So, what is it good for? You can't own it, but you can rent plots on it for various purposes, such as building a cottage, mineral or oil exploration. All that rental income is collected by the local government in the name of the owner - the Crown or the public.
What about the parts that are not rented? Well, some are Provincial Parks, Conservation Areas, Canadian Forces bases, etc. The rest, which are basically enormous expanses of mostly inaccessible wilderness outside major metropolitan areas, is free for everyone to use under the same conditions.
Check the Crown land Use Policy Atlas here: http://www.gisapplication.lrc.gov.on.ca/CLUPA/Index.html
Pretty much all yellow areas on that map are general purpose Crown land, free for use by citizens of Ontario. What for? You can consult the interactive map above to retrieve use policies for any specific location. I will simplify that a bit, but first an important disclaimer: don't take my word for it - consult the Policy Atlas above, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district office and/or Conservation Officers in the area before you do anything on Crown Land..
On general use Crown land in Ontario you can:
- Ride an ATV, snowmobile or dirt bike
- cross-country ski
- water ski
- bird watch
- horse-back ride
- hunt and fish
- camp for free for up to 21 days
- build a camp fire
- pick up and pack out litter, respect Ontario’s Crown land
- never leave a campfire unattended and make sure campfires are completely extinguished
- avoid sensitive features such as wetlands, streams and wildlife habitat
- respect other users of Crown land
- stay on existing trails
- do not harm, kill, take or collect plants, trees, habitat or other wildlife protected under provincial law
I've been researching Crown land locations that are accessible but not frequently visited and have found a few nice spots for an impromptu shooting range. It's not as easy as you may think because all standard precautions apply, including making sure no one can get hurt if I miss my target (good backdrop) and there are no houses/cottages/camps in the vicinity. That often requires quite a bit of hiking through some rough terrain, but the nature is pristine and I enjoy it. Once I find a suitable area, I set up my targets and the fun begins. My little rifle holds only 8 rounds per magazine so about half the time is spent reloading, but i use it to walk around and find another spot to shoot from (usually progressively further from the target) or re-position the targets I've knocked down. I like steel targets because they are reactive (visibly and audibly react when hit) and can take a lot of beating. I also like to shoot subsonic ammunition because it's much quieter (can be fired outdoors without hearing protection) and doesn't damage the target as much. It's also slower in flight, so there's a perceptible delay between the muzzle explosion and the sound of the bullet hitting the target, allowing me to hear both events separately. For some reason, I find hearing the "ding" half a second or so after the "bang" very satisfying :).
Doing all of this in nature is an added bonus that cannot be overstated. When I'm done I can take a dip in the nearby lake even if I forgot to bring my swimsuit :). About the only downside are biting insects, but i repel them with Permethrin, copious amounts of Deet and nitro-cellulose smoke :).
But, that's just me. The question is, what would you like to do on Crown Land?