Course:FRST370/2021/Analysis of the impact of community forestry right reform system on regional livelihood benefits and dispute issues in Baishan City, Jilin Province, China

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The location of China, Jilin Province, Baishan City

Baishan City is located in the northeast of China, Jilin Province, which is one of the main timber-producing areas. Its abundant forest resources have formed an ecosystem of diverse species, while it also provides residents with forest-based industries. Between 1994 and 2018, Baishan City had carried out several reforms of the forest tenure system of different scales. This series of policy adjustments is mainly to obtain a more efficient and sustainable forest industry and improve economic benefits. However, The forestry industry of Baishan City still has the problems of the single forestry industry, fragmentation of forest rights management, forest use rights disputes and forest rights contract disputes. These problems restrict the development of community forestry. This case study will focus on analyzing the history of Baishan City's forest tenure system reform, the disputes and the impact on stakeholders it has brought, and its possible development direction and suggestions.

keywords: Baishan City, community forestry, collective forest rights, forest rights dispute, forest economy

This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST370.


Overview of forestry resources in Baishan City, Jilin Province

Forestry in Baishan City

Baishan City has a total area of 1348 km2 and its forest coverage rate increased from 76% in 2014 to 83.4% in 2018. It is an important timber production area in China, was approved by the Ministry of Forestry to establish a national forest tourism area in 1994 and has become an important forestry product production base in Northeast China. In 2015, the total production of flooring, plywood and particle board which are made from forest wood in Baishan City ranked among the top in China. The local Jinqiao Flooring Group became the largest exporter of flooring in Southeast Asia In 2018, Baishan City's GDP grew by 4.6%, of which the forestry economy grew by as much as 22.3%. There are various forms of community forestry income besides timber cutting, including edible mushroom industry base and herbal medicine base. In 2018, the area of state-owned forest land (Guoyou Lin) in the region was 564.119 km2, and the area of collective forest(Jiti Lin) land was 560.113 km2.[1]

History of forest property right reform in Baishan City, Jilin Province

China's land reform policy has gone through four main stages. The first stage of the land reform was transforming the feudal land ownership system into the peasant land ownership system. In the second stage, although there were frequent changes in property rights, the general trend was to change from private property rights to public property rights. The main transfer of the third stage is the separation of property rights. The fourth stage is the transfer of forest land management rights from the collective to the farmers.

Phase Ⅰ-- The period of privatization of forest rights (1950-1953)

The property rights of state-owned land and forests were divided through policies to the previously landless peasants. The peasants had complete property rights and were protected by law, including ownership, use, management, and revenue rights, where the right to transfer was somewhat restricted.[2]

Phase Ⅱ-- Private forest rights transfer to collectivization stage ( 1953-1978)

The forest gradually transitioned to collective management. After the collective was agreed upon by the members, forest income was shared proportionally. The farmers owned the ownership of forest land and trees, while the cooperatives had the right to use the forest land, part of the forest trees and the right to dispose of them; the right to income was divided between individuals and the collective. In addition, since the logging of trees was managed by the state, the farmers had the restricted right to transfer the forest.[2]

Phase Ⅲ-- Separation of property rights ( 1978-1991)

The timber market was opened, allowing farmers and collectives to trade their timber freely on the market. Collective management of mountains and forests with complete forest rights. The ownership of self-reserved hills and responsible hills belonged to the collective, and farmers had the right to use their forest and profit from the woods, as well as the right to manage the woodlands.[2]

Phase IV-- Decommunalization of collective forest rights ( 1991 to present)

Collective forest rights are issued with forest certificates. And the rights to use trees and forest land can be transferred by the law. The transfer of forest land use rights and forest ownership rights has diversified the subjects of forest rights and enhanced legal protection. Around 2008, Baishan City's collective forestry divided the forest into collective households. Households were also issued forest certificates, giving them the right to manage the forest by themselves.[2] Such a transformation is to stimulate foresters and various social forces to actively participate in forestry construction and achieve sustainable and healthy economic and social development.

