Sustainability in Turkish Forest Legislation and Administration

Cihan Erdönmez[1] and Aynur Aydin Coşkun


Sustainability is a new concept in Turkish forestry. The legal and institutional framework of Turkish forestry needs to be modified by recognizing the principles of sustainable forest management.

In this article, sustainable forest management and its applicability in Turkish forestry are discussed from legal and administrative perspectives. In the first part of the study, the concept and its derivation are explained. After this, the current situation of Turkish forests is outlined. In the following part, the applicability of sustainability to Turkish forestry is analysed. In conclusion, some suggestions with respect to the legal and institutional framework of Turkish forestry are given.


Sustainability is generally concerned as a definition declared by World Environment and Development Commission (WEDC) of 1987, it symbolises an approach known by foresters for a long time. For instance, in the study of Schlaepfer and Elliott, a historical summary of sustainability in terms of forest management is exposed.

Sustainable development definition of WEDC is generally accepted as an umbrella concept. But, there are still many questions to be answered related to sustainability and sustainable forest management. "What is to be sustained and how sustainable development (or sustainable forest management) is to be measured?" are two of them (Kooten and Vertinsky 1999). In addition, according to an approach accepting that sustainable forest management must -and will- reflect social values, question to be answered is "what is to be sustained and for whom" (Martin 1999). From another point of view, "how long must a development be sustainable and how can today's decision makers take the needs of future generations into account" (Graff et al. 1999).

Approaches related to criteria for sustainable forest management can be multiplied. But, only 3 basic criteria and their indicators listed below are considered enough to use in general analyse for Turkish forest policy instruments in this article.

The Applicability of Sustainability to Turkish Forestry - Overview of Forest Legislation

From historical perspective, the development of Turkish Forest Legislation can be analyzed in two periods in general. The beginning of the first period can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire era. The second period begins by the foundation of the Republic of Turkey and it extends to present. A few regulations were enacted in the first period. And some imperial edicts to meet the needs of the palace and the navy. Since then for the first time, the Forest Code of 1870 was in force. Land law of 1858, and the "Mecelle*' were in action.

* A kind of civil code

With the Forest Statute of 1870, some rules in accordance with modern forestry requirements, as the protection of forest, the principles of cutting, penalties of crimes, were present. However, due to insufficient organizational structure and weak management, this statute did not have the chance of application (Ayanoğlu 1997)

In the second period, in 1937, the forest law numbered 3116, the first modern forest law that builds the basics of scientific forestry applications, was put in force, with this law, the principles of State Property, management by the state and sustainability were introduced. State ownership on forests aimed in forest law numbered 3116 could not have been establish in full. However, with the following law numbered 4785, put in force in 1945, all forests were expropriated whit a few exceptions only. Oppositions followed these expropriations. As a result of these oppositions some of the expropriated were given back to their previous owners in 1950. In 1956, the forest law 6831 (table 1), that is still in action, was put in force instead of the first forest law numbered 3116.

Table 1. Structure And Contents Of Turkish Forest Law



Chapter I Ss 1-6

· Definition, classification, Administration and inspection of forest

· Definition of forests
· The areas excluded from the boundaries of forests
· Classification of forests from the different points

Chapter II Ss 7-44

· State forests

· State forests and forest cadastre
· Economic Development and Transfer of forest villagers
· Preservation of Forests
· Grazing land and pasture affairs
· Protected forests
· National Parks
· Production and sale places

Chapter III Ss 45-49

· Forests belong to the Public legal entities

· Management and construction
· Administration and Preservation

Chapter IV Ss 50-56

· Private forests

· Restrictions, Maps, Management and Improvement
· Administration and Preservation

Chapter V Ss 57-114

· Common rules

· Forestation and Building Affairs
· Extinguishing forest fines
· The power of forest officials regarding carrying
· Prosecution of crime

Chapter VI Ss 115-117

· Miscellaneous Provisions

· Conditions of permission for building constructed on the state forest for public use

· The ways of using of the owners of trees and woodland not regarded as forest

· The revenues of the fund

The Constitution 1982 contains the provision relating the protection and the maintenance of forests.

An Analysis of the Forest Law Numbered 6831 From the View of Sustainability

For an analysis of the forest law it is there fore of crucial importance to ask what is understood by sustainability in the Forest Act. What are the motives, underlying values and reflected interests?

Answers will be found by analyzing how sustainability is formulated, but also by studying how forest and forest management defined and by looking at other basic term of the Act like "forest culture" and "forest functions". The analysis has to look behind the definition of forest, forestry, sustainability. This is done by applying the concepts of text interpretation under the paradigm of qualitative empirical social research (Weiss 2000).

Following remarks can be given on the forest law from the view of sustainability criteria.

As a result of these facts, sustainability is not a part of Forest Act in Turkish Forestry.

An Analysis of the Organisational Framework From the View of Sustainability

It is necessary to go back to the years before the 1839 Administrative Reform Decree to be able to examine carefully the forests and forestry organisations in Turkey. Before the Decree forests were not a subject that concerned by the state, but were thought to be presented to people by God as a natural resources without the need of observing any rules for its use. Because of this the Anatolian Forests had been destroyed in wide regions. In parallel with the 1839 Administrative Reform Decree a "Forest Directorate" was established connected to the Ministry of Commerce, whose headquarters was in Istanbul. From 1839 to 1937 when General Directorate of Forestry was established connected to the Ministry of Agriculture it is difficult to say successful for this organisation, which had been changed over time. Ministry of Forestry was established in 1969 and was abolished in 1981. The ministry was re-established in 1991 and is still serving today (Özdönmez et al.1998). Duties of four General Directorates of the Ministry of Forestry are shown in table 2.

