ABSTRACT

Environmental safeguards are commonly proposed as a measure to reconcile local rights to forests with wider interests in environmental protection (e.g. Sayer et al, 2008). The underlying idea is a simple one: the transfer of formal property rights to local people, which is critical for recognizing local claims on forests, can be made compatible with environmental protection by enforcing certain restrictions on property rights. In this way, the logic is that local people receive property rights, but are also obliged to protect key environmental benefits. The use of environmental safeguards thus suggests a way out of the dilemma created by calls for the devolution of rights to local people: that local management may not consider the wider benefits provided by forests, such as the provision of downstream hydrological services or conservation of biodiversity habitats.