Community forest rights in Baishan City, Jilin Province

Tenure Arrangements

Most forests in Baishan City are woodland and plantation. China will issue the certificate of ownership to both community and members. There are three types of forest resources in China: state-owned forests, collective forests and private forests. According to Chinese law, all forest natural resources are owned by the state. The ownership of forest land in China is forbidden to be transferred, therefore, the transfer of forest rights generally refers to the transfer of the right to use forest land and the ownership of forest trees. In Biashan City, the duration of the collective forest is 70 years, and the duration can be renewed by the relevant state regulations rest resources in China: state-owned forests, collective forests and private forests. According to Chinese law, all forest natural resources are owned by the state. The ownership of forest land in China is forbidden to be transferred, therefore, the transfer of forest rights generally refers to the transfer of the right to use forest land and the ownership of forest trees.[3] In Biashan City, the duration of the collective forest is 70 years, and the duration can be renewed in accordance with the relevant state regulations.[1]

During this period, villagers own access rights, withdrawal rights, exclusion rights, management rights, part of alienation right, bequeath right and distinguishability right. The ownership of planted forests and natural secondary forests created belongs to the members of the community on its owned land. All trees on the collective land belong to the community and can be logged with a logging license and receive the full economic benefit. If outsiders harvest trees without the consent of the community, they are sentenced to jail. Without changing the use of forest land and destroying forest resources, communities and individual can use forest land to cultivate medicine, fruits, grass, crops, livestock and develop tourism. Only the withdrawal right of collective forestry can be contracted and leased. The operate right or ownership of the collective forest, trees and forest land usage can be inherited according to law.[4]

Administrative Arrangements

1. Forestry Bureau of Baishan City

Ⅰ. Responsible for the supervision and management of the Baishan's forestry and its ecology. Install forestry and ecological-related laws and policies to formulate the city's forestry development strategy and plan; be responsible for the city's forest resources investigation, dynamic monitoring, and evaluation.

Ⅱ. Undertake the responsibility of the city's forest resource protection and development supervision and management. Supervise and inspect the logging and transportation of forest licenses; be responsible for the registration of forest rights, issuance of licenses, and formulate plans for forest land protection and utilization and supervise their implementation.

Ⅲ. Undertake the responsibility of promoting forestry reform in the city and safeguarding the legal rights and interests of local farmers in forestry management. Following relevant national and provincial policies, formulate and implement major forestry reforms such as collective forest rights systems and state-owned forest farms; formulate policies to protect the legal rights and interests of farmers in forestry management; guide forest rights dispute mediation and arbitration of forest land contract disputes; guide state-owned forest farms and forests. Construction and management of parks and grassroots forestry work institutions.

Ⅳ. Organize, coordinate and guide the construction and development of the forestry industry in the city. Guide the comprehensive economic development of forestland in mountainous areas.[5]

2. Agriculture Section, Finance Bureau of Baishan City

Responsible for the financial budget of agriculture and forestry. Propose a fiscal policy that matches the reform of the forest tenure system. Manage forestry and agricultural development-related funds, poverty alleviation funds, and agricultural forestry development and development funds.[6]

3. Taxation Bureau of Baishan City

Responsible for collecting forestry-related income tax and commodity tax. In the reform of the forest tenure system, the policy of tax reduction and profit concession supporting the reform of collective forest tenure was implemented. This has led to the appreciation of forest land and the price of timber and forest products.[7]

4. Community in Baishan City

Communities in Baishan City have the right to use forestry land and ownership of timber by the regulations of relevant government departments, including afforestation, harvesting of timber products and non-timber products, tourism, and other forestry economies. At the same time, community residents should be responsible for forest maintenance, soil protection, and ecological diversity protection of community forests. In villages and towns, people usually form forest protection teams to patrol and maintain forests regularly.

5. Other Reporting Systems

1. The Forestry Bureau of Jilin Province and Baishan City shall have the responsibility of supervising the forest resources and forest development activities of Baishan City. The Forestry Bureau stipulates forestry land and community forest boundaries, timber and non-timber harvest volume, and harvest time following national forestry-related laws, and issues licenses for forestry practitioners. At the same time, the Nature Reserve Management Bureau supervises the areas listed as wildlife protection areas by the "Regulations on the Management of Nature Reserves"[5].

