Chile has embraced the expansion of monoculture forest plantations of exotic Monterey pine and eucalyptus as part of its development strategy. While forestry is considered financially successful and meets sustainability objectives, the increase in forest plantations across southern Chile has received harsh critiques for exacerbating conflict over Indigenous land rights, producing negative environmental outcomes, and increasing poverty and inequality. There are also claims that forest plantation expansion has led to an abandonment of the countryside. Migration is viewed as a result of the socioeconomic challenges that forest plantations produce at the local level; however, the linkages have not been explored. We examine the linkages between forest plantations and migration through two questions: Is there a relationship between forest plantation cover change and out-migration from rural areas? If so, what are the factors that explain this process? We use a difference-in-differences method analyzing panel data from the Chilean census and from CONAF, the Chilean National Forest Corporation, complemented by interviews, mapping workshops, and focus groups to answer these questions. Results indicate a statistically significant relationship between expanding forest plantations and population decline in rural areas. Qualitative data show that this expansion led to displacement of residents, declines in employment opportunities, and agriculture difficulties.
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