It has been suggested that weaknesses in rights and land tenure is one of the important causes of forest-related violence. We go beyond rights and tenure to examine relationships between deforestation, forest-related violence, and multi-scale forest governance in a situation of secure tenure rights in comparative case studies of four communities in two watersheds in Guerrero, Mexico. Multi-scale forest governance influenced different rates of land use/cover change and lethal violence but cattle and human population are also influential. We suggest that weaknesses at the regional level of forest governance can be compensated by strong national and community governance. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.