Bolivia is located in the central zone of South America, extending from the Central Andes through part of the Gran Chaco as far as the Amazon. The geography of the country exhibits a great variety of terrains and climates. Bolivia has a high level of biodiversity, considered one of the greatest in the world, as well as several ecoregions with ecological sub-units such as the Altiplano, tropical rainforests (including the Amazon rainforest), dry valleys, and the Chiquitania, which is a tropical savanna. These areas feature enormous variations in altitude.
The main biomes in Bolivia are jungle, forest, savannah, tundra, steppe, desert and wetlands. There is a large amount of endemism found within the vertebrate species, with 16% of mammals, 22% of fish, 20% of reptiles and 42% of birds endemic to Bolivia. Its borders contain more than 14,000 higher plant species, 325 mammals, 186 amphibians, 260 reptiles, and 550 fish species, and 1,379 bird species.
Bolivia’s biomes are threatened through overgrazing, inadequate agricultural practices, tree felling and burning of forests, demographic pressures, inappropriate use of technology, and ecosystem use above their productive capacity and potential. 80% of forests are in the lowlands of Bolivia and these are in particular threatened by deforestation. The main driver is cattle ranching, which contributed 27% to deforestation in Bolivia between 1992 and 2004. From 2005 to 2010 the naturally regenerated and primary forest area decreased by nearly 3%.
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Last updated: 2014
Forests cover about 50% of Bolivia’s land surface and represent the sixth largest forest area in the world. 65% of the forests are natural forests. Bolivia’s forests are among the richest in resources and diverse ecology and most should be regarded as high conservation value forests. The types of forests vary considerably due to large differences between the local climates in the country and altitude, but are mostly tropical and deciduous. Closed moist lowland rainforests cover a large part of the northeastern third of the country. These forests are part of the Amazon Basin system and the species found here include large-leafed mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), Cinchona spp., Terminalia spp. and Calophyllum spp. Areas of dry tropical forest and savannah are found in the lowlands.
The permanent forest estate - the forest area that is designated to be retained as forest and may not be converted to other land use - has a size of 287,343 (km2) and represents 62.7% of the total forest area. About 30% of the permanent forest estate is productive forests.
Bolivia does not have a program to further the establishment of plantations, therefore only a very small area of forest plantations of Eucalyptus spp. and Pinus spp. exists.
As a result of the increasing deforestation, Bolivia made remarkable progress towards sustainable forest management with the ambitious reform of its forest sector in 1996. This entailed an overarching political decentralization process with responsibilities and monitoring functions being handed over to municipalities and rural communities. However there are still many threats, in particular the main pressure to Bolivia’s forests is mechanized agriculture, which caused more than half of deforestation in lowland Bolivia, and cattle ranching, which contributed to 27% of deforestation between 1992 and 2004. Targeting the expansion of cattle ranching is regarded as a priority in fighting deforestation because improvements could be achieved at a relatively low cost.
In 2013 the law “Ley 337” came into force seeking to regulate land use in the Bolivian Amazon where deforestation for industrial agricultural production is increasing. The law requires landowners who illegally deforested land prior to 2011 to either reforest or establish "productive agriculture" on the land and pay reduced fines for past transgressions. The stated goal is to boost Bolivia's low agricultural productivity, which lags behind the rest of Latin America, and has exacerbated deforestation and been blamed for the need for occasional food imports. The measure thus aims to encourage expansion in already deforested areas, rather than driving new forest conversion, although it doesn't establish criteria for prioritizing areas according to best use.
The effectiveness of the law is still far from certain. Governance is virtually non-existent in parts of the Bolivian Amazon. Laws are selectively enforced and corruption is rampant. Further, by reducing fines for past illegal deforestation, the state is effectively forgoing potential revenue that could have paid for law enforcement under the country's Forestry Act 1700. The reduction carries the risk that producers will prefer to pay, formalize and produce. Also, Bolivia lacks the advanced deforestation monitoring system used in neighbouring Brazil to support efforts to crack down on illegal forest clearing. Its environmental police force is understaffed and underfunded.
Better land use legislation, management and enforcement would facilitate both increased food production and reduction in deforestation, and accompanied by strengthening institutions on national and local levels, constitutes a task of utmost importance.
About Forest Resources
This section provides an overview of the country's forest cover and a list of species found naturally and on plantations.
The Directorate General of Forests within the Ministry of Environment and Water (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Agua) carries the responsibility for the country’s forest policy and the national forestry regime. The Authority of Fiscalization and Social Control of Forest and Land (Autoridad de Fiscalización y Control Social de Bosques y Tierra, ABT) regulates, supervises and controls forestry production, transformation and transport.
