The implementation of "reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation" (REDD+) will inevitably be affected by local social and political dynamics, with the potential for success depending significantly on cooperation from a range of stakeholders at the subnational level. Building on recent critical research on REDD+, we look at how global policy is interpreted locally by actors who are likely to be involved in REDD+ implementation. We do this by examining local stakeholder perceptions of REDD+ and forest management in two contrasting provinces of Indonesia, Riau and Papua, where deforestation rates are high and low, respectively. Using data collected from stakeholder workshops, we conduct a discourse analysis that reveals how subnational actors perceive and position themselves around REDD+ and forest governance. The results reveal six discourses common to both case-study provinces, which variously conflict and converge as they are employed by different actors. Seen together, these discourses provide critical insights into the subnational policy environment, which is largely a product of Indonesia's underlying land and forest politics, and they indicate in turn how REDD+ in practice is likely to be interpreted and reconstituted at the local level. A key finding is that local discourses can be grouped around two divergent positions on REDD+: one that supports forest exploitation and sees limited prospects in forest carbon, and one that embraces sustainable forest management and expresses conditional support for REDD+ subject to benefit-sharing and property arrangements. REDD+ practitioners will therefore need to craft policies and project processes that account for these discursive dynamics.