2. Collective forest rights help unite the strength of residents and promote communities to actively assume responsibility for protection[4]. Usually, villages and towns will set up relevant committees to be responsible for decision-making, supervision, and feedback of forestry affairs. The committee is democratically elected and needs to assess the proportion of women in it. The committee is usually composed of representatives of community forestry practitioners and collects feedback from residents and reports regularly to the higher-level government[8].

3. The Forestry Bureau of Baishan City is responsible for the collective forestry management within their jurisdiction. Township forestry workstations which are controlled by the Forestry Bureau of Baishan City and the People's Government of the local township, manage and supervise the collective forestry production. Collective forest, forest wood, forest land management mode, must be discussed by the collective economic organization members or representative members (villagers meeting, the meeting of village representatives, or the villagers’ group meeting). The decision should be agreed upon by more than two-thirds of the members and published to the villagers. Otherwise, the decision is invalid. Community members who want to harvest trees must go to the Baishan forestry and grassland authorities to apply for a logging license, and logging should be by the provisions of the license.  Besides, harvesting without a permit is strictly prohibited.[4]

Affected stakeholders

Forest farmers in Baishan City, Jilin Province

foresters are given the same power over forest land, different groups have chosen different responsibilities, which can be divided as follows:

Ⅰ. Autonomous logging

The main source of livelihood is the cutting of trees, which is governed by government-imposed logging permits and logging quotas. They can cut their trees or hire others to do so within the limits of the law, and have the right to buy and sell trees located in planted forests in their jurisdiction.

Ⅱ. Independent forest plantation

One of the most traditional forms of forest economy, subsistence forest farming. Produce is grown for trade, or family subsistence.

Ⅲ. Processing and selling of forest products

Mainly forest produces or forest product processing, often buying produce from forest growers or obtaining forest products in forest areas for processing and selling. This is often associated with or in cooperation with forest tourism and forest plantations. For example, some foresters grow fungus in the forest, process it, and then sell it to tourists.

Ⅳ. Tourism

Forest farmers whose main means of livelihood is through tourism development and the sale of forest products to tourists. Most are complementary to forest plantations and forest product processing. Most forest farmers engaged in tourism intersect with other types.

Ⅴ. Forest land rental and sale

Forest farmers who profit by leasing or transferring their forest rights.

Relationship with forest rights reform

Forest farmers in Baishan City, Jilin Province, are the main stakeholders affected by the forest rights reform. Forest farmers' livelihoods, as well as sources of livelihood, are closely related to the community forests in Baishan City.  After the implementation of collective forest rights, the government allocated collectively owned forest land to individual forest farmers, giving them the autonomy of forest land management and jurisdiction (Zheng, 2019). By signing contracts, foresters clarified their forest land property rights and contracted their original collective forest land to individuals. Their overall power them is limited by the laws set by the Chinese government and local governments. The government will compensate the farmers when their interests are harmed in the process of collective forestry reform (e.g., uneven boundary demarcation). Forest farmers, who are the main agents of intensive management in collective forestry, are required by law to develop sustainable bylaws that are appropriate to the cooperative characteristics of the organization.

Foresters in Baishan City, Jilin Province

A group that participates in the relevant forest economy trade generated under the collective forest rights reform and derives benefits from it corresponding to the workload.

Relationship with forest rights reform

Foresters are the main grassroots practitioners in forestry and are extremely dependent on the forest rights system. The implementation of collective forest rights has led to the unemployment of some foresters, but at the same time, collective forest rights also provide foresters with a new direction of employment. While the government provides logging jobs, foresters can choose to participate in the investment of collective forest rights and assist foresters in the management and operation of collective forest rights.

Interested Stakeholders

Baishan government staff are inspecting

Forestry Department of Jilin Province & Baishan City

The main objective of forestry departments in Jilin Province and Baishan City is to improve policies, sound services and standardize management through supporting reforms. To achieve the goals of resource growth, farmers' income, and forest area sustainability[5].

