Meeting sustainable development goals requires policies that account for interrelatedness in social and environmental issues such as land tenure and deforestation. This work takes advantage of a nationwide titling campaign in Panama to explore the effect of private titling on forest cover across a heterogeneous landscape covering all stages of forest transition and diverse tenure arrangements. Situated in a broader matched analysis of the influence of zoning and tenure on forest cover, private management is estimated to have contributed to the deforestation of 1750–3650 km2 of mature forest nationwide from 1990 to 2020 with an average marginal effect of 15.3%. Conversely, Protected Areas and Indigenous Comarcas are estimated to have protected 1700–3900 km2 and 500–1250 km2 of mature forest, respectively. Private titling is associated with increased deforestation both during titling and years after, supporting observations that the titling process itself encourages speculative deforestation by title seekers and that private landholders value natural forests less than other land uses such as cattle. By disaggregating the data by region to highlight different stages of forest transition as well as by processes of deforestation and forest growth, this analysis shows that while private titling accelerates deforestation, it also encourages investment in reforestation. This presents a paradox for private titles and forests where agencies may perversely encourage speculative deforestation by creating stronger markets for forest-ready landscapes than for intact natural forests. In cases such as this one, where deforestation helps to secure a title, this paradox is confounded when having a title is set as a precondition for participation in a forest conservation program.
Authors and Publishers
Kendra L. Walker
Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.