Community Participation in Forest Management

Community participation in forest management is essential to ensure that the health of forests are maintained and that the benefits of the forest can be used by the people who live near it. 

In this article, we’ll discuss these three questions about community participation in forest management: 

What is Community Participation in Forest Management?

Community participation in forest management creates a community forest in which community members are the primary decision-makers, they benefit from the resources, and they help maintain the longevity of the forest.

Community participation in forest management may involve the following activities:

  • Community meeting with local government to inform policy
  • Community tree planting
  • Volunteer invasive species removal
  • Community meetings with local agroforest industry

Community participation in forest management can happen at any scale, from communities having input on local forest policy, to community members having sole decision-making power over the forest.

Why is Community Participation in Forest Management Important?

As the global demand for timber resources increases, forests are increasingly being clear cut by large corporations for sale. While the logging companies benefit from the logging, local communities suffer. Community participation allows for the local community to have the power to manage forests to suit their needs and, in theory, prevent practices like clearcutting in exchange for safer logging practices with which the local community sees revenue from logging.

When the community participates in forest management, the results are as follows:

  • Decisions are made directly by the community
  • The community has access to the forest
  • The community benefits from the forest culturally and economically
  • The forest is kept healthy

In light of climate change and global deforestation community forestry is now more important as it allows local residents to directly benefit from the forests they live near.

Where has Community Participation Been Beneficial to Forest Management?

Today, community forestry is a relatively rare phenomenon. In the United States, for example, most forested land is owned by the federal government or by corporations. Neither the federal government nor corporations currently have room for community forestry. However, there has been an increased push for community involvement in federally-owned land. 

Let’s briefly look at a case study of community forestry in Northern California…

Case Study of Community Forestry

Trinity County is a heavily forested region of Northern California. Residents of Trinity County are largely dependent on the timber economy in the area but rarely see direct economic benefits from the forest. Recently, an organization called the Weaverville Community Forest has begun to work with the local government to increase the benefits that the residents receive from the logging industry. The program has included:

  • Training workers
  • Creating new positions and hiring new employees
  • Developing wood processing technologies that give more benefit to the community
  • Decreasing fire risk 
  • Researching markets for sale of non-wood forest products

The community forest is community-owned and managed in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, and efforts of the organization have greatly increased community participation in forestry decisions. Trinity County is also a very fire-prone region, and efforts by the program have promoted logging and management practices that have decreased fire risk in the region.

Efforts towards community forestry like we see here from Trinity County have benefitted the region ecologically, socially, and economically. Over time, we hope to see more community involvement in forestry as the more local citizens have a say, the healthier the forests are in every way.

In Conclusion…

  • Community participation in forestry involves community members as direct decision-makers as well as benefactors of the goods and services from their local forest. 
  • Community forestry may require actions like direct work with local government, tree planting, and invasive species control.
  • Community forestry initiatives are growing in popularity. Those like the case study out of Trinity County, California have increased the economic, and ecological potential of the local forest area.