Despite its argued theoretical benefits, forestry decentralization in practice can have detrimental effects on forest-dependent peoples, but little is understood about the specific paths by which decentralization affects livelihoods. This article, based on data from research in 2005 in Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, presents a working conceptual model for analyzing these interactions. The research found that vulnerability increased when decentralization was not combined with policies addressing structural inequities-that is, increased municipal government control over land and forests must be accompanied by policies increasing poor local people's access rights and security. At the same time, increased municipal government authority over forest management and monitoring can facilitate access to these and other assets needed for forest livelihoods, but this new responsibility must also be accompanied by improved controls over local authorities. The needed changes rarely come about without specific organized demands of local actors' associations and movements.