Financial institutions that invest in forest rights

Financial departments and financial institutions provide financial support for forestry in Baishan City to accelerate the reform of collective forest rights and the development of community forestry. The investment is mainly used for basic forestry construction. At the same time, these funds will also help ecological construction, forest resource protection and the development and construction of forestry-related departments.[9] But at the same time, most of the community forests in Baishan City are managed cooperatively, which brings difficulties in determining the main receptors of investments and loans.[10]

This series of investments have played a role in protecting and promoting the development of the forestry economy in Baishan City. The forestry investment of financial institutions in Baishan City has led to the development of diversified industries, such as under-forest economy, cultivation of medicinal materials and forest eco-tourism, which has promoted the optimization of the forestry industry and increased the income of forest farmers.[9]

As the role played by financial institutions in forestry reform gradually increases, promoting forestry reform and development is the main goal of financial institutions' presence. Investments and inputs from financial institutions can enhance the financial strength of agriculture-related financial institutions and effectively promote the development of the forestry economy to high value-added industries. At the same time, it effectively promotes as well as advances the construction of local industrial parks and leading bases to enhance the local economic strength. [9]

Forestry company

Companies in Baishan City carry out development and management activities in forests under the permission of the government's forestry department. Forestry companies also shoulder social responsibilities, including the environment, employees, communities, supply chains, and products. Generally speaking, forestry companies pay more attention to employees and take relatively less responsive to the community. Now, many forestry companies in Baishan City have long-term cooperation with the community. While protecting the forest ecology, the sustainable development of forestry also provides companies with more stable income.[11]

Tourism industry professionals and tourists

Tourism is one of the main industries in Baishan City, Jilin Province. The unique Cambrian Ordovician geology in Baishan City attracts quite a lot of tourists. Because communities have the right to develop and manage tourism resources in forest land, tourism has gradually developed in some community forests. Tourism has increased the income of practitioners in local communities and has made their livelihoods more diverse[1].

Related Researchers

The researchers conduct research projects in the forest area by laws and regulations. Through their research, they provided suggestions for the development of forest ecology and community forest management models in Baishan City, while presenting the results of scientific research and ecological research projects related to regional forestry and attracting new scientific and technological talents to the research[1].

Related power analysis

Baishan City Collective Forest Power Analysis
social actors Important Influence
Local forest farmers and forest workers high high
Forestry Department of Jilin Province & Baishan City high high
Financial institutions that invest in forest rights low high
Companies and practitioners involved in forestry production low high
Tourism industry professionals and tourists low low
Related Researchers low low

According to the table, the most important social actors (local farmers and foresters, government) also have high influence, so theoretically it is relatively good governance.


Unitary forestry in structure

The collective forest tenure reform has confirmed the status of forest farmers as the main management body, and at the same time provided forestry workers with more profitable participation methods such as investment. The government delegates forest land property rights and management rights to foresters. Such a reform helps to clarify the specific management model and direction of forest farmers. A reasonable business structure has broadened the employment channels of forestry workers and created more employment opportunities. At the same time, forest farmers and forest workers can own and control the benefits they obtain from their operations or work. After the rationalization of the foresters' business model, it has been significantly improved, but due to the income level of the forest farmer in Baishan City. According to the survey data of the per capita, disposable income of forest farmers in Baishan City in 2015, the per capita disposable income of that year was 3453, an increase of 59.2% over the previous year[12]. However, the education level, cultural level and technical literacy of forest farmers and forestry workers in Baishan City are generally not high[1].

According to the survey of the population and educational background data of Jiangyuan District, Baishan City, the sample size of the survey is 300 people. Excluding the survey that has not been responded to, the proportion of educational background is shown in the table below.

Results of education background survey of forestry population in Jiangyuan District, Baishan City[1].
Characteristics Description Amount Proportion(%)


Bachelor degree or above 29 11.42
Junior college or above 143 42.92
Junior high school degree 116 45.66

It can be seen from the table that most of the foresters in Baishan City have not received higher education, and the lower educational level has caused the income structure of forest farmers and forest workers in Baishan City to show a single and widening gap[12]. The low educational background has caused forest workers and forest farmers to easily follow blindly their business models. If a household develops a higher-yielding business model, other forest farmers and forest farmers would follow suit. At the same time, due to the lack of effective government guidance, the level of education limits the way to master new technologies, and the willingness to take risks is not high. In the survey, 77% of people said they were "unwilling to try new technologies", and 21% said they were "willing to try but unable to master new technologies"[12].

