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A Second Look at the Economics of Natural Management Systems in Tropical Mixed Forests

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Leslie, A. J.
Journal: Unasylva
Volume: 39
Page(s): 46-58
Date: 1987
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/8425
Sector: Forestry
Region:
Subject(s): forest management
conservation
tropics
Abstract: "Some years ago I attempted an assessment of the economic possibilities of natural management in the tropical moist forests. It was, I now realize, unduly pessimistic on at least two counts. First, it exaggerated the extent to which ecological complexity caused natural management to fail and enthusiasm for it to evaporate. There is no doubt that the most common and prominent feature of tropical forest management is the limited success of natural management systems. More often than not, this lack of success is the result of no management at all, rather than the failure of natural management. However, there are enough examples of success with natural management systems for it to be quite clear that technical difficulties are rarely the principal or even significant factors in the failure of management. Enough is known of the ecology of many different tropical forest types for them to be kept in permanent timber production management without destroying their natural structure. Indeed, as Jabil (1983) has pointed out, the lowland dipterocarp forests of Peninsular Malaysia, managed under the Malaysian Uniform System, would by now be providing second rotation yields had they not been cleared for agricultural development. Second, my conclusion of about a decade ago was incomplete. Natural management is worth pursuing not simply, as I then felt, because of what might be lost if the economic case against it were wrong. At the same time, l suspected that there was something wrong with the economic argument by which natural management was so easily dismissed, and that this something was more than its reliance on the doubtful economics of timber production and other revenue-earning outputs. I now realize that the missing something is a combination of many serious flaws in both the underlying economic theory (Leslie, 1983) and its application in practice. More important, there is now increasing certainty that there is a much stronger economic case in favour of natural forest management. The main purpose of this article, therefore, is to outline the argument through which I have come to that near reversal of a conclusion. Since it is an extension of the 1977 and 1983 papers referred to, I will not repeat their arguments. Rather I will concentrate on the broader and deeper aspects of economic analysis which another ten years have revealed."

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