Forests are mainly owned by the national or federal states. Only a minor proportion is in private hands of indigenous communities, the TIOCs (Territorio Indígena Originario Campesino – Original Peasant Indigenous Territory), as well as local social groups, the ASLs (Agrupaciones Sociales del Lugar). Bolivia is one of the leading countries in South America in implementing land reform and has transferred forest management rights to indigenous communities through a variety of mechanisms. Laws have further strengthened community rights and forests are increasingly being apportioned by the state for distribution to the communities. This uncertainty over land tenure is cited as one reason why the area of FSC certified forest has decreased in recent years.
Timber harvesting in Bolivia is legally permitted in:
- Forest concessions on state lands (Tierras Fiscales) – through approved forest management plans;
- Concessions for ASLs - through approved forest management plans;
- Privately owned forest lands though either sustainable forestry with management plans or conversion permits (permisos de desmonte); and;
- TIOCs through approved forest management plans.
About 90,000 km2 of the production forests are under government-approved forest management plans. The main system of forest tenure is through concessions on State-owned forest land.
With more than 10,000 km2 Bolivia has the largest area of certified natural forest in Latin America. Independent verification of legality still plays a minor role in Bolivia.
According to the Corruption Perception Index 2013 from Transparency International, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption in countries around the world using a score of 0-100 (where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is completely clean) Bolivia is ranked 106th out of 177 countries assessed. It has scored a corruption index of 34, meaning it has a perception of relatively high corruption. The levels of perception of corruption has stayed more or less the same from 2012 where Bolivia was ranked 105th out of 174 countries with a corruption index of 34.
The World Bank compiles a set of Worldwide Governance Indicators for all world economies. This country data report on Bolivia can be found in the full data set.
About Forest Management
This section provides an overview of the country's forest management, transparency indicators, CITES Agreement information as it applies to the country, and relevant laws and regulations (i.e. forestry laws, processing/manufacturing laws, trade laws, tax laws, and transport laws).
Bolivia’s timber industry accounted for 3.5% of export earnings in 2003. In 2013, according to the State of the World's Forests, 2014 report, this had decreased to 2.9% of GDP, with the forest sector generating US $ 560 million total of GVA. The timber sector generated a total of 4,1% of the total employment with 90,000 direct jobs and 160,000 indirect jobs in 2008 and plays a particular importance for the employment in rural areas. However, only 9,000 were employed in the formal sector, according to the State of the World's Forests 2014 report, with 42,000 employed in the informal and formal sector combined.
There are over 1,300 forestry companies registered with the Bolivian Forest Authority (2011) and around 6,000 forest products production units (sawmills, wood yards, and processing facilities), 70% of which are small or medium sized businesses that produce less than 1,000 m3 of timber per year.
In the export market, secondary processed wood products such as joinery, wood furniture and mouldings take a comparatively large share. The most important export market for wood products are the neighboring South American countries, the USA, China, followed by Germany and France.
Exports to the US started to decline with the onset of the financial crises in 2008, but this was off-set before 2011 by rising exports to China, however, exports to China also declined sharply between 2010 and 2011.
A large proportion of exports now consist of value added processed products in lesser known species such as Tajibo (“Ipé”), Morado (“Caviuna”), Roble ("South American oak"), Curupaú y Mara(“Mahogany”) of more than 60 species.
Commonly harvested species for industrial roundwood are:
- Hura crepitans: Ochoó
- Tabebuia impeteginosa: Tajibo
- Dipteryx odorata: Almendrillo
- Ficus glabrata: Bibosi
- Anadenanthera colubrina: Curupau
- Terminalia amazonica: Verdolago
- Cariniana ianarensis: Yesquero Blanco
- Ceiba pentandra: Hoja de Yuca or Mapajo
- Amburana cearensis: Roble
About Forest Products
This section provides an overview of the country's forest production and product trade.
|Camara Forestal de Bolivia||Bolivian Forestry Chamber|
|Asociaciónes Sociales del Lugar (ASLs)||Local Social Associations - the Forest Service grants concessions to ASLs for 40 years under the same regulations followed by timber companies. These concessions are given to local people (i.e. that effectively live on site) without auction as long as they meet the requirements for ASLs. According to the 1996 Forestry Law, local people from any municipality may request up to 20 percent of the public forest area of the local municipality as long as they are organized as an ASL.|
|Consejo Boliviano para la Certificación Forestal Voluntaria (CFV)||Bolivian Council for Voluntary Forest Certification|
|Cámara Agroforestal de Pando||Pando Chamber of Agro-Forestry|
|Asociación de Madereros de Pando||Pando Timber Association|
Civil Society Organizations
|CIDOB - La Confederación de Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia||The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia - made up of eight separate groups including:
|Apoyo Para el Campesino-Indígena del Oriente Boliviano (APCOB)||Support for the Indigenous Campesino Eastern Bolivia|
|Central Indígena de Comunidades de Concepción (CICC)||Indigenous Community of Central Concepción|
|Fundación Natura Bolivia||Foundation for Nature, Bolivia|
|Asociación Ecológica del Oriente (ASEO)||Eastern Ecological Association|
This section provides a list of local contacts who can serve as sources of further information, including industry associations, civil society organizations and government ministries.
