Policy forum: Sacred forests – An opportunity to combine conservation management of threatened tree species with cultural preservation

By Ni Kadek Erosi Undaharta and Alison K.S. Wee

Forest Policy and Economics
Volume 121
December 2020


Sacred forests are natural forests conserved on the basis of religious beliefs and cultural practices of local communities. As deforestation and land use change threatens the remaining habitats of many tree species, sacred forests rose in importance as a refuge beyond the protected area network. Despite their conservation and cultural value, sacred forests are often sidelined in the main dialogue on forest governance. Therefore, there is an urgent need for policy reform in forest management that is directed towards a better integration of biodiversity conservation and cultural preservation. Here, we discuss the cultural landscape that led to the conservation of threatened tree species in sacred forests, drawing insights for good governance from Bali, Indonesia. We present five policy recommendations to fully maximize the potential of sacred forests as a tool for the conservation of threatened tree species, including (1) prioritization based on biodiversity conservation value, (2) clear stewardship and legal ownership, (3) reaffirm traditional values in younger generation, (4) propagate and reintroduce threatened tree species and (5) evaluate the socioeconomic impacts of forest management strategies. Ensuring the sustainable management of sacred forests will strengthen their role in biodiversity conservation and as a symbol of human's reverence of nature.