Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Supplement 1, pp 153–165 | Cite as

Understanding India’s forest bureaucracy: a review

  • Forrest FleischmanEmail author
Review Article


Forest administrators play a crucial role in translating conservation and development policies into action, yet policy reformers and scholars rarely examine how these administrators make decisions about the implementation of conservation and development policy in India. In this paper, I address this gap. I begin by developing a framework that draws on Western policy implementation studies and Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development framework and then apply this framework to a review of published studies that examine the role of forest officials in implementing public policies in India. The framework differentiates between formal and informal institutions and between institutions which are developed within an agency and those that are directed from outside the agency. I find that forester behavior varies significantly across space and time and has an important influence on the outcome of forestry programs. Innovations and excellent program implementation appear related to foresters’ desire to demonstrate professional efficacy. On the other hand, many failings can be traced either to external direction or to foresters developing internal institutions that are poorly suited to the problems they are tasked with solving. Existing research is limited in its geographic and temporal scope and leaves many questions unanswered, and thus, the review concludes with a brief outline of future research needs.


Forest policy India Policy implementation Public administration Institutional analysis and development 



Funding for the research that led to this review was provided by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (#2007054263), the Workshop in Political Theory & Policy Analysis at Indiana University, and Texas A&M University’s Department of Ecosystem Science & Management and Agrilife Research. I received helpful comments on this paper from Marcus Wangel, Meghna Agarwala, Claudia Rodriguez Solorzano, and the editors and reviewers of this journal. This paper would never have been written if not for the generosity of numerous foresters and forest stakeholders in India who have taken time over the years to discuss Indian forestry with me.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecosystem Science and Management & Texas Agrilife ResearchTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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