The latest orthodoxy to emerge in environmental literature centres on the notion that state ownership of forests results in poor management and ecological degradation. Depending on their political persuasion, scholars, policy‐makers and activists either advocate privatization of state forests, or demand their transferral to local communities as solutions for promoting sustainable forest management. This article argues that such proposals are flawed because they assume that ownership status determines the ways in which resources are used and managed. It argues that an analytical distinction needs to be made between property and control for understanding the complex interplay of social, economic, political and ecological factors that influence forest stock, composition and quality. Through a historical analysis of the development of state forestry in the Indian Himalaya, the article shows how state ownership of forests does not result in the monolithic imposition of proprietary rights, but emerges instead as an ensemble of access and management regimes.
Development and Change – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 1997
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