Representation and Forest Conservation: Evidence from India's Scheduled Areas

S. A.A.D. Gulzar, Apoorva Lal, Benjamin Pasquale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How does political representation affect conservation? We argue that the mixed evidence in the literature may be driven by institutional arrangements that provide authority to marginalized communities, but do not make adequate arrangements to truly boost their voice in resource management. We study a 1996 law that created local government councils with mandated representation for India's Scheduled Tribes (ST), a community of one hundred million. Using difference-in-differences designs, we find that the dramatic increase in ST representation led to a substantial increase in tree cover and a reduction in deforestation. We present suggestive evidence that representation enabled marginalized communities to better pursue their interests, which, unlike commercial operations such as mining, are compatible with forest conservation. While conservation policy tends to stress environmentally focused institutions, we suggest more attention be given to umbrella institutions, such as political representation, which can address conservation and development for marginalized communities in tandem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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