Published: April 15, 2016 By , ,

Geography Colloquium SeriesAbstract: The relationship between forests and people is of substantial interest to peoples and agencies that govern and use them, private sector actors that seek to manage and profit from them, NGOs who support and implement conservation and development projects, and researchers who study these relationships and others. The term ‘forest-dependent people’ is widely used to describe human populations that gain some form of benefits from forests. But despite its long history and widespread use, there are substantial divergences in who the term refers to, what each of its constituent words mean, and how many forest-dependent people there are globally. This talk will describe a set of work that does three things. First, we identified the range of existing uses and definitions of the term ‘forest-dependent people’, and summarizes them in a systematic taxonomy. The taxonomy exposes the dimensions that characterize the relationships between people and forests, and we conclude that an absolute, universally accepted definition of the term is untenable. Rather, users of the term ‘forest-dependent people’ need to comprehensively define their population of interest with reference to the context and purpose of their forest- and people-related objectives. The framework and language of our taxonomy aims to aid such efforts. Second, we are using geo-referenced, third-party data-sets on forest cover and human population density to map the number of people living proximate to forests, globally. Finally, we ask whether conservation and development program funders, designers, and implementers should reconsider whether forest dependence is an appropriate target for policy objectives.