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We can’t afford to lose any more natural forests with high conservation values. Photo: Annette Seldén /N

Stop all logging in forests with high conservation values, reduce Sveaskog’s profit returns, phase out clear-cuttings and increase the budget for the protection of forests. These are some of the requirements that NGOs and scientists call for in an appeal to members of the Swedish government, to EU parliamentarians and ministers in a wish-list for Christmas.

The NGOs and scientists demand that the politicians act because according to international reports from IPBES and IPCC, we must urgently reduce the pressure on nature and save biodiversity. More forests need protection and a system change is needed in our ways of carrying out forestry. The NGOs and scientists write:

”We are several organizations and scientists who are worried about that our last natural unprotected forests will be logged and we are therefore handing over an appeal to politicians, as a wish-list for Christmas. On the 16 December the Swedish parliament will debate the budget for general environmental and conservation issues for 2020. It is of utter importance that the budget is increased for protection of forests in the coming years”.

 

Gijmiesgielas, an old natural forest in the reindeer grazing lands of Maskaure Sami village.
Sveaskog has already built a road through the forest. Photo: Björn Mildh

In the letter (in Swedish) with the appeal  there is a list attached with examples of threatened natural forests with high conservation values, which are going to be logged, two are already logged now. The remaining forests need urgent protection. At least 17-20 percent of all ecologically representative and well-connected land areas have to be protected by 2020, according to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). Today only 6 percent of the productive forest has long-term protection in Sweden. In the appeal it is clear that there is no time left, and therefore we cannot afford to lose more valuable natural forest in Sweden. The politicians have to put their foot down. Julian Klein, spokesperson in Protect the Forest says: 

”For decades a united international body of researchers have been warning the world about the consequences of fossil fuels, long before the first politicians dared implement some modest measures. Now again, a united international body of researchers are warning the world about the on-going degradation of biodiversity, which is threatening human survival. Fast and decisive action has to be taken, not just some modest measures!”

About 45 000 individuals and 23 organizations have previously requested protection of all of Sveaskog’s natural forests with high conservation values in the campaign Vår skog (Our Forest). The campaign took place during the beginning of 2019 and a petition with requests about changes was handed over to the Minister of Enterprise and Energy, Ibrahim Baylan, but since then nothing has happened.

The natural forest planned for logging in Bientie in the county of Norrbotten, which is an important reindeer grazing forest.
Several threatened species have been found in the forest, according to an inventory. Photo: Björn Mildh.

The natural forest planned for logging in Bientie in the county of Norrbotten, which is an important reindeer grazing forest. Several threatened species have been found in the forest, according to an inventory done by the organization Nature and Youth. Photo: Björn Mildh.

The NGOs and the researchers write that to stop the on-going degradation of biodiversity of forests the situation demands that:

Forestry is stopped in all forests with high conservation values in Sweden.
The state-owned forestry company Sveaskog is given new directives with lowered profit returns to be able to fulfill the environmental target concerning forests.
The budget for protection of Swedish forests is increased to 5 billion SEK per year, starting during this election period until all forests with high conservation values are protected in a long-term, sustainable and transparent way and are ecologically integrated in a wider landscape.
Clear-cutting forestry is phased out and replaced by forestry without clear-cutting methods in forests without high conservation values.

Sveaskog is planning to log the 200-year old pineforest at Melakträskliden in Arvidsjaur’s municipality. Photo: Björn Mildh.

In total, 28 representatives from 26 organizations, a Sami village and 13 researchers have signed the appeal. Organizations such as Climate Action Sweden, Fridays for Future, Nature and Youth Sweden, local groups from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), The Rights of Nature and End Ecocide Sweden have signed the letter to the politicians. Protect the Forest has taken the initiative to this appeal and have also written a debate article about it.

 

Dalarnas municipality, Sweden – Ore Forest landscape. Photo: Sebastian Kirppu

One of northwestern Europe’s largest and most valuable natural pine forest landscapes at Gåsberget in Ore Forest landscape in the municipality of Dalarna in Sweden, is threatened by logging. The organizations Protect the Forest, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) in Rättvik and Nature and Youth in Sweden have sent a letter to the governor and the County Administrative Board in Dalarna and to the politicians and authorities concerned, that they have to take action now to preserve these forests.

