To allow for the production of timber while preserving conservation values, forestry regulations in the Congo Basin have made Forest Management Plans (FMPs) mandatory in logging concessions. This paper uses original high resolution maps of forest-cover changes and official records on the activities of logging concessions to analyze the impact of FMPs on deforestation in this region. We apply quasi-experimental and difference-in-difference approaches to evaluate the change in deforestation in concessions that implemented an FMP. We find that between 2000 and 2010, deforestation was 74% lower in concessions with an FMP compared to others. Building on a theory of change, further analyses revealed that this decrease in deforestation takes at least five years to occur, and is highest around communities located in and nearby logging concessions and in areas close to previous deforestation. These findings suggest that FMPs reduce deforestation by allowing concessions to rotate cycles of timber extraction, thereby avoiding the overexploitation of areas that were previously logged, and by the better regulation of access to concessions by closing former logging roads to limit illegal activities such as slash and burn agriculture, hunting and the illegal harvest of timber or fuelwood.
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