Interactions between local and distant actors in forest frontier landscapes shape local land uses. The concept of telecoupling, referring to interaction between distant social-ecological systems, has emerged as a means to understand these cross-scale connections. It provides a framework to analyse distant actors and institutions influencing local land use decisions and driving non-sustainable land governance. Among the countries showing this phenomenon is Madagascar, where local land use is highly influenced by distant actors. In north-eastern Madagascar, small-scale farmers are subject to double incentive from actors of environmental and economic domains. Facing population growth and increasing land constraints, these farmers are expanding their agricultural land into the remaining protected forests. However, studies on transformation pathways into sustainable land governance under telecoupling and agents of change leading and driving these transformation are lacking. We used agency analysis to disentangle actors’ means and meanings, and social network analysis to select central actors in the telecoupled governance structure. Our findings show that the international conservation actors are very powerful in terms of their relatively colossal resources and their global strategies regarding conservation. Nevertheless, economic actors at the district and village-level in Madagascar happen to have central and broker positions in the telecoupled land governance. Therefore, a more sustainable regional development requires collaboration between the agents of change such as conservation and economic actors across sectors, scales and domains. Specifically, as a pathway to transformation, conservation actors could provide means and strategies to reach sustainable development to the economic actors at local level, for them to spread information and knowledge.