Course:FRST370/The regional cultural, environmental and economic impacts of forest management on local communities: a case study of the Alishan National Forestry Recreation Area, Taiwan, China

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The aim of this case study is to focus on the history, current situation and possible future directions of community forestry in the Alishan region of Taiwan. This paper explores the unique mode of operation of community forestry in the Alishan region by focusing on the regional context, tenure arrangements, institutional arrangements, and stakeholders. Government authorities are conserving and managing the region's forests, while introducing new industry models to boost the local economy. This article will not only showcase the unique forest management in the Alishan region, but will also provide support and lessons for community forestry research elsewhere in Asia.

[Key words] Alishan National Forestry Recreation Area, Taiwan, community forestry, Tsou, BOT case


Alishan National Forestry Recreation Area

Map of Alishan
Map of Alishan


The Alishan National Scenic Area, located in eastern Chiayi County, Taiwan, is a national scenic area planned and managed by the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and was established in 2001[1]. Its scope includes the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area in Alishan Township, which is still managed by the Forestry Administration, and extends to nearby famous scenic spots such as Meishan Township, Zhusaki Township, and Banlu Township. It is a branch of the Yushan Mountains, consisting of eighteen large mountains with a total area of 1,400 hectares. The starting altitude is 2216 m and the highest point is over 3500 m. It is located at 23 degrees 31 minutes north latitude and 120 degrees 48 minutes east longitude[2].

Forest Form

The hills below 800 meters are tropical forests, mainly composed of Acacia and Gymnema sylvestre. 800 to 1,000 meters are warm zone forests, mainly camphor, maple, heather, and Phellodendron. 1,800 to 3,000 meters are temperate zone forests, with red juniper, Taiwan cypress, Taiwan fir, hemlock, and Taiwan fruit pine growing in large numbers. The 1,800 to 3,000 meters is a temperate forest with red juniper, Taiwan cypress, Taiwan fir, hemlock, and Taiwan fruit pine growing in large numbers, and the juniper group over 1,000 year old in Alishan is the densest giant tree group in Taiwan. 3,000 to 3,500 meters is mainly Taiwan fir, which is a cold forest. There is also the Alishan Taiwan One-leaf Orchid Nature Reserve[3].


  • 1937: During the Japanese occupation, Shinsen Takayama (formerly known as Tamasan) and Arishan were designated as national parks of Japan.
  • 1982: Mt. Jade was designated as a national park of Taiwan.
  • 2001: The Alishan area was designated as a National Scenic Area of Taiwan[1].

Indigenous people

Image of Tsou
Image of Tsou


In November 1998, the Tsou Clan was officially recognized by the Council of Indigenous Peoples of the Executive Yuan[4]. The Tsou clan is divided into the South Tsou and the North Tsou. The North Tsou includes four large communities in Alishan Township, Chiayi County, and Jiumei District, Xinyi Township, Nantou County, with a population of just over 5,000 people[4]. The Tsou communities are rural communes with common land and each household in the village is a production unit. In addition, the means of production, houses, property, and livestock are the private property of each family. The Tsou community is structured on the basis of patrilineal clans, and property is inherited by the eldest son[5].


Ethnic minorities in Taiwan mainly originated from the Fujian and Yueh area along the southeastern coast of mainland China, and in the course of history, they have fused with immigrants from other surrounding countries and regions[5].


The Chinese government refers to Taiwan's ethnic minorities collectively as the "Highlanders". The Taiwanese government refers to them collectively as the "aborigines", and it is the branch of them living near Alishan that is known as the "Tsou"[6].

Social Structure

The basic political and residential unit of the Alishan Tsou is the community (hosa), which generally consists of 60 to 70 families[5]. The concept of a Tsou community is capable of performing all tribal rituals and its social organization can be divided into the following sections.

  • Communities (hosa): An association of several clans. It consists of several small communities (denohiyu).
  • Clans (aemana): A group of several united families. May or may not be related by blood, and intermarriage between clans is prohibited.
  • United families (ongo-no-emo): A group of several families with a single surname that share farmland, river fishing areas, and millet festival huts (also called corn festival huts)[7].


