How do societies negotiate the apparently competing agendas of environmental protection and social justice? And why do some countries perform much better than others? Democracy in the Woods answers these question by explaining the trajectories of forest and land rights—and the fate of forest-dependent peasants—in the forested regions of India, Tanzania, and Mexico. To organize a comparative inquiry that straddles the fields of comparative politics, historical institutionalism, and policy studies, this book develops a political economy of institutions framework. It shows that differences in structures of political intermediation—venues that help peasant groups and social movements engage in political and policy processes—explain the varying levels of success in combining the pursuits of social justice and environmental conservation. This book challenges the age-old notion that populist policies produce uniformly deleterious environmental consequences that must be mitigated via centralized systems of environmental regulation. It shows instead that the national leaders and dominant political parties that must compete for popular support in the political arena are more likely to fashion interventions that pursue conservation of forested landscapes without violating the rights of forest-dependent people. Mexico demonstrates the potential for win-win outcomes, India continues to stumble on both environmental and social questions despite longstanding traditions of popular mobilization for forestland rights, and Tanzania’s government has failed its forest-dependent people despite a lucrative wildlife tourism sector. This book’s political analysis of the control over and use of nature opens up new avenues for reflecting on nature in the Anthropocene.