On the basis that property rights provide effective incentives to their users, rights-based approaches have become well-received for purposes of improved resource management, production, and conservation. Recent reform in China's collective-owned forest sector has also been guided by a rights-based approach in generating new incentives and economic benefits for households. Forest property rights have been reconfigured into formal, private, and transferable form, and households are financially compensated for rights' attenuation. In this paper, we draw on a household survey (N = 331) and a series of interviews (N = 29) to empirically examine how three types of forest rights are exercised and perceived by rural households in the Wuling Mountain Area, a relatively poor and mountainous area in Southwest China. Our findings show that although the new rights arrangements are largely perceived as credible by households, the rights are rarely exercised, without tangible contributions to the intended benefits. In explaining this, we find that current economic values of household forests are low. This may suggest that rights-based approaches are unlikely to realize their intended effects if the natural resources themselves are of too little value, an oversight in conventional discussions on resource rights.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102075
JournalForest Policy and Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • China, Credibility thesis, Forest reform, Natural resource management, Property rights, Rights-based approaches

ID: 68295946