  • Tapango: Includes Tapango Village, Riga Village, Chayama Village, Shinmi Village, and Yammi Village, scattered along the banks of Tsengwun River.
  • T'fuya: Includes the Tefuno community, Rakuno Village and Laiji Village.
  • Lufdul: Kumi Village in Hsinyi Township, where the Bunun people were gradually assimilated by the Japanese as they moved to the local area and the population declined.
  • Iimucu: Located in Toyama Village and on the banks of the Shigupan River (Canasia), iimucu was devastated by the heavy casualties of its early defeat in a battle with the Tefuno Society and was abolished in the early 2000s[4].

Tenure arrangements

Legal Provisions

The Forestry Act was published in 1933 and has been amended several times since then. According to their ownership, they are divided into state-owned forests, public forests and private forests. Public or privately owned forests may be nationalized by the central competent authority, but compensation shall be paid. State forest or public forest land can be leased, transferred or allocated. State-owned forests are managed and administered by the central competent authority through a forest area; public forests are managed and administered by all authorities or other legal entities; and privately-owned forests are managed and administered by private individuals. The central competent authority may formulate and implement forest management plans according to the characteristics of the forest industry[8].

Modality Shift

In 1991, in response to the worldwide trend of nature conservation, the commercial logging of natural forests was banned and forestry management began to enter a phase where resource conservation was the priority. The current stage is the forest ecosystem management system. Forest ecosystem management emphasizes three major objectives: biodiversity conservation, sustainable forest production, and multi-target utilization of forest resources. State forest land managed by the Forestry Department is no longer leased, except for existing leases that have been leased and leased for public use in accordance with Article 8 of the Forestry Law[9].

Land Situation

The Alishan National Forest Recreation Area is all state-owned land. In earlier years, the land used to be leased to the public, but now it has been stopped and gradually reclaimed. The land reversion to State control in the Alishan area is proceeding most rapidly, with only about 10 hectares of leased land remaining[9].

Forest Land Recovery

According to the "Compensation and Recovery Program for State-Owned Forest Leased Afforestation Land", since 2007, the Compensation and Recovery Program for State-Owned Forest Leased Afforestation Land has been targeting areas with soil and rock flow potential, reservoir catchment areas, sides of rivers, ecological protection areas, security forests, and other areas where logging has been restricted by the competent authorities in accordance with Article 10 of the Forest Law. In order to encourage lessees to voluntarily return leased land to the administration and pay compensation to lessees for above-ground features, the administration has suspended the processing of applications since 2017 due to the large number of applications[9].

Administrative arrangements


The legal rights holder and government agency in the area is the Alishan Workstation. However, the Alishan Workstation only carries out the care and data collection of the forest area. More rights, such as making rules, selling permits, and leasing land are held by the Chiayi Forestry District Administration, a higher level agency. It has all the legal rights to be in charge of the forest area in the region. Therefore, the Chiayi Forest District Administration is recognized as the main management agency. Therefore, the following two sections also focus on its further introduction.


  • 1920: Taiwan Governor's Office Forestry Office
  • 1942: Taiwan Takushoku Corporation, Forestry Division, Chiayi Office
  • 1946: Forest Products Management Committee, Forestry Bureau, Agriculture and Forestry Department, Alishan Forest Plantation Group I
  • 1949: Alishan Forestry Plantation, Forest Products Management Bureau, Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Taiwan Provincial Government
  • 1960: Yushan Forest District Administration, Forestry Bureau, Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Taiwan Provincial Government
  • 1989: Chiayi Forestry District Administration, Forestry Bureau, Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Taiwan Provincial Government
  • 1999: Chiayi Forest District Administration, Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan[10]

Organizational Structure

  • Forestry Division: Forest land management, forest protection and forestry promotion.
  • Operations Division: Reforestation and mid-late stage training, flatland landscaping, seedling cultivation, coastal forest restoration, forest ecosystem management and planning, information management, forest products management, tree bank maintenance and management in the Southern District.
  • Conservation Division: Nature conservation, forest ecotourism, community forestry, volunteer interpretation services, and construction of the National Trails System.
  • Mountain Management Division: Disaster prevention and control, security forest management and management, and construction and maintenance of the forest trail network.
  • Staff Units: Administration, personnel management, chronology, accounting, statistics, and government affairs.
  • Subordinate workstations: Including Alishan workstation, Fenqihu workstation, Chukou workstation and Yujing workstation[11].

