Indigenous protest and the roots of sustainable forestry in Bolivia

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In the mid-2000s, Bolivia emerged as a leader in sustainable tropical forestry, in large part because of Ley 1700, the 1996 forestry law. The 1996 forestry law reformed Bolivian forestry by requiring management plans, inventories, and harvest limits while also guaranteeing the legal right of Indigenous communities to manage their forests for timber. This article analyzes the history of Bolivian forestry reforms, paying particular attention to the involvement of Indigenous lowland communities in influencing the forestry law. Specifically, we analyze the role a 1990 Indigenous protest march called the March for Territory and Dignity had in unifying Indigenous communities, incorporating Indigenous concepts of territory into the national dialogue and legal framework, and influencing the 1996 forestry law. We argue that the Indigenous protest march united Indigenous communities around the common cause of territorial sovereignty. In response to Indigenous protest, the Bolivian government established Indigenous-controlled territories and enacted forestry reforms that incorporated community demands and values.

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Environmental History