Table 2. Duties of the Ministry of Forestry




General Directorate of Forestry

- to improve the forests against negative impacts such as illegal interventions, fires, and diseases.

- to manage and operate forests according to technical and economic requirements in a manner to ensure their continuance

- to develop and improve forests, to ensure silvicultural maintenance and regeneration

- to carry out activities related to forest cadastre and ownership

- to enforce education, publication, and inventory works

General Directorate of Afforestation and Erosion Control

- to enforce afforestation, range improvement, and erosion control works

- to reforest where will be added into forest regime

- to produce seed and seedling needed for forestry works

- to support the other state and non-state organisations for afforestation

General Directorate of Forestry-Village Relations

-to prepare and implement projects to develop forest villagers in order to protect and improve forests

General Directorate of National Parks and Hunting-Wildlife

- to select, protect, plan, organise, develop, publicise, administer and operate the national parks, nature parks, nature monuments, nature conservation areas and excursion spots

- to conserve and develop wildlife and game resources; water resources, streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands in the forests

- to organise hunting on land, and to prepare and implement projects related to operating of game resources

Appropriateness of organisational structure summarised in the table for sustainable forest management can be discussed in two different ways. At first, how much appropriate is this organisational structure for the criteria for sustainable forest management mentioned above? And secondly, how much sustainable is this organisation in itself?

Both General Directorate of Forestry and General Directorate of Afforestation and Erosion Control have duties related to sustainability of productive functions. General Directorate of Forestry protects, develops and operates existing forests. General Directorate of Afforestation and Erosion Control supports the first directorate through carrying out activities to increase forest areas.

Similar condition can be seen about sustainability of socio-economic functions. Development of forest villages is duty of General Directorate of Forestry-Village Relations. Works of the other directorates contribute the national, regional local and household economies. Furthermore, forests are still one of the important food resources especially for rural people.

Sustainability of protective functions is related directly to three general directorates and indirectly to the other one. General Directorate of Forestry maintains protective functions of existing production forests through protection and improving them. General Directorate of Afforestation and Erosion Control increases forest areas and also enforces erosion control works. General Directorate of National Parks and Hunting-Wildlife is another department related directly to sustainability of protective functions, because it is responsible for management of protected areas. The principal reason of efforts given by General Directorate of Forestry-Village Relations is to protect forests from negative impacts from forest villagers. So, it can be said that this department is related indirectly to sustainability of protective functions.

As it can be understood from this brief explanation, functions having importance for sustainable forest management are divided to different general directorates as duties. Activities being carried out by different departments are closely related to each other. Because different directorates do similar works, co-ordination problems often occur.

Sustainability of the forestry organisation is closely related to supporting the implementation of sustainable forest management. Procedures and requirements as regards forestry administration varied significantly from one country to another, depending on relative importance of the forest economy and the special features of each country, this being the reason for no forest administration models existing which can be standardised. But, three trends affecting public forest administration can be shown.

- A process of globalisation of policies and institutions, as an answer to the international community's growing concern for the state of natural resources.

- A search for greater efficiency in public administrations; and

- A need to enlarge participation in the decision-making process.

Under the light of this approach, it is unavoidable that Turkish Forestry Organisation formed as four different general directorates faces some problems. First of all, to use effort to achieve similar aims through different organisational structures is not efficient in terms of economics, time planning and work power. Furthermore, this structure limits people to participate in decision-making process. It is obvious that a strength public forest administration pattern have to be developed when almost all forests are owned by the state. But, pressures from politicians on the forestry organisation affect the efforts negatively to achieve this aim. In spite of scientific suggestions are contrary 20 % increasing of state forest exploitations connected to the General Directorate of Forestry after the year of 1985 is an example of these pressures. However another problem in forest administration is the absence of success criteria. As a result, sustainability of Turkish forestry organisation in itself is seen as doubtful.


It can be recognized that Turkey needs a National Forest Program for the achievement of Sustainable Forest Management. The program demands a broad international approach at all stages, including the formulation of policies, strategies and plans of action, as well as their implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and should be integrated into wider program for sustainable land use. At the preparation step of the program, activities of the other sectors, such an agriculture, energy, industry and tourism, should be taken into account.

Existing legal and constitutional frameworks of Turkish Forest Policy does not secure country's forests. In the last decade, a new forest act has been considered as a necessity. Furthermore, institutional dimension of the national forest policy has some problems. The forestry organization does not provide an effective link between different forest functions, including timber and non-timber products, environmental services, and socio-economic values. Appropriate participatory mechanisms for decision making process couldn't be developed; decentralization in policy formulation and empowerment of regional and local units of forestry organization could not be achieved. For all reason mentioned above, at the beginning of a new millenium, Turkey faces a turning point. Achievement of sustainable forest management and integrating forestry into other related sectors can only be realized through new means, firstly legal and institutional of forest policy.


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[1] Assistant Professor, Department of Forest Policy and Administration, Faculty of Forestry, Istanbul University, 80895 Bahçeköy-Istanbul/Turkey. Tel. +902122261100; Email: [email protected]