Some of Iran's forest resources were nationalized under Mohammad Reza Shah's development plans, beginning in 1963. Since then, the state has gradually gained control over forest use. The plentiful commercial timber in the Alborz and Zagros mountains was diminished by illegal cutting that did not show up in official statistics; approximately 6.5 million cubic meters were cut in 1986 alone. Of an estimated 18 million hectares of forest lands, only about 3.2 million hectares near the Caspian Sea can be regarded as commercially productive.
Plentiful rainfall, a mild climate, and a long growing season have combined to create a dense forest of high-quality timber in the Caspian region. There is an extensive growth of temperate-zone hardwoods, including oak, beech, maple, Siberian elm, ash, walnut, ironwood, alder, basswood, and fig. About half of the Caspian forests consists of these trees; the remainder is low-grade scrub. The Zagros Mountains in the west and areas in Khorasan and Fars provinces abound in oak, walnut, and maple trees. Shiraz is renowned for its cypresses.
To curtail indiscriminate forest destruction, the government in 1967 moved to nationalize all forests and pastures. A forest service was established; by 1970 more than 3,000 forest rangers and guards were employed, and 1.3 million saplings had been planted on 526,315 hectares of land. The value of exported forest products was six times greater in 1973 than in 1984; the decrease in exports probably resulted from increased domestic and war-related consumption.
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