Tools & Resources
Müller, Robert et al. (2014): The context of deforestation and forest degradation in Bolivia, Occasional paper 108, CIFOR.
Müller, Robert et al. (2013): Policy options to reduce deforestation based on a systematic analysis of drivers and agents in lowland Bolivia. Land Use Policy, Volume 30, Issue 1, January 2013, Pages 895–907.
Contreras-Hermosilla, Arnoldo & Vargas Ríos, María Teresa (2002): Social, Environmental and Economic Dimensions of Forest Policy Reforms in Bolivia, Forest Trends, Washington, D.C. & Center for International Forestry Research.
About Tools & Resources
This section directs you to useful and relevant tools and resources, developed by WRI, our partners or other organizations, that provide more information about the country.
Laws & Regulations
The concept of sustainable forest management was introduced in Bolivia with the reform of the forestry law in 1996. Since then forest management plans, forest inventories, harvest limits, seed tree retention, and annual reports have become obligatory. A professional forestry agency, the Bolivian Forestry Superintendent (Superintendencia Forestal) was created to provide oversight for the implementation and enforcement of the regulations. For the first time in Bolivian history indigenous communities' ancestral rights have precedence over concession-holders' rights and communities were given back the right to manage their forests for timber.
The legal framework for forest management is the following in Bolivia:
Supreme Decree No. 29643 on Community Forest Organizations dated 16 July 2008: Recognizes, regulates and promotes Community Forest Organizations (Organizaciones Forestales Comunitarias, OFC). It establishes a set of ﬁnancial and economic incentives to promote integrated forest management by OFCs and the implementation of Integrated Forest Management Plans with a technical orientation of the State. It establishes that the usable forest volume may serve as guarantee for bank credit ABT Guidelines (2008) Administrative resolutions aimed at regulating fundamental aspects such as the registration of OFCs (Guideline SF-IDS No 002/2008), the development of Forest Comprehensive Management Plans (Guideline SF-IDS No 003/2008) and the execution and registration of contracts (Guideline SF-IDS No 001/2008).
Supreme Decree No. 0726 of Special Temporary Authorizations (2010): Provides for the automatic conversion of the natural resource concessions granted until then into Special Temporary Authorizations in order to adapt them to the current CPE legal system, which establishes that all natural resource concessions– including forest concessions–should be adapted to the new legal system.
Supreme Decree No. 0443 of the National Program of Forestation and Reforestation dated 10 March 2010: Establishes the creation of the National Program of Forestation and Reforestation to advance in the increase of forest cover in the count.
Compliance with these regulations can be proven through:
- Entry in the municipal operation registry (Registro de funcionamiento municipal) run by the Municipal government. The business operates on an official FMU and has the right to do so.
- ABT operation registry (Registro de funcionamiento en la ABT) run by the ABT
- Certificate of non-debtor (Certificado de no deudor ABT) issued by ABT. Business is registered and pays taxes.
- General Forest Management Plan (PGMF) approved by ABT. PGMF is a technical document that describes the sustainable forest management of the specific area resources and establishes annual harvesting rights.
- Forestry operative annual plan (Programa operativo anual forestall (POAF)) approved by ABT. POAF refers to the forest exploitation program of a compartment inside the area (AAA – Área de Aprovechamiento Anual or Annual Exploitation Area).
- Forestry operative annual plan (Programa operativo anual forestal (POAF)) regulated by the ABT’s 248/98 norm and meets the following criteria: 1) Conformity to authorised AAC, species, diameter limits; 2)Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and protected sites been identified; 3) Timber harvesting regulations are respected; 4) Environmental protection Code of Conduct for Harvesting in place; 5) Social Impact Assessment (SIA) undertaken.
- Authorization and use of the resource contract (Contrato con el 3ero de autorización de aprovechamiento del recurso) by the company, approved by a Third party.
Note that indigenous groups and communities received the forests on their land granted for their own use and management as so called TCOs and theoretically timber and non-timber concessions must not overlap with TCOs. However, the government is still granting logging and non-timber concessions that overlap with TCOs, which is resulting in ongoing conflicts.
This means that a logging concession might be in full compliance with the legislation and in possession of all necessary documents, but it can still be the case that the concession is in conflict with other land use rights.
Forestry Law No. 1700 dated 12 July, 1996: Regulates the use of forest resources in the country and establishes mechanisms which guarantee the adoption of sustainable forest management.
