Kamataka State has a geographical area of 1,91,791 sq km of which 38,284 sq.km (19.96 per cent) is under the control of the Forest Department. The forests are classified as reserved (28,689.99 sq.km), protected (3,930.70 sq. km), unclassed (5,230.99 sq. km), village (124.2 sq.km) and private (308.42 sq. km) forests. The unclassed areas include C and D class lands which are mostly barren, transferred from the Revenue department. The percentage of forest area to geographical area in the State is less the all-India average of about 23%, and 33% prescribed in the National Forest policy. The area under forests in the neighbouring States is as follows : Andhra pradesh 62 lakh ha (9% of the total area of the Country), Maharashtra 54 lakh ha (8%), Tamilnadu 22 lakh ha (3%) and Kerala 11 lakh ha (2%).
About two lakh ha. of forest area is lost for non-forestry purposes since 1956 to 1986-87 and the details are as follows: For hydroelectric purposes : 22,194 ha, electricity lines 1,688 ha, roads: 330 ha, tanks – 35,840 ha, townships- 1,791 ha, mining -42,676 ha, agriculture – 67,217 ha, rehabilitation – 25, 820 ha, other purposes 6,357 ha and total 2,03,913 ha. The outturn of major forest produce for the year 1991-92 is as follows: 1) Timber – a) Rosewood 4,522 M3, b)Teak -3,376 M3 c)Other kinds of timber – 41,253 M3 2)Pulpwood – 213 M3 4)Matchwood – 131 M3, 5)Sawn Timber – 618 M3 6) Timber in round
pole – 32,067 M3 7)Firewood – 1,66,039 M3, 8)Bamboo – 19,299 M.T. and Sandalwood 1,418 M3.
Though 20% of the land area is classified as forests (3,86 million ha) in the State, only about 11% is well wooded. The remaining area is in different stages of degradation. The State is facing shortage of fuel wood, fodder and timber as the demand has increased considerably due to the increase in population of both human and cattle. The forests in the State are managed as per the prescriptions of the working plans which are prepared for periods of 10 to 15 years after taking into consideration the type of forests, the condition of the existing crop, the demand for various forest produce and the requirements of the area for maintenance of ecological balance. Karnataka Government has established many National Parks and Wild Life Sanctuaries to protect important species. The following is the list of National parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries (WS) and their year of establishment.
There are five National Parks and 21 wildlife sanctuaries covering an extent of 6,360 Sq. km. of the total forest area. They comprise of evergreen to scrub type of forests thus forming a network of representative ecosystem to conserve endangered species of plants as well as animals and birds. As per the 1989 census of the larger mammals, there were 257 tigers, 283 panthers, 4,418 elephants and 5,473 bisons. As per the Census of Wildlife population conducted during 1997-98 there were 395 tigers, 1,360 gaur, 6,185 elephants, 817 panthers, 2,324 bears, 15,760 wild bears, 23,850 deer, 8,484 bisons, 4,998 sambars and 957 foxes.