Rethinking Landscapes: History, culture and local knowledge in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve, India. In Bhagwat, S. (ed)
State management of forests and biodiversity in India has had a contested history that initially involved British interests in timber, and subsequently independent India’s state-making efforts at controlling land and forests. The resulting marginalisation of forest dwelling communities was premised on their role as users and thus the conflict between state imperatives and local desires. Gadgil and Guha (1992) have provided convincing accounts of the control of forests by the Indian forest administration. The curtailment of local access was based on the idea that the use of forests by local people has adverse ecological impacts. Colonial forest administrators based their impressions of local forest practices on received notions of wilderness. Such practices as fire, shifting cultivation and biomass extraction were variably restricted in state-controlled forests. Shifting cultivation and the extensive use of fire to clear forests was thought to be ravaging lush forests (Williams 2003). Draconian forest laws were passed to control forests and to check swidden farmers whose cultivation practice was blamed for much of the forest degradation. The power of this framing of the idea that local use is bad for forests continues to dictate conservation policy. The cordoning off of areas that are rich in biodiversity and the subsequent declaration of protected areas has been the focus of the state’s conservation efforts. © 2018 selection and editorial matter, Shonil Bhagwat; individual chapters, the contributors.