Reserved Forest

What is a reserve Forest?

A reserved forest and protected forest in India are forests accorded a certain degree of protection. The concept was introduced in the Indian Forest Act of 1927 during the British Raj to refer to forests granted protection under the British crown in British India, but not associated suzerainties. 

After Indian independence, the Government of India retained the status of the reserved and protected forests, and extended protection to other forests. Many forests that came under the jurisdiction of the Government of India during the political integration of India were initially granted such protection. 

Unlike National Parks or wildlife sanctuaries, reserved forests and protected forests are declared by the respective state governments. 

At present, reserved forests and protected forests differ in one important way

Activities including hunting, grazing, etc. in reserved forests are banned unless specific orders are issued otherwise. In protected forests, such activities are sometimes allowed for communities living on the fringes of the forest, who sustain their livelihood partially or wholly from forest resources or produce.

Difference between Reserved Forest and Protected Forest

Reserved Forest

Protected Forest

A reserved forest is a designated forest with various other natural areas that enjoy judicial protection based on the legal system. Protected forests are forests with some legal and constitutional protection in certain countries. Here, the habitat and resident species are given legal protection against further depletion.
In reserve forests, natural habitats receive a high degree of protection against hunting and poaching. In protected forests, local communities sometimes have rights for activities like hunting and grazing as they live on the fringes of the forest and sustain their livelihood partially or wholly from forest resources or products.
These forests come under government protection, and activities like hunting and grazing are banned unless specific orders are issued in reserved forests. In India, the government holds property rights in these forests, declared by state governments under the provisions of section 29 of the Indian Forest Act 1927.
Reserved forests are permanent forest estates maintained to produce timber and other forest produce. Almost 1/3 of the total forest area is declared as a protected forest by the forest department.
Concerning the conservation of forests and wildlife, more than 50% of the total forest land has been declared as reserved forest. Protected forests are often upgraded to wildlife sanctuaries, which may further be upgraded to national parks.
In India, Madhya Pradesh has the largest area under permanent forest (75% of the total forest area), followed by Jammu & Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. In India, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, and Rajasthan have the bulk of their forest under protected forest status.

Indian Forest Act 1927

The Indian Forest Act of 1927 was enacted by the British colonial government with the primary objective of regulating and managing the country’s forests. It was aimed at ensuring a steady supply of timber and other forest products for the British administration and the commercial interests of that time. The Act empowered the colonial government to declare certain forest areas as “Reserved Forests” and “Protected Forests,” each with its own set of rules and regulations.

Key Features and Provisions:

  1. Reserved Forests: The Act allowed the government to declare certain forests as “Reserved Forests.” These forests were subject to strict control and protection. The rights of the local communities residing within the Reserved Forests were limited, and activities like hunting, grazing, and cultivation were restricted.
  2. Protected Forests: The Act also provided for the declaration of “Protected Forests.” In these forests, some limited rights of the local communities were recognized, and certain activities, like grazing and collection of non-timber forest produce, were permitted under specific regulations.
  3. Regulation of Forest Produce: The Act laid down rules for the regulation of transit and movement of forest produce, including timber and other forest products, to prevent illegal logging and trade.
  4. Forest Offenses and Penalties: The Act defined various offenses related to forests, such as illegal felling of trees, unauthorized entry into Reserved Forests, and violation of forest rules. It prescribed penalties for these offenses.
  5. Forest Management: The Act introduced a system of forest management that included the appointment of forest officers and the establishment of forest boundaries.

After India gained independence in 1947, the Indian Forest Act of 1927 underwent several amendments to align with the country’s changing conservation needs and policies. The focus shifted from commercial exploitation to conservation, community participation, and sustainable forest management. Several states enacted their own forest acts to suit regional requirements while keeping the broader framework of the original Act intact.

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