Management at All Levels

Executive Yuan → Council of Agriculture → Forestry Bureau → Chiayi Forest District Administration → Alishan Workstation

  • Executive Yuan: The Executive Yuan is the highest administrative organ of the Taiwan government and administers all administrative affairs.
  • Council of Agriculture: The Council of Agriculture is in charge of national agricultural, forestry, fishery, livestock and food administration affairs.
  • Forestry Bureau: It is the highest competent authority in forestry affairs, in charge of the promotion of national forest and protective forest management and nature ecological conservation and the formulation and implementation of policies and regulations.

Affected Stakeholders


An affected stakeholder can be defined as any individual, organization or entity that is influenced by local customs, culture or beliefs and claims to be affected by activities in the forest area.

Relative Power

The local people have customary right, they have the rights to exploit parts of the forest and the right to process and sell the resulting forest products for economic gain. If they want to be involved in collaborative decision-making and forest management, they need to submit their views to the relevant government departments via the Kagi Forestry District Management Office or have direct face-to-face consultant and discussion[12][9]. For the residents, mainly including the local Han Chinese, as well as other ethnic minorities, such as the Zou Clan. Their rights relate mainly to planted economic forests and some natural forests in the Alishan region[4][9].

Economic Benefits

Residents plant trees, cut down and reforest in accordance with the policy issued by the government. Forest resources such as timber (bamboo) that are harvested are processed twice into forest products including wood products and bamboo products, labelled with a forestry label issued by the government and sold for financial remuneration[13]. Local residents have also worked with government departments and related companies to develop ecotourism projects, including a special tea culture chain industry[14]. By promoting the local tourism industry in Alishan, the residents can also achieve considerable economic benefits.

Interested Outside Stakeholders


Stakeholders refer to be any person, organization or entity that have shown or are known to have an interest in the activities of the forest area.

Relative Power and Economic Benefits

Local Government

Government departments often use a lots of power, but access with limitation to financial benefits. They usually promulgate policies and provide funding, projects and platforms to help local people to make use of forest resources and develop relevant industries. In some cases, government tenders are used to attract companies to set up businesses and cooperate with residents for mutual benefit[13]. And the government departments involved are mainly forestry workstations as well as the Forestry Department[15].

Outside Enterprises

The main purpose is to purchase local forest resources from Alishan, including timber products, bamboo products, tea, and other agricultural products[14].

Markets in Other Parts of Taiwan or Other Places

Legally involved in the investment and construction of projects in the Alishan region through government departments. These projects include the construction of the forest railway, the design and construction of the Alishan Recreation Area, and the construction of the Alishan Special Chain Tea Industry Tourism Project. These companies, in general, choose to work together with local residents to jointly manage and gain profits[14][16].


Tourists from all over the world directly enjoy the local tourism industry, experience local conditions and customs and local culture, expand their knowledge and relax, both spiritually and physically.

Interested Stakeholder Relevant Targets Power and Profit level
Local government Provide policy support for local development and design development plans Medium level of interest

High level of power

Outside enterprises Projects investment, management and development High level of interest

Low level of power

Markets Purchase of forest resources and drive the development of related industries Medium level of interest

Low level of power

Tourists Direct users of toursim projects Low level of interest

Low level of power

Community Forestry Projects

The Taiwan government promotes the Six Star Community Health Plan[9], which uses six community evaluation indicators: industrial development, welfare and medical care, community security, humanities and education, environmental landscape, and environmental ecology, to help communities develop healthily in stages. In accordance with this plan, Alishan Workstation has implemented a community forestry development plan in its area of jurisdiction as follows.

Implementation Method

First Stage: Concept Promotion and Talent Cultivation

Policies are in place to encourage residents to participate in community forest management through measures such as financial subsidies or concessions for residents who actively participate in community forest management. Regular lectures are given to registered non-profit organizations, foundations, colleges and communities. Counselling and theoretical help is provided on issues that arise.

