Setting the Bar: an international comparison of public and private forest policy specifications and implications for explaining policy trends

01 September 2009

Constance L. McDermott; Benjamin Cashore; Peter Kanowski

Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences Volume 6, Issue 3 pages 217 - 237 DOI: 10.1080/19438150903090533

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To date much of the global-scale comparative research on environmental forest policy has focused on 'macro-level' policy goals and objectives. Although it is important for identifying broad trends, such research overlooks the specific policy settings that serve to 'set the bar' for on-the-ground environmental performance. This article helps to fill that gap by presenting and applying a framework for comparing specific forest practice requirements across 47 jurisdictions worldwide. We develop inductive hypotheses to explore the policy patterns that emerge. Socio-economic parameters - the level of economic development, form of land ownership, and enforcement capacity - appear to strongly influence policy divergence, whereas environmental science, by itself, appears unable to explain our findings. The development of private certification standards is consistent with public policy differences. The article discusses the implications of these findings for policy strategists interested in promoting scientifically informed, and environmentally effective forest policies.