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This article analyses role of the concept of “public interest” in forest management, governance and conservation in Turkey and seeks to obtain an insight into the “public interest” through exploring the permit process given by the State, and to help better understanding the roots of current issues. An institutional approach will be followed and various formal and informal legislation will be explored in their complex and dynamic interplay, which leads and shapes practices on the ground and resulting outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to bring some new perspectives to the debate about the proper balance between economic development policies and forest protection. It is also hypothesized that the concept of “public interest” could increase and lead deforestation through legislation. It first explains the theoretical framework on resource management, forest policy, and public interest. This general overview is followed by a more in-depth analysis of the role that public interest plays in deforestation via the permit process in the State forests. Turkey has lost irrevocably an area of 654.833 hectares in the State forests via the 94.148 permits granted. This analysis of public interest confirms that it is important to avoid legislation that overreaches. The concept of public interest may exceed implementation capacity (i.e., there may be an imbalance between the activities, procedures and institutional arrangements prescribed by legislation and high court decisions). Re-organization of decision-making mechanisms/process with a more participative approach is an important step toward achieving good governance and sustainability of the forest resources.