Review of Policy Research, Vol 32, No 6, 2015, pp. 699-722
Governments increasingly struggle to protect representative nature types and ecological diversity within their territories only via the instrument of publicly designated protected areas. This article examines the rise of voluntary conservation and certification (i.e. private conservation) as tools for forest protection in Norway and Canada. We contrast the differing potential of these private conservation tools with protection through government legislation and regulation using four evaluative criteria: the representativeness of protected areas, the strength of protection, the longevity of protection, and information generated through protection. We find that private conservation tools can match the strength of legal protection and help to dispel conflict, but that private tools create protection that is more likely to be reversed in the future. However, we also show that voluntary private conservation can become public protection, which highlights the importance of examining different paths towards secure, long-lasting protection.