Forest Laws and Policies: Everything You Need To Know

by | Aug 13, 2023 | Conservation, Forest Management

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Forest laws and policies are regulations and guidelines put in place by governments and international organizations to manage and protect forests and their resources. These laws and policies aim to ensure sustainable forest management, conservation of biodiversity, and the equitable use of forest resources. The specific laws and policies vary from country to country and may include a combination of national, regional, and international measures.

Introduction to Forest Policy 

A forest policy is a planned course of action followed by an individual or organization in response to a concern about the use of forest resources. Forest policies are strongly linked to natural resource management, especially when public or community areas are involved. Political conflict over the use and management of natural resources was crucial in the formation of public lands and has impacted the laws governing their administration and disposal since the mid-nineteenth century.

Since 1894, India has been one of the few countries with a forest policy. The policy was updated twice, first in 1952 and once in 1988. The core tenet of the new forest policy of 1988 is forest preservation, conservation, and development.

In 1894, the British issued the first official Forest Policy. The following were some of the policy’s primary objectives:

  • Forest management for the country’s overall well-being
  • Maintaining appropriate forest cover for the maintenance of physical and climatic conditions, as well as meeting people’s requirements
  • In addition to these goals, the forest policy stipulated that- Forestry should come after permanent cultivation.
  • Satisfying local needs at non-competitive prices should take precedence over revenue considerations.
  • Following the fulfillment of the aforementioned requirements, the maximization of income should be the directing element.

After India’s independence from Britain’s rule in 1947, there was a need to reconsider forest management in light of recent changes. As a result, following an examination of the forest policy, the Government of India issued the first National Forest Policy of Independent India in 1952.

With the passage of the National Forest Policy in 1988, the government’s attitude underwent a dramatic paradigm change. In contrast to the use-oriented approach of the 1952 Policy, this Policy concentrated on the ecological aspects of forests.

Read in Detail: Aims and Objectives of Forest Policy in India 

Forest laws

Forestry laws regulate activities on specified forest lands, most notably forest management and wood harvesting. Forestry legislation often establishes management principles for public forest resources, such as multiple-use and continuous yield.

Governmental entities are normally in charge of planning and enforcing forestry rules on public forest areas, and they may also be involved in forest inventory, planning, and conservation, as well as overseeing wood sales. Forest regulations are also influenced by the social and economic circumstances of the place in which they are applied.

The earliest attempt to govern Indian woods was made in South India. A commission was formed in 1880 to investigate the availability of teak in the Malabar jungles. Following the report of the commission, felling of teak less than twenty-one inches in girth was forbidden.

The first Indian Forest Act was issued in 1865. It went into force on May 1, 1865. The Act gave the government the authority to declare any place covered with trees as a Government forest and to make guidelines for their preservation. This was the British’s first effort at forest regulation in India. However, the Indian Forest Act was not extended to the Madras presidency, owing to the Board of Revenue’s stance. It maintained that the people had rights to the forests and that forests could not be constituted as the State’s absolute property.

To strengthen the effectiveness of forest regulations and to amend the Forest Act of 1875, a new extensive Forest Act was passed in 1927, repealing all earlier laws. The Act is broken into 13 chapters and consists of 86 parts.

In response to India’s fast reduction in forest cover and also to meet the Constitutional requirement under Article 48-A, the Parliament adopted the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. Deforestation promotes ecological imbalance and degradation of the ecosystem. On October 25, 1980, the President issued the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance with the goal of preventing future deforestation.

Tribal Rights

On December 18, 2006, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act virtually overwhelmingly. This legislation attempted to give traditional forest residents ownership rights over forestland. The legislation addresses the rights of forest-dwelling groups to land and other resources, which had been denied to them for decades due to the persistence of colonial forest regulations in India. The Act was notified into force on December 31, 2007, just over a year after it was approved.

On January 1, 2008, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs issued the “Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2007” to augment the procedural features of the Act. In 1999, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs was founded as an autonomous ministry to deal with scheduled tribes. A tribe can be designated as “scheduled” if it exhibits “primitive” characteristics, lives in geographical isolation, has a separate culture, avoids interaction with the outside world, and is economically “backwards.There are about 600 officially classified scheduled tribes in the country, accounting for less than 10% of the overall population and with little more than 2% estimated to live in forests.

The following are among the tribal rights guaranteed by the Act:

  • Right to live in the forest as an individual or collective activity for habitation or self-cultivation for a living
  • Minor forest products access, use, and disposal rights
  • Grazing and customary seasonal resource access are examples of entitlement rights
  • Rights to convert leases or grants provided by municipal governments or state governments on forest lands to titles
  • Any community forest resource has the right to be protected, regenerated, conserved, or managed.

Forest Policy And Laws: Everything You Need To Know

Environmental Policy and Laws

Environmental policy is defined as “any deliberate action taken to manage human activities with the goal of preventing, reducing, or mitigating harmful effects on nature and natural resources. This policy also ensures that anthropogenic changes to the environment do not have serious harmful effects on humans or the environment.”

Environmental legislation is a collection of rules and regulations designed to safeguard the environment from damaging activities. Legislation can take numerous forms, such as regulating emissions that may cause pollution, taxing environmental and health-damaging activities, and setting the legal basis for trading systems, such as carbon emissions.

Most countries throughout the world have implemented Environmental Protection Acts in response to the need to safeguard our environment. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 in the United States supports environmental improvement and established the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). It is known as the ‘environmental Magna Carta’ in the United States because it was an early step in the creation of the country’s environmental policy.

The Indian Constitution explicitly states that it is the state’s responsibility to “protect and develop the environment, as well as conserve the country’s forests and animals.” Every person is obligated to “guard and develop the natural environment, like forests, lakes, rivers, and animals.

In India, a variety of environmental laws have been implemented. Some of the most notable laws in this regard are:

  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  • Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • Environmental Protection Act, 1986
  • Handling and Management of Hazardous Waste Rules, 1989
  • The National Environmental Tribunal Act, 1995
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

International Agreements

International Forest Policy

  • 1992: The Rio Forest Principles is a collection of forest policy recommendations adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. They serve as the foundation for all subsequent policy initiatives.
  • 1997: The IPF/IFF Proposals for Action provide detailed guidance on how to apply the Rio Forest Principles at the national and regional levels.
  • 2000: The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) is a forest policy forum formed under the ECOSOC, which, along with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (a group of international forest-related organizations), forms the International Arrangement on Forests.
  • UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – Convention on Biological Diversity: The aforementioned treaties address forest concerns in connection to biodiversity and climate change. DG Environment contributes to the adoption of consistent forest positions in these many procedures.
  • The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO): The ITTO is a commodities agreement with an environmental component that brings together tropical wood producers and consumers around the shared goal of sustainable forest management.
  • Food And Agriculture Organisation (FAO): The Commission participates in the bi-annual FAO Committee on Forests, which determines FAO’s forest work program. FAO is in charge of global forest databases, as well as technical publications on forest resources, such as State of the World’s Forests (2005).
  • The International Arrangement on Forests (IAF), 2015 has five main components: the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) and its Member States, the UNFF Secretariat, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), the UNFF Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN), and the UNFF Trust Fund.

It’s important to note that forest laws and policies continually evolve to address new challenges and incorporate scientific advancements. Effective implementation, enforcement, and regular updates of these laws and policies are essential for achieving successful forest conservation and sustainable use of forest resources.

Also Read: Is Amazon Rainforest Dying? Detailed Report

 

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