Several forests with high conservation values in the area of Gåsberget and in Ore Forest landscape are planned to be logged. Two large wind power plants are also planned to be built in the forests. In a press-release the NGO’s state that authorities and politicians must take action. The natural pineforests at Gåsberget need protection now since few such natural pine forest landscapes remain in Sweden, or even in Europe, since they have all been logged.

The project ”Grön infrastruktur i Gåsbergets värdetrakt” (Green infrastructure in Gåsberget’s valuable forest landscape) is a collaboration project with many actors- the County Administrative Board, the Swedish Forest Agency, the forestry companies Sveaskog and Stora Enso and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). According to the NGO's the need for protection is not emphasized enough in the project. Furthermore, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation have been excluded from the project although they stand for a legimitate common interest.  

The organizations call for that there should be no forestry at all in the forests around Gåsberget and in Ore Forest Landscape, which is an approach in line with conservation research and national and international environmental goals. Elin Götmark, spokesperson in Protect the Forest, says:  

”It is unacceptable that the County Administrative Board and the Swedish Forest Agency do not stand up for our environmental goals and that they also exclude the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) from the project. SSNC stand for a legitimate common interest. To not carry out forestry in forests with high conservation values is in line with research on conservation biology since so few forests with high conservation values remain”.

Brännvinsberget in Ore Forest Landscape after being clear-cut. Photo: Sebastian Kirppu

In the letter the NGO’s state that if we don’t protect all forests with high conservation values, how are we ever going to preserve the biodiviersty in Sweden? This is a question they would like the governor, politicians and the authorities to answer.

In less than a month, by 2020, at least 17-20 per cent of all land areas should be protected in ecologically representative systems, according to international and national environmental goals. Today, only 6 percent of the productive forest in Sweden has long-term protection.

Margareta Wikström, chairperson for SSNC in Rättvik says:  

”In Ore Forest Landscape and around Gåsberget there are still some forests left which have high conservation values and these need to be protected so that we reach the national environmental goals, although these forests are just fragments of what they once were. Now they want to log the fragments too- but in a legitimate way.”

One of the forests with high conservation values in Ore Forest Landscape. Photo: Sebastian Kirppu.

Gåsberget in Ore Forest Landscape in the county of Dalarna in Sweden is one of northwest Europe’s largest and most valuable natural pine forest landscapes. The area needs urgent protection. But unfortunately, its conservation values are not emphasized enough in the project "Green infrastructure at Gåsberget’s High Value Forest Landscape”, which is a collaboration between the County Administrative Board, the Swedish Forest Agency, the forestry companies Sveaskog and Stora Enso and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) is an environmental organization that has surveyed the forests there but have been excluded from the project.

All forestry should be carried out with consideration at Gåsberget, according to the publication "Green infrastructure at Gåsberget’s High Value Forest Landscape” from the County Administrative Board. The organization Protect the Forest states that protection of the forest at Gåsberget is not emphasized enough. Forests with high conservation values in Sweden should not be logged at all, according to the organization, which is an approach in line with scientific research and national and international environmental goals.

Protect the Forest states that it is unacceptable that the County Administrative Board and the Swedish Forest Agency do not stand up for our environmental goals and that they exclude The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), with about 230 000 members, from the project. SSNC has a legitimate common interest in the forest. There is about 20% old natural pine forest with a history of forest fires left in Ore Forest Landscape. Very few such landscapes remain in the Swedish lowlands below the mountain region, which makes Gåsberget and Ore Forest Landscape unique.

During 2013 and 2017 SSNC carried out solid surveys in Ore Forest Landscape. They mapped out where forests with high conservation values are situated and registered which species are found there. But Ore Forest Landscape is not even mentioned in the publication from the County Administrative Board. Furthermore, the board does not refer to SSNC’s surveys other than briefly as ”voluntary conservation work which calls for more protection in the area and setting aside forests from logging”. SSNC has not been invited to take part in the County Administrative Board’s collaboration project.

Read more about Protect the Forest’s views about the content in the County Administrative Board’s publication (in Swedish) ”Projektet Grön infrastruktur i Gåsbergets värdetrakt - Delredovisning om motiv, målsättningar och utkast till metodik” (2019) here.

A valuable natural forest in Sveaskog's Ecopark Ejheden near Lannaberget where a large wind farm is planned. Photo: Bengt Oldhammer.

Not only are several forests with high natural values ​​planned for logging in Ore Forest Landscape in Dalarna in Sweden - now parts of the area are also threatened by two large wind farms. Protect the Forest demands that both permit applications for the wind farms Lannaberget and Broboberget should be completely rejected.

