Before the 1980s, centralized forest policies in many African countries excluded local communities, while forest resources were frequently degraded. In response, Participatory Forest Management (PFM) was introduced to devolve management and improve livelihoods, forest condition and governance. Building on existing analyses that highlight the limited successes of PFM, this study focuses on the equitability and efficacy of PFM governance in Tanzania. Previous work notes several shortcomings of PFM, often stressing the issue of elite capture - our paper explores this issue in further detail by applying a mixed methods approach. Specifically, by using individual rather than household level surveys we can better assess the extent of marginalization and whether wealth and gender are determining factors. We assess whether PFM has achieved devolution by comparing observed outcomes to stated policy objectives and the decentralization framework developed by Agrawal and Ribot (1999). We surveyed 227 individuals, in two case study villages adjacent to SULEDO Village Land Forest Reserve (Kiteto District), conducted six focus group discussions and 10 key informant interviews to answer these research questions: (a) To what extent are management institutions representative and inclusive of the local community? (b) To what extent are local communities empowered to influence decision-making and access benefits? (c) To what extent is the local forest management institution accountable to local communities relative to superior authorities under PFM? In the case study villages, PFM is characterised by a low rate of resident and Village Environmental Committee member engagement in committee elections, formal village assemblies, PFM training, formulation and first-approval of by-laws. Low levels of satisfaction were also found with the mechanisms of benefit sharing and the level of accountability of management institution leaders. We found that SULEDO has become dominated by a very restricted “elite within an elite”, comprising only zonal leaders and close associates. Overall, we found a significant gap between observed outcomes and PFM policy objectives, and therefore a failure to fully achieve meaningful devolution.