The low-risk tolerance has caused most forest farmers to only be willing to do small things with low technical content, lacking innovation. In addition, because the government has few effective measures in the construction and guidance of the forestry industry, the local business model and income structure are relatively simple[12]. Although it provides forest farmers and forest workers with a way to make investment profits, the low-income forestry workers in the past are not very motivated to invest and the amount of investment is not high, so the dividends obtained are very limited. The former rich peasants invested more and made more profits, which widened the local income gap.

Fragmentation of forestry rights and management

Although the decentralization of forest ownership is conducive to the management of the ecological status of their own sts by households, as the process of China's population migration to urbanization continues to accelerate, a large number of young and middle-aged forest farmers enter cities for work, hollowing out villages and aginageingest farmers Serious weakness[13]. This has caused problems such as insufficient labour in forest land, inconvenience in forest land management, and low enthusiasm for forest land management. At the same time, there are many forest lands where managers are engaged in other industries and there is no time to respond to the forest[14]. In addition to the high investment cost of forest planting management and protection, management skills are difficult[13], and most of the collectively managed forest lands have been left idle for a long time. shortage. Forest farmers do not manage or afforest the forest land, causing problems such as fragmentation of the forest land ecosystem. It has had a great impact on the local ecology.

Although the fragmentation of forest rights can be solved by transferring forest rights and renting them out to others, Baishan City lacks professional forestry service agencies to effectively evaluate the value of forest resources on forest land. At the same time, because forest farmers do not fully understand the transfer and lease process, the signing rate of transfer contracts is low. It is easy to produce reselling and subletting activities that violate national legislation[15]. This makes the fragmentation of forest rights temporarily unable to be effectively resolved.

Forest right dispute

Between 2008 and 2018, Baishan City has involved 2,345 government staff and local people in forest rights disputes and 456 court cases in forest rights disputes. [1]Forest rights disputes have greatly affected the government's performance, and some forest rights disputes have even risen to the level of petition issues, causing negative social opinion and seriously affecting social and economic development.

Major Types of disputes

Ⅰ Disputes over the forest use rights. In 2013, Baishan City promulgated various policies to encourage the development of collective forestry economy, giving community members more choices in the use of collective forest. [1]The inconsistency of members choices on the application of forest rights is high, thus leading to a large number of disputes on the use of forest rights. For example, some of the higher-income families want to contract out the management of the forest to other organizations because they have other income to earn. Some villagers, on the other hand, believe that they can earn better by operating the forest themselves. Therefore, disputes occur.

Ⅱ Forest rights contract disputes. In 2016, forest rights reform formally introduced forest rights as property rights and allowed them to participate in rural financial development. [1]Both mortgage contracts and forest rights leasing contracts have legal benefits in terms of property rights, and forest rights use disputes are reflected as contractual issues, so there are more forest rights contract disputes. Contractual disputes arise in the process of the forest rights transfer.

Ways to resolve disputes

The low literacy level of villagers and the closer relationship between villagers make most disputes more likely to be mediated privately. But some conflicts need to be mediated by relevant staff at all levels of government and by the courts. The disputes always can be solved within three months.[1]


In the process of collective forest rights reform, from the perspective of Baishan community members, they have obtained forest ownership, management rights, and management rights. The transfer policy of forest certificates and related rights of collective forest rights enables forest farmers to have the complete legal protection of forest rights. The reform of collective forest rights allows community members to participate in forestry production and forest protection as direct stakeholders, mobilizing the enthusiasm of forest farmers.

The reform of collective forest rights has increased the local economic income to a certain extent. After forest farmers have actual forest ownership and other rights, they can manage and transfer forests more flexibly. Although the development of the forestry industry in Baishan City is not as diversified as expected, independent management has stimulated the development of various forestry and under-forest economy to a certain extent.

