Operational plans have presented identical sets of forest management objectives and activities irrespective of the varying biophysical and social contexts of their implementation.
Collective management objectives of community forestry differ from the priorities of individual households in the rural communities.
The contents of operational plans, which are designed to inform forest management decisions, are barely related to and poorly understood by local communities.
Operational plans have received a symbolic value of forest ownership rather than being used as device to guide forest management operations.
The plans need revision in their technical content in order to make them relevant to the capacity, priority and practices of forest management by local communities.
Operational plans are a key element in community forestry in Nepal. However, the relevance of these plans to forest user groups (FUGs) is under scrutiny. This study investigates the usefulness of operational plans against the backdrop of knowledge, capacity and management practices of FUGs. Data were collected from 13 operational plans, 16 group discussions involving forestry professionals, and 218 household interviews in two villages of Lamjung district in Nepal. Whereas operational plans should specifically reflect site specific objectives and activities of forest management, the survey revealed identical objectives across the community forests. Current operational plans are technically complex, poorly linked to the place-based context of livelihood needs and less useful to the FUGs to inform and enhance forest management. This study proposes to differentiate community forests according to their production potentials, and revise the operational plans by shortening the elements that have little or no relevance to the FUGs.