The Male Mahadeshwara Reserve Forest is located in southeast Karnataka, where it borders Tamil Nadu. It forms a connecting corridor between the BRT Wildlife Sanctuary to its west, and the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary to the northeast. MM Hills was notified as a reserve forest in 1913, with an area of 703 sq km, but with the formation of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in 1992, an area of 310 sq km was transferred from MM hills, reducing the reserve forest jurisdiction. MM Hills serves as an important elephant corridor between the Western and Eastern Ghats.

There are 3 forest types here:
• Dry deciduous - 64%. This is the prominent forest type. Dominant tree species are Anogeissuslatifolia, Bosweliaserrata, Chloroxylonswietinia and, at some places, Dendrocalamusstrictus.
• Scrub forests - 20.5%.
• Moist deciduous and riparian forests - 2.45%. Kokkubare area. Common species are honne (Pterocarpusmarsupium), teak (Tectonagrandis) and Terminalia species. There is a sparse distribution of Dalbergialatifolia and Tectonagrandis, and patches of Shola.

NTFP as an income source includes tamarind, amla, antwala, magaliberu, seegekai, arale, avaram bark, broom grass and honey.

Lantana invasion in the forest is high, covering nearly 80% of the land. The mass felling of native vegetation - especially bamboo, in the years between 1933 and 1980 left the ground open for the rapid spread of lantana. This has had an impact on the native flora and fauna, as well as on agro-forestry.

Soligas and Lingayats are the dominant communities in the MM Hills. Soligas are the indigenous community who shifted here from the adjacent BR Hills and Sathyamangalam. They are a hunter-gatherer tribe who practiced shifting cultivation till they were settled in hamlets, on lands allotted by the government. The Lingayats are temple priests who came here originally from Mysore. Lingayat families take turns to work in the temple once a year. Temple festivities draw about one million pilgrims every year, creating a wake of income for the Lingayat and Soliga families. Non-timber forest products (NTFP) are an important source of income for both communities.

Apart from religious tourism, till as late as 1996, the area was mined for its good quality black granite. Mining was even more extensive before this, till the Forest Conservation Act came into force in 1980. Fresh leases were stopped, but quarrying continued till as late as 1995-'96 on existing leases. There has been pressure to restart quarrying work in the region.

The main bodies representing communities are the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), in which Lingayats have a dominant representation. Government social welfare programmes and development schemes are implemented by or through the PRIs. Presence of civic institutions is thin.

ATREE started its research activities in MM Hills in 1999 to study the role of forest fruits in sustaining livelihoods of forest-margin communities, and the contribution of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) to the income basket of forest-dependent communities. This study was followed by further research programmes, among which were mapping the distribution of the alien invasive species, Lantana camara, and its impact on local biodiversity - birds, butterflies, mammals and plants in MM Hills; and later the Conservation and Livelihoods Programme (CLP).

In response to the needs perceived during the CLP, the MM Hills Community Conservation Centre was begun in 2008. Today, the Forest Rights Act provides ATREE opportunity for taking rights-based conservation and sustainable resource management forward with local communities through Panchayati Raj Institutions, and with active support from satellite partner institutions at the site.

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