Forests provide the basic life support system to all the living beings of mother earth including mankind. Forest ecosystems provide fresh air, water resources, fertile soil for sustenance of agriculture, bio-diversity, climate change mitigation and numerous other ecosystem services. Vast sections of rural society, including a majority of the tribals, are directly dependent on forests for their livelihood.
The Karnataka Forest Department has the primary mandate of protecting the forests and wildlife, conserving the rich biodiversity of the state and ensuring that the ecological balance of the forest eco-systems is maintained. The Department is headed by Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Head of Forest Force(HOFF). The Department presently has a total working strength of around 8000 executive personnel including Indian Forest Service Officers and officers/ field staff of various cadres. The total recorded forest area of the State is 43,382 sq. km. The State has a network of Protected Areas with 5 Tiger Reserves, 30 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 15 Conservation Reserves and 1 Community Reserve.
The work carried out by the Department can be broadly classified into the following categories: regulatory, protection, conservation and sustainable management. As part of the regulatory functions, the department enforces provisions of various legislations such as Karnataka Forest Act 1963, Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act 1976, etc. and corresponding rules. Protection functions include, boundary consolidation, protection of forest areas from encroachment, illicit-felling, mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, undertaking fire prevention and control measures etc.
The conservation functions include taking up of plantation works, soil-moisture conservation and watershed development works for water security, conservation of rare, endangered and threatened (RET) species and conducting awareness activities to sensitize all sections of the society on the importance of forests, wildlife and biodiversity. In territorial areas, the department is also involved in sustainable extraction and marketing of timber and other forest produce as per the specifications of the Working Plans. The Department is also engaged on a large scale in promoting agro-forestry through incentivization to support farmer’s income.