Since ancient times, the people of Sri Lanka have recognized the importance of forests for their environmental and cultural values and, as a source of supply of their basic material needs. In colonial times, however, forests began to be cleared for shifting cultivation, paddy cultivation, the raising of plantation crops, and human settlement; and where forests were left. intact, they were selectively and heavily exploited for supplying timber. With the passage of time, the pace of deforestation increased, and by the year 2000, the forest cover had reduced to 22 J per cent of the land area, from 84 per cent in 1881. To reduce the pressure on the natural forests for timber and to rehabilitate degraded land, the Forest Department carried out forestation projects in both the dry and wet zones. These plantations serve as a source of timber for wood-based industries and for supplying the needs of the local people, while also contributing to environmental protection. In this paper many aspects of forestry development in Sri Lanka over time are described in detail.