Presented by: Forrest Fleischman, Department of Forest Resources
Global discourses promote tree-planting as a way to mitigate climate change while promoting rural livelihoods, yet there are few studies examining the implementation and impacts of tree-planting. In this talk I address this gap by drawing on a unique dataset that combines remote sensing, government records, household surveys, and ethnographic observations in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Forest department tree planting has affected a huge percentage of the area of the state, yet foresters continue to promote tree planting as a panacea and show little interest in evaluation. In contrast to global discourses of plantation expansion, activity has declined since the 1990s. And in contrast to discourses that focus on the importance of local participation, planting activity has shifted towards species favored by local communities in spite of limited formal participatory opportunities. These shifts are driven by the political interactions between bureaucrats and political leaders, as well as by the complexities of field implementation. While livelihood benefits from plantations are limited, there are negative impacts on pastoral communities. Based on these results, I argue that expanding plantations in the global south may harm vulnerable communities and provide few local benefits, increasing the financial and ethical costs of climate mitigation.