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Locally controlled forestry

What is locally controlled forestry?

Locally controlled forests involve one billion people and one quarter of the world’s forests, providing $75 – $100 billion per year in goods and services and a broad range of other economic, environmental, social, cultural and spiritual benefits.

Rights-holder organisations such as the Global Alliance of Community Forestry (GACF), the International Family Forestry Alliance (IFFA) and the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of Tropical Forests (IAITPTF), known collectively as the G3, define locally controlled forestry as follows:

“The local right for forest owner families and communities to make decisions on commercial forest management and land use, with secure tenure rights, freedom of association and access to markets and technology.”

Local forest ‘rights-holders’ have substantial (and growing) decision-making power and control over forestland but not necessarily tenure or ownership rights. Although forestry in developing countries is the main focus of attention, there are also 25 million forest owners in North America, Australia and Europe who fit the description of locally controlled forestry.

For instance, Scandinavian forests are locally controlled and supply raw materials and capital for some of the world’s most advanced pulp and sawn timber mills, but elsewhere investment in locally controlled forestry is much sparser. Aside from the economic argument, from a pro-poor development perspective, locally controlled forestry does have clear attractions: it implies local participation, decentralisation and equity.

It also claims some rationale as a superior forest management system (compared to top-down state or corporate control), as those closest to the forest are more likely to have cultural and practical knowledge of the local landscape, and have a vested interest in the long-term conservation of its ecological services and income-generating features.

Sustainable, locally controlled forestry is highly relevant in the context of global efforts to reduce deforestation in order to mitigate climate change. Illegal logging is being tackled through the US Lacey Act and EU FLEGT Action Plan 8 and scaling up local forestry is one way of dealing with the legal ambiguity in the informal domestic sector. Market-based solutions are likely to play a leading role in any global scheme to reduce emissions from forestry (e.g. REDD+) and there is a general consensus that changing the economics of landscape management so there are incentives for managing forests sustainably is a key priority. This will attract more interest in locally controlled forestry, but not necessarily in a manner that benefits rights-holders.

 Learn more about Locally Controlled Forestry (LCF)

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  • Cover of arborvitae Issue 44

    arborvitae Issue 44 - Forests: a legal challenge

    Photo: IUCN/FAO