Protected area as a category of forest land use is provided in the Forestry Law (2007) under Conservation Forests, Article 11 as one of three forest types in Lao PDR, which is defined as: Conservation Forest is forest classified for the utilization purposes of conserving the nature, preserving plants and animal species, forest ecosystems and other valuable sites of natural, historical, cultural, tourism, environmental, educational and scientific importance. Since the end of 2011 the management authority of protected areas in Lao PDR falls under the responsibility of the Department of Forest Resource Management of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
The protected area system of Lao PDR is one of the youngest and ecologically representative protected area systems in the world. In contrast to many other national protected area systems the Lao PDR system was designed and implemented in one process based on an analysis of the country's biogeography. This means that there is a representative coverage of key habitats within each of the biogeographic sub-units of Lao PDR. The establishment of this protected area system was the start of a long-term process of developing a management system capable of protecting, enhancing and managing valuable resources on a sustainable basis, for the benefit of the entire nation. Unlike many other countries, Laos is committed to developing a partnership approach to protected area management with the local people who live in and around the protected areas and depend on the natural resources in these areas for their daily livelihood.
This is the so-called co-management approach, in which local villagers will be a key player and assist in being the ears and eyes of the government, aims to protect biodiversity values in the Lao PDR. At the same time, it recognizes the development needs of both the nation as a whole, and the many rural villagers who are dependent on the natural resource base for their daily livelihoods. It also endorses the rights of all stakeholders to actively participate in making decisions about protected areas, but emphasizes that with these rights come responsibilities for protecting and sustainably managing the natural resources they contain. The overall goal of co-management can be defined as: jointly with guardian villages and other stakeholders, to protect, enhance and manage protected areas and their resources in a sustainable manner, for the good of local people and the Lao Nation as a whole. One of the objectives to reach the goal is to develop co-management systems with guardian villages by providing them with a stake in the resources they are being asked to help protect through the development of secure and sustainable resource use systems and benefit sharing in nature-based tourism developments.