Forests of Hope

Sumatran Tiger Photo: Brian Mckay

What are Forests of Hope sites and how do we protect them?

Forests of Hope are sites of high importance for wildlife and people. Some of the sites BirdLife has chosen as Forests of Hope are Protected Areas such as National Parks. At others, BirdLife is developing new ways to protect forests and trees, such as community protected areas, ensuring that local people support and benefit from forests and trees conservation. 

However, 90% of tropical forests are still unprotected and most are likely to remain so. BirdLife is exploring ways to ensure conservation of these forests outside Protected Area networks, for example through licences to conserve intact forest and restore degraded ones.

What do we do to protect forest?

BirdLife is supporting the development of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) financing mechanism by which forested developing countries would be financially compensated for undertaking to reduce their emissions from deforestation.

Forests of Hope is linking to BirdLife’s Capacity Development Programme, helping BirdLife Partners to learn from each other through a wide range of joint activities, including exchange visits and placements, and trans-boundary initiatives. For this reason, one of the most important ways to boost the programme's impact is to increase the number of Partners able to implement their own Forests of Hope projects.


We have won battles against forest loss

Tropical forests are the most ecologically rich of all forest types, home to 50-70% of the world’s land-based plant and animal species. But more than seven million hectares of tropical forest are cleared or damaged every year (equivalent to one football pitch every four seconds). Without radical changes in the attitudes and behaviour of people and their governments, and corporations and their customers, little will survive to the end of the 21st century.

As forests and their biodiversity are destroyed, their value as providers of livelihoods, natural resources and ecosystem services, and as stores of carbon and stabilisers of the global climate, is also lost.

BirdLife Partners have been working in tropical forest and trees conservation for decades, in more than 50 countries. Around the world Partners are engaged in projects to conserve and restore forests, to promote sustainable trees use, and to advise and involve governments in the protection and management of their forests for the mutual benefit of biodiversity and people. 

BirdLife’s Forests of Hope Programme builds on these decades of successful conservation work. The BirdLife Partnership is working in countries throughout the tropics to pilot innovative management, finance and governance systems for forest and biodiversity conservation and restoration.

Our unique local-to-global structure enables conservation action on the ground to influence, and be influenced by, policy and advocacy work at national and international levels. 

We have already secured priority forests:


Our fight against tropical deforestation goes global

Forests of Hope links forest conservation on the ground to BirdLife’s policy and advocacy work at national and international levels, making impacts in three crucial areas:

  • Conserving biodiversity: Three quarters of all bird species are found in forests, chiefly in the tropics. The majority, especially threatened species, depend on intact habitat for their survival. 
  • Generating local and national economic benefits for sustainable development: forests deliver numerous ecosystem services crucial for people, locally and over much wider areas. Tools developed by BirdLife to quantify these services are increasingly being used to demonstrate the irreplaceable but often overlooked contribution that natural forests make to human wellbeing.
  • Combating climate change: Globally, deforestation and forest degradation account for 15–20% of all human induced carbon emissions, more than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, ships and trains combined. Therefore, conserving natural forest is an extremely cost-effective means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Trees that are allowed to regenerate when degraded natural forest is restored will capture and lock up carbon already released into the atmosphere.


Our three objectives

  1. To develop innovative approaches to conserving and restoring priority forests through purchase, lease, management licence or delegated management authority
  2. To develop and promote new policy approaches and tools for large-scale, long-term forest conservation and restoration. By 2020 this will lead to the protection of additional, large areas of forest by governments or other organisations through approaches developed or promoted by BirdLife, and to improvements in forest protection legislation in key countries
  3. To develop and advocate effective policy approaches to address the drivers of deforestation. We will identify drivers in key consumer markets, and agree and implement policy and advocacy to address them


Working to protect key forests on all continents

The model for the Forests of Hope programme is Harapan (which means Hope) Rainforest on Sumatra, Indonesia. At the beginning of the 21st Century, only a few Indonesian forest Important Bird Areas had any form of protection, and many were in areas zoned by the government for commercial exploitation – so-called ‘logging concessions’. 

With the support of the BirdLife Partnership, BirdLife Partner Burung Indonesia persuaded the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry to change the law to allow private organisations to manage logging concessions in the interests of nature conservation.

In 2007, the Ministry issued a licence authorising the BirdLife consortium to conserve and restore a 52,000 ha block of rainforest, and in 2010 the Indonesia government more than doubled the size of the Harapan concession.

The legal framework the BirdLife consortium helped create has inspired others to follow. By 2009 Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry was receiving as many applications for forest restoration licences as for logging concessions.

Other declared Forests of Hope sites include: 


Policy and science: creating tools to measure, manage and persuade

The Forests of Hope Programme is underpinned by sound science. As the IUCN Red List authority for birds, BirdLife holds the most comprehensive data on the forest species that are closest to extinction.

Among the 12,000 Important Bird Areas so far documented worldwide, BirdLife has also identified the most important sites for the conservation of threatened and endemic forest birds and forest bird communities.

BirdLife has developed a toolkit for evaluating the benefits that people obtain from nature (‘ecosystem services’) at individual sites. This approach, when applied at Forest of Hope sites, helps to quantify the value of forest sites, from the foods, fibres and medicines they provide for local people, and the regulation of water supplies over a much wider area, to helping stabilise the global climate by sequestering and storing carbon. 

In order to achieve the objectives for Forests of Hope, BirdLife’s priorities are:

  • To continue to support and promote Forests of Hope site projects, with careful expansion matched to needs and capacity, balanced with consolidation of the existing portfolio to ensure conservation gains are made permanent and sustainable
  • To seek sustainable financing mechanisms for all Forest of Hope sites
  • To increase exchange of knowledge and experience, and build capacity for forest conservation across the Partnership.
  • To develop and strengthen strategic partnerships with other organisations and agencies concerned with tropical forests.
  • To continue active engagement in policy dialogue on climate change, particularly in relation to REDD+ and forest ecosystem-based adaptation.
  • To link Forests of Hope effectively to other BirdLife programmes, in particular Local Engagement and Empowerment and Climate Change.


Children and Logs. Photo: Marco Lambertini.


When people work for forests, forests work for people

Like all BirdLife’s work, Forests of Hope is implemented primarily by BirdLife Partners, supported by the regional and global Secretariats. In turn, the Partners work with Local Conservation Groups to ensure success on the ground. 

Whatever the conservation or restoration model, local people are always involved: as managers, caretakers,  forest guards, monitors or advocates for conservation, or any of a range of other roles. Community involvement requires Local Empowerment, a topic so important to BirdLife’s work that an overarching BirdLife programme is devoted to it.

Many of BirdLife’s most successful local empowerment projects involve forest communities. Forests of Hope also promotes forest governance systems that secure the rights of local people to the ecologically sustainable use of natural resources.


Back to Forests of Hope