Forestry policies, institutions and programmes


Although Panama has no explicit forestry policy, a new Forest Law and a set of complementary laws were promulgated in 1994, defining the juridical framework for the sector. The laws most directly concerned are the Law on Reforestation Incentives and related regulations, the Law on Wildlife and the General Law on the Environment. The section of the General Law on the Environment on natural resources is intended to provide a framework for harmonious development of all aspects of natural resources and the environment, including forests.

The Forest Law is in general compatible with sustainable forest management and explicitly regulates the use of wood products. However, it is less explicit concerning the use of non-wood forest products, thus leaving space for weakness regarding the multiple use of forests. Non-wood forest products (plant and animal wildlife) are treated more fully by the Law on Wildlife. Neither law, however, explicitly treats the various aspects of the environmental services provided by forests, although they do both open the way for the participation of the private and public sectors and communities, especially indigenous ones.

In 1999, the government approved the National Environmental Strategy, which established the goals for forest development for the years 2005 and 2020.

The document on forestry policy and the related strategy was approved in January 2003 and provides guidelines for sustainable management of forest resources, the main objectives being to promote sustainable forest production, harvesting and management, with the broad participation of all those involved in the sector, while also seeking to integrate forestry activities into the country¿s socio-economic development and increase their contribution to the gross domestic product.

The National Environment Authority was set up in 1998 to formulate the country¿s policy on the environment and the use of natural resources, together with the Interinstitutional Environment System and private institutions. The authority has intersectoral responsibility for supervising environment quality and also for direct administration of forest resources (the State forest heritage), the National System of Protected Areas, water resources, wildlife and biodiversity. It is an autonomous State institution overseen by the National Environment Council, which is composed of three Ministers of State and presided over by the Minister of the Economy and Finance.

The Interinstitutional Environment System was also set up, composed of all the public institutions with major responsibilities regarding the management and administration of any resource or major environmental element. With more specific regard to the process of environmental evaluation, the Network of Environmental Sectoral Units was set up with the institutions that have direct authority in any phase of the evaluation process of the EIA, each being concerned with the particular resource under its administration.

Apart from the National Environment Authority, the other government institutions involved in forest management include:

  • the Ministry of Agricultural Development, responsible for rural development promotion, land allocation, the resolution of landholding conflicts and the promotion of reforestation, agroforestry and soil conservation programmes;
  • the Ministry of the Economy and Finance, responsible for defining development policies and administering reforestation incentives depending on tax resources, as well as customs control and land register issues;
  • the National Institute for Aqueducts and Drainage Systems, responsible for the protection of catchment areas where drinking water supply plants have been installed;
  • the Panamanian Tourism Institute, responsible for the promotion of tourism in natural areas, especially protected ones;
  • the Ministry of Trade and Industry, responsible for forest business promotion and various aspects of the trade in forest products.
The productive forest sector is represented by various organizations:
  • the National Association of Panamanian Reforesters, established in 1985 as a private-sector forum to promote reforestation for commercial ends;
  • the Logging Trade Association, an organization of businesses dedicated mainly to timber harvesting activities on forest concessions;
  • the Association of Timber Industries, made up of processing companies.
It should be noted that these organizations can be described as weak and fairly ineffectual in actually implementing proposals.

Various initiatives have been undertaken in recent years to consolidate a strong private forestry representation, which can make proposals for development of the sector. These moves have led to the establishment of the Forest Chamber.

Last updated: March 2004

last updated:  Friday, February 19, 2010