However, the development of community forestry in Baishan City is still in a backward position. The frequent transfer of forest rights and lease of forest land, as well as the loss of a large number of people, make it impossible to obtain long-term sustainable management and management of forest land. This has greatly restricted the economic income and production efficiency of forest farmers, and the uneven investment has also widened the income gap. Fragmentation of forest rights reduces management efficiency and the ecological benefits of forests.


Strengthening the role of government support for collective forestry

Since villagers are not well educated and do not know much about the law, it is difficult for them to use policies and markets to maximize their benefits. Not only can the policy not be used to increase villagers' participation in collective forestry, but it will lead to some villagers suffering financial losses when trading forest rights. In this situation, there is a great need for support from the relevant government departments. For example, the establishment of a professional forestry evaluation agency should be promoted.

At present, the support of the governmental authorities is reflected in the formulation of policies that are favourable to collective forestry and solve the conflicts that occurred. However, government support should also be reflected in the effective implementation of policies and the avoidance of conflicts in advance. For example, the government should take the responsibility of popularising the policies and legal regulations to the villagers, which not only can improve the villagers' application of the policies and laws but also can avoid disputes during the forest rights trading. The government should also promptly communicate with villagers about the causes of the downturn in collective forestry transactions and solve the problems, to ensure the effectiveness of policy implementation.

Establishing an effective mechanism for communication and feedback between government and community organizations

The analysis of community forestry management mechanisms reveals that government departments have management and supervision responsibilities for collective forestry, but there is no mention of mechanisms to maintain communication with communities. So there is a missing mechanism for how communities can give feedback to government departments. Although the government has set up an official feedback website and feedback box, this requires the community to take the initiative to send feedback to the government. The survey found that most community members cannot identify business problems and that most of them try to solve the problems themselves rather than seek government help. [16]Therefore, the government needs to establish a proactive and regular communication mechanism to strengthen the communication and linkage between the stakeholders. This will help communities to build community forestry by listening to the views of different groups.

Promote the formation of non-governmental organizations that manage the forestry ecology of Baishan City, and strengthen ecological management

Due to the desolation problem caused by the fragmentation of forest rights in a large number of forest areas, the government cannot effectively monitor the forestry ecological problems in this area for a long time. It is recommended that foresters spontaneously form a forestry supervision team to inspect and supervise abandoned forest lands. The government needs to compensate for the funds needed for the restoration of forest land, and the benefits of the forest land in the later period should be illegally given to the members of the supervision team and taxed to the state by the community policy.


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Zhang, X.F.,Wu, S.R., & Ning, Y.L. (2015). An Analysis on China’s Institutional Change of Collective Forest Tenure System and Its Economic Motivation. Journal of Beijing Forestry University, 01, 57-63.
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  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Standing Committee of Jilin Provincial People's Congress (May 30, 2019). "Jilin Province collective forestry management regulations". Standing Committee of Jilin Provincial People's Congress.
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  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Research Group of People' s Bank of China, Baishan Branch (2011). "Practice, Problems and Suggestions of Financial Support for Forestry Development". Jilin Financial Research. 3(350): 45–48.
  10. Wang, X. Z.; Xu, D. W. (2015). "InVestigation and Thinking to Solve the Problem of Forest Right Mortgage Loan - Based on the Investigation of Jilin Province Baishan City Forest Right Mortgage Financing". Jilin Finance Research. 4: 53–55.
  11. Li, Y; Gao, L (2019). "Corporate social responsibility of forestry companies in china: An analysis of contents, levels, strategies, and determinants". Sustainability (Basel, Switzerland). 11(6): 4379.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Xu, W., & Zhu, M. F. (2018). Experimental Discussion on Increasing the Income of Forest Farmers under the Reform of Collective Forest Rights System -- Taking Baishan City of Jilin Province as an example. ECONOMIC RESEARCH GUIDE, 33, 19–21.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Wang, W. B. (2018). Strategy Study for Reform on Collective Forest Tenure of Yunnan Province. Journal of West China Forestry Science, 47(01), 17-22.
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  16. Yuan, Q. (2017). Research on Forest Farmers’ Production Coping Behavior under the Logging Quota Management System ——Based  on  the  Survey  in  Southern  Collective  Forest  Area. The Master’s thesis. Huazhong Agricultural University. Wuhan.