This study assesses the causes of forest resource depletion in the Poba reserve forest, Assam, India. Although many activities, such as hunting and grazing, are banned, the Poba reserve forest is being degraded. The results of a household survey show local communities have experienced a decrease in forest resources in 2012 compared to 2002. Lack of community-based institutions and proper forest management plan has opened access to the forest, resulting in illegal logging and over extraction of forest products. These activities have limited the ability of Poba reserve forest to deliver ecosystem goods and services, and prevented forest restoration. Change is forest cover and availability of forest products has adversely affected the livelihoods of more than two-thirds of local households. The study suggests that participatory involvement of local communities in forest management can reverse trends in deforestation and forest degradation and restore the ecosystem. The forest cannot stand alone; it needs active support of the local community.