A global ‘forest tenure transition’ is underway, with declining state tenure of previously appropriated forested landscapes and increasing citizen tenure. However, at the local level the process involves complex political-economic struggles with the incumbent power holders. This paper examines these struggles, taking the example of India’s Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (or simply Forest Rights Act). Considering the implementation processes in the state of Andhra Pradesh, the extent to which rural people in forest areas have been able to access the provisions of the Act is assessed. Based on fieldwork from 2010, weaknesses are identified in the way legislated rights are being secured, and the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department staffs are found to obstruct the democratic mandate for reform. It is concluded that the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department is operating beyond the normal processes of democratic control and oversight in a bid to retain its hegemony.