Protected forests in Nigeria have failed to provide sustainable ecological functions for rural livelihoods and contributions to climate change reduction. These setbacks have increased pains on forest based communities that lost traditional ecological knowledge and incomes from the forests. The objectives of this study were to: review forestry activities in protected forests from 1940 to 2021; determine the causes of crises including decline in protected forests; and proffer solutions for them. Data were derived from literature, discussions with stakeholders in forestry management and members of local communities whose lands were constituted into protected forests. The study revealed that the fundamental crises in the protected forests were caused by two factors. First was the failure of governments to fund forest management activities and protect the reserves from illegal activities. Second was non recognition and denial of indigenous land owners their rights to their ancestral forests to sustain their livelihoods and culture. A five tier strategies is proposed to save protected forests from decline: (i) governments should take responsibility to fund and manage the protected forests sustainably; (ii) poacher-settlers in protected forests should be flushed out by governments; (iii) forest inventories should be taken on species, habitats and structures present; (iv) protected forest planning should be based on recent data of the forests; and (v) mutually based revenue collection and sharing with land owners should be put in place to end land tenure crises in protected forests.
Keywords: Protected forests, Crises, Livelihoods, Indigenous landowners, Poachers