Building and nurturing institutions are most challenging tasks in any development work. In this paper an attempt has been made to understand the rise and fall of institutions involved in the management of forest resources. This has been done through comparative case studies of Van (Forest) Panchayats of Uttaranchal and Forest Protection Committees of West Bengal in India. As has been documented, Van Panchayats have been created as a response to the people’s movement against forest reservation at the beginning of the 20th century. The concept of Forest Protection Committees under Joint Forest Management in India has recently emerged in response to the severe degradation of forest resources and the persistent conflicts and movements against the State. The paper goes on to explain the evolution, management systems and effectiveness of these institutions along with the issues they are confronted with in the management and protection of forest resources.