Decree 24453 regulates Law No. 1700 dated 21 December 1996: Establishes an institutional framework with responsibilities and functions and the allocation of percentage resources for forest-use and clearing in the interest of public forest system institutions.
Law of National Service for Agrarian Reform No. 1715 dated 18 October 1996: Establishes the institutional framework for land administration, deﬁning modalities and procedures for land property titling and regularization and conditions to preserve ownership.
Law No. 3545 on Community Redirection of the Agrarian Reform: Modiﬁes Law 1715 (INRA Law), accelerates collective land titling and establishes that all available public lands should be provided preferentially in favour of indigenous peoples and communities or peasants that have no or insuﬃcient lands.
Law No. 3760 ratifying the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Raises the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to the rank of law.
Law No. 071 of Rights of Mother Earth: Recognizes Mother Earth’s rights, as well as the obligations and duties of the Plurinational State and society to ensure respect for these rights.
Law No. 144 of Productive Agricultural Community Revolution: Aims to establish rules for the process of the Productive Agricultural Community Revolution for food sovereignty, establishing the institutional and political bases and technical, technological and ﬁnancial mechanisms of production, processing and marketing of agricultural and forest products.
Law No. 300 of Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well: Promotes articulation of rights, establishes sectoral bases, technical instruments and guarantees for the rights of Mother Earth. It also establishes the Plurinational Authority of Mother Earth, mitigation and adaptation mechanisms and a ﬁnancial mechanism for the implementation of the climate and environmental agenda in Bolivia.
Law No. 337 on Support to Food Production and Forest Restoration: Enacted in order to regularize illegal clearing through immunity from ﬁnes for clearing performed until end-2011 to contribute to food security. It is generally perceived as an instrument to facilitate the expansion of the agricultural frontier, although it includes commitments to reforest and restore ecological reserves.
Bolivia implements a national traceability system for its timber and wood products. It is implemented for both the products that remain on the domestic market as well as those that go into export. Based on the forestry operative annual plan (POAF) which gets approved by the Authority of Fiscalization and Social Control of Forest and Land (ABT) the companies do a ‘’saneamiento de rodeo’’: the data in the POAF are compared with the actual logs harvested and ABT audits this.
The following documents are required to export timber and wood products in accordance with Bolivian legislation:
- Export Commercial Invoice issued by the National Tax Service (SIN)
- Packing list issued by the company
- Bill of landing issued by the shipping company
- Origin Certificate issued by the National Verification of Exports Service (SENAVEX – Servicio Nacional de Verificación de Exportaciones)
- CFO D issued by ABT
- Phytosanitary Certificate issued by the National Service of Agricultural Health and Food Safety (SENASAG – Servicio Nacional de Sanidad Agropecuaria e Inocuidad Alimentaria)
- Unique export declaration (DUE – Declaración Única de exportacion)
The following documents are required to transport and trade timber and wood products in accordance with Bolivian legislation:
- CFO and invoice approved by ABT and National Tax Service (SIN – Servicio. Nacional de Impuestos)
- Municipal operation registry (Registro de funcionamiento municipal) issued by the Municipal government - Business is registered and pays taxes
- ABT operation registry (Registro de funcionamiento en la ABT) issued by ABT - Business has the right to process forest products
- CFO B – National Commerce (Comercio interno) and CFB D – Exports (Exportación) issued by ABT
CITES Agreement Information
CITES is an international agreement among governments whose purpose is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plant species does not threaten the survival of these species. 180 countries (Sept 2014) have agreed to be bound by CITES, which is a binding legal agreement. It is up to each Party to CITES to draft its own domestic legislation in order to comply with its CITES obligations. Bolivia acceded to the Convention in 1979 .
Podocarpus parlatorei is used by local rural communities as a source of firewood, to make wooden posts, utensils or housing, as living fencing around houses and pastures. Historically this species was subject to heavy logging for its timber, which led to its inclusion in CITES Appendix I in 1975, and although there was a proposal by Argentina to down-list this species to Appendix II in 2008 (CITES 2008) this was rejected (CITES 2009). Today it is mainly threatened by loss of habitat due to human-set fires associated with the management of grassland areas for livestock ranching, although it is also an important commercial timber.
Cedrela fissilis, Cedrela lilloi and Cedrela odorata applies to logs, sawn wood and veneer sheets. The species has become rare in Bolivia and is now only harvested opportunistically.
CITES annotation for Bulnesia sarmientoi applies to logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets, plywood, powder and extracts.
CITES annotation for Cedrela fissilis, Cedrela lilloi and Cedrela odorata applies to logs, sawn wood and veneer sheets.
Laws & Regulations
This section provides a list of local contacts who can serve as sources of further information, including industry associations, civil society organizations and government ministries.