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Individual Highlight

Forest Regulations are Rigorous throughout much of the Americas, but Implementation Remains a Challenge in Latin America

Photo of Reviewing Compliance of Harvest Plans in the Consorcio Forestal Amazonico, Ucayali, Peru. Forest Service Reviewing Compliance of Harvest Plans in the Consorcio Forestal Amazonico, Ucayali, Peru. Forest Service Snapshot : On paper, Latin America is often stricter on forestry than many States in the United States, but lack of enforcement and compliance continue to be a challenge

Principal Investigators(s) :
McGinley, Kathleen 
Research Station : International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 18


Although forestry rules and regulations for private land are often stricter and more comprehensive in Central and South America than in the United States, poor implementation in many cases make them ineffective and underscores the need for better enforcement and incentives.

Since the first Earth Summit in 1991, most countries in the Americas have revised their forest laws and regulations significantly to achieve sustainable forest management. Forest Service scientists wanted to know more about the intended and actual effects of these laws on forest sustainability and how they compare among countries. This has not been studied extensively, but is crucial to the effective design and implementation of good forest governance.

A group of forest policy scientists from throughout the Americas and the Forest Service conducted a study that examined key components of natural forest management and how they are addressed through legislation and other policy directives in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, and the United States. They found that, on paper, Latin America has more rigorous and comprehensive (i.e., stricter thresholds on more environmental, economic, and social aspects) forestry rules for private land than much of the United States.

Overall, the protection of at-risk species and riparian buffers are required in all countries and include specific prescriptions in most; forest management planning and secure, legal land title or tenancy are commonly required; and mandatory processes to protect soil and water quality are customary. Less common requirements include forest monitoring, social and economic aspects; when in place, they are usually voluntary.

Significant efforts have been made to improve governmental forest regulation and to increase the transparency and legality of timber production and commerce in the tropics. However, competing land uses, unclear tenure, and limited institutional capacity for effective implementation and enforcement of forest legislation continue to be significant challenges for advancing the sustainability of forest management in many Latin American countries.

Ultimately, the researchers stress that it is not the number, rigor, or comprehensiveness of rules and regulations related to forest sustainability that matter as much as the implementation and application of sound practices on the ground. These factors ultimately depend on the appropriate mix and balance of mandatory requirements for sustainable forest management, voluntary guidelines, information, education, and laissez faire.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Charles MacIntyre, Consultant, Durham, NC
  • Departamento de Engenharia Florestal, Universidade Federal de Vicosa, Vicosa, Minas Gerais, Brasil
  • Departamento de Geografia, Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay
  • Departamento de Silvicultura y Ordenacion Forestal, Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias, Universidad Nacional de Asuncion, San Lorenzo, Paraguay
  • Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University
  • Fabiano Luiz de Silva, Consultor, Minas Gerais, Brasil
  • Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Recursos Naturales, Instituto de Silvicultura, Universidad Austral de Chile
  • Instituto Nacional de TecnologiaAgropecuaria, Argentina

Program Areas