This article investigates forest policies and institutions surrounding REDD+ in three heavily forested countries: India, Tanzania, and Mexico. The comparative analysis leads to three key insights. First, each of the case study countries has multiple land tenure statutes that result in different distributions of the costs and benefits of forest protection for key stakeholders. Second, land tenure regimes that offer local communities the most secure forest rights are not necessarily those associated with benefit-sharing mechanisms outlined in national REDD+ policy proposals. Third, a credible commitment by government to share REDD+ benefits with forest-dependent people is contingent on the interests of key actors involved in the policy process. Political and administrative structures that limit the power and authority of forest government bodies lead to more responsive and accountable policy outcomes.