners, while also serving to bring about greater community awareness as to the importance of land management stewardship .  The benefits that are envisioned include:

  • a forum for landowners to express their needs and ideas,
  • easier and more streamlined access to a host of agencies and associations,
  • an opportunity to work with others with similar goals or particular areas of expertise,
  • new learning opportunities to increase awareness, knowledge, and resource management engagement,
  • respect for the right of landowners to make decisions on the management of their land,
  • increased awareness of how to approach ecosystem management and responsible land care,
  • a shift towards sustainable resource use and management within and across communities,
  • embracing an ecological approach to land management, leading to a healthy physical environment and by association, healthier communities.
  • Increased awareness by the general public as to the importance of and contributions made by land management stewards within the county.


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