In order to get more residents to participate voluntarily in the management of community forestry, the scope of community forest management is increased while reducing the resistance to its implementation among the population and increasing the efficiency and capacity of the community. To make the local population value the land more, to deepen their attachment to it and to reduce the likelihood of its destruction. By setting up a more systematic talent development program, community ensure that it has sufficient expert resources to deal with any problems that may be encountered. Secondly, effective teaching of specialist knowledge ensures that forest-related knowledge is not lost over time.

Second Stage: Forestry Demonstration Community

The government funds relevant forestry management measures and invites people with resource management or forestry expertise to participate in management and assist communities in forest resource conservation.

The establishment of a model forestry demonstration community to explore community forestry policy and to test the soundness of overall community land planning. It is also a test of the professional skills of the practitioners involved, to develop their professionalism and ability to work in the field.


The initial objectives of the plan have been achieved and the vast majority of residents in the community are aware of the importance of the forest and know some simple forest management practices. However, there are still some villagers who do not understand the importance of community forestry and still cut down and destroy forests at will, and basic conservation education for villagers needs to be strengthened. The development process will inevitably have an impact on the local ecology and vernacular architecture, and how to balance conservation and development is a key priority.

Conflict Case

Indigenous Land Disputes

The Basic Law of indigenous peoples[17] stipulates that any government or private person engaged in land development, resource use, ecological conservation and academic research on indigenous peoples' land shall consult with and obtain the consent or participation of indigenous peoples, and indigenous peoples shall share the relevant interests. Governments or laws restricting the use of the land and natural resources of indigenous peoples shall consult with and obtain the consent of indigenous peoples or indigenous peoples. However, in 2005 the Forestry Bureau and the Hongdu Alishan Business Alliance privately joined forces with some village chiefs, promising them favours to design and build a national park, a national scenic area, an ecological conservation area, etc. on Tsou land, without publicly discussing how the land should be disposed of. The Taiwanese government has developed a BOT case, in which it uses three methods - Build, Operate and Transfer - to promote public participation in the formulation and subsequent management of public construction plans[18]. However, in the current development plan for aboriginal land, the public has not been involved at all. So the aborigines took the form of a joint petition of protest, which gave rise to the well-known BOT case in the Alishan region.


The aboriginal people, who have been kept in the dark, are outraged and have written a joint petition against the BOT, which includes the following demands[19]

  • Demand immediate cessation of the Alishan Forest Recreation Area BOT case
  • Opposition to the Government's sale of Tsou traditional land to the Government at a dirt cheap price - Hongdu Consortium
  • Opposition to the infringement of the "natural sovereignty of the Tsou ethnic group" by government collusion with consortia
  • We requested the addition of a provision for the indigenous Tsou people in relation to the content of the contract signed.
  • During the 33 years of the use of the Tsou traditional lands (the concession period ends in 2142), a rebate fund of 20% of the annual budget, not less than NT$100 million, shall be allocated to the Tsou people in the traditional domain as the "Tsou Indigenous Comprehensive Development Fund" and as the Talent Education Development Fund.


The government decided to suspend the BOT project with Hongdu Consortium, review and amend the contents of the contract to ensure the basic rights and interests of the local indigenous people as much as possible, and meet the compensation measures proposed by the indigenous people in the protest.


The BOT case is a famous land dispute in the Taiwan region, and the spirit of the local aborigines who defied the power and fought against other invaders is worth sharing with other Indigenous and Local communities. Also the model they adopted is worth learning from all parties, they did not blindly resort to violent means to protest, but combined with laws and regulations to make a formal protest and request to the Executive Yuan.



  • People can take an active part in the community by participating in the development of community management policies and electing or standing for election as a community organization manager.
  • Residents are better involved in the management of community forestry, and many of them learn about the meaning and methods of forest protection in the form of seminars and workshops.


  • All the communities in Alishan Workstation have joined together to form a common management body, electing the head of the body and the person responsible for implementing the relevant supervisory measures to co-ordinate the management and supervision of all the communities in the forest district. Negotiate with the relevant government departments as representatives of the communities for land and related benefits.
  • A well-structured community management structure has been established, and discussions have led to the introduction of community forestry management measures throughout the forest area. A survey of community resources and a cultural resource bank have been established to ensure the sustainable use of resources and the longevity of the community's culture.

Relevant Government Department

  • Set up a specialized body to communicate with the community and protect the basic interests of the community. Negotiate preferential policies in line with local development conditions.
  • Implementing the Healthy Communities "Six Star Program" to provide a platform for communities to integrate resources, promote comprehensive community development, and strengthen the administrative coordination of all relevant units.

Power Analysis

High importance but low influence High importance and high influence
Local residents

Farmers (Tea)

Traditional authorities

Timber industry

Government forestry agencies

Tea Company

Tourism Company

Low importance and low influence Low importance but high influence




Environmental NGOs

Political parties


Recommended Reasons

After discussing and comparing other community forestry programs, we believe that there are several main reasons for the success of the community forestry program in the Alishan workstation and its jurisdictional communities:

  • Highly holistic: The local aborigines joined together to organize and establish the Alishan workstation to plan and manage the community forestry in a holistic form, while negotiating with the government or enterprises on behalf of the people. Because all residents think and pace in the same way, the Alishan workstation can work without internal hindrances, and secondly, because of the strong power of the residents united, it leads to the Alishan workstation to fight for more benefits in the negotiation of the development process, such as the above-mentioned resistance and settlement measures of the Alishan BOT case[19]. As Kimmerer, R. W. mentioned in his book The Council of Pecans[20]: all trees grow together and bear fruit together. The most essential thing for all communities to be well developed is to ensure a high degree of unity within the community.
  • High participation of community residents: With the help of the Ministry of Forestry and some enterprises, we advocate active participation of community members in the management of community forestry, so that members can share the fruits of development and achieve sustainable and effective development of the community.
  • Fairness and openness: Compared to the failure of the Amabomvini community recycling program in South Africa[21], the Arizonan workstation implemented the community forestry program in a way that ensured the interests of the indigenous people, the distribution of benefits was open and transparent, and the benefits were shared fairly among the beneficiaries[9].


We believe that the following suggestions may help local community forestry to be better developed.

  • Provide more incentives to attract more individuals, groups, and organizations to join community forestry projects.
  • Provide more funding to provide opportunities for those who have the knowledge and enthusiasm but lack the financial resources to do so.

Limitations of Data

During the research, we tried hard to find people who could be interviewed by us, but unfortunately we did not get effective interview data. Some of the above data may not be applicable to Alishan today.


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  2. "Alishan Forest Park". Baidu Baike.
  3. Chen, Y., & Lin, M (2004). National Scenic Areas in Taiwan. ISBN 986-7630-21-1.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Aborigines of Alishan - The Tsou Clan".
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 National Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China. "The Gaoshan nationality - History".
  6. National Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China. "The Gaoshan nationality - Introduction".
  7. "Tsou Clan". Wikipedia.
  8. "The Forestry Act. Taiwan". 2016.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Chiayi Forest District Administration (2020). "Forestry Work".
  10. Chiayi Forest District Administration (2019). "Past Chiefs".
  11. Chiayi Forest District Administration. "Organizational Structure".
  12. Li, J. X., & Xu, B. X. (2010). "The history of forest management and recreation development in Taiwan After World War Ⅱ". Forestry Research Quarterly. 32 (1): 87–96.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Forestry Service (2020). "Taiwan Wood Logo".
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Liao, B. C., & Liu, C. R. (2012). "Innovative strategies for customer value in Alishan Tourist Tea Gardens". Huazhong Journal of Geography. (29): 19–39.
  15. Chiayi Forest District Administration (2020). "Introduction/History/Jurisdictional Distribution".
  16. Zhang, J. J., & Zheng, L. (2011). "Forest railway in Alishan". Railway Knowledge. (5): 68–71.
  17. "The Indigenous Peoples Basic Law". Laws & Regulations Database of The Republic of China.
  18. "What is BOT?". Civicmedia Wiki.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Alishan BOT case environmental culture shock". Civicmedia Wiki.
  20. Kimmerer, R. W. (2013b). "The council of pecans". In Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom , Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants: (pp. 11–21).
  21. R.P., Tshidzumba, J.M. Clarke, P. W. C. (2021). "Commercial timber plantations as a means to land and economic restitution in South Africa". Handbook on Community Forestry. Routledge. (In J. Bulkan, J. Palmer, M. Hobley, & A. M. Larson ed.).

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Chang Shujie, Lin Ruiyu & Shen Jiawei. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.