The wind power company Wpd plans to build two large wind farms at Broboberget and Lannaberget in Ore Forest Landscape in the municipalities of Rättvik and Ovanåker in Dalarna. A total of 80 wind turbines will be built at Broboberget and 35 wind turbines will be built at Lannaberget, both with a total height of 230 meters.

Already in 2014, Wpd submitted a permit application for the wind power projects Broboberget and Lannaberget to the County Administrative Board in Dalarna County. Permission was granted by the County Environmental Permit Board (Miljöprövningsdelegationen) at the County Administrative Board in Dalarna County in 2016. The decision was then appealed by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Rättvik to the Land and Environmental Court, which referred the case to the County Administrative Board for further processing. Wpd has now submitted documentation to supplement the former application.

Several woodland key habitats and areas with documented conservation values ​​are found where Brobobergets and Lannaberget wind farms are planned. Several of the woodland key habitats will be surrounded by wind turbines.

Protect the Forest writes in its submitted response to the Country Administrative Board in Dalarna County:

The woodland key habitats will remain as small isolated islands in a fragmented and permanently deforested landscape. This will affect many red-listed species and indicator species' ability to survive and spread extremely negatively."

In addition, the Broboberget wind farm is located near the Trollmosseskogen nature reserve in the west. Just a few kilometers south of Broboberget's wind power park is also Gåsberget nature reserve where one of Sweden's most preserved post-fire deciduous forest is located. The bird life in the reserve's deciduous forest area is very rich and, given the proximity to the wind farm, there are great risks that the bird life in the nature reserve will be negatively affected.

Protect the Forest state that the planned wind farms will have a strong negative impact on biodiversity, landscape ecology, the visual impression, noise disturbance, tourism, outdoor life and recreational opportunities. The organisation calls for a landscape ecological analysis of the cumulative effects of the two wind farms and demands that both permit applications for the wind farms Lannaberget and Broboberget are rejected.

Ore Forest Landscape harbours one of the largest and most valuable natural pine forest landscapes in northwestern Europe. As much as 20 % of protection-worthy older natural pine forest with a history of forest fire is found in the Forest Landscape. Very few such landscapes remain in Sweden below the montane region, which makes Ore Forest Landscape unique. However, the valuable forest areas in Ore Forest Landscape have decreased in recent years. Sveaskog logged over 600 hectares of high conservation value forests ​​in Ore Forest Landscape between years 2013-2017. Since then, even more high conservation value forests ​​have been logged or are planned for logging.

Download Protect the Forest's submitted response to the Country Administrative Board in Dalarna County regarding the permit application for Lannaberget wind farm, municipality of Rättvik, and Broboberget wind farm, municipalities of Rättvik and Ovanåkers, here (in Swedish).

A clear-cut by the FSC-certified forest company Holmen in Hälsingland, Sweden. Photo: Robert Svensson

The Swedish forest worker and conservationist Bert Andersson has written an opinion article about damage caused by forest machines to the forest floors in Sweden. Bert Andersson passed away in 2016 but his words are still very relevant. He lived in the forest his whole life and experienced how the forest landscape changed from old-growth forests full of biodiversity to barren landscapes with damaged forest floors.

This is a translated article, previously published in Hela Hälsingland.

Damage caused by forestry machines emerged when the first forwarders appeared in the Swedish forest, about 50 years ago. The forwarders are built specially to manage driving with heavy timber loads in difficult terrain. Every year the machines have become larger, heavier and have stronger engines with technical solutions which have led to extreme navigation ability in the forest but at the cost of severe damage to the forest floors.

No human activity causes such severe and extensive damage to the forest floors as the forestry machines. It will take hundreds of years- or even thousands of years, depending on the soil and its location, before the wheel tracks, which are often over one meter deep, grow back together again. During this long time lapse the damages continue causing serious impact to nature and climate.

In areas where damage to the forest floor is severe there is a significant change in hydrology and soil chemistry which leads to leaching of humus, nutrients and very poisonous methylmercury. 20 per cent of all methylmercury that ends up in lakes and water are estimated to come from forestry. Of course, this leads to negative impacts to the soil, to water and to biodiversity. Deep tracks running down slopes cause erosion so that enormous amounts of sludge end up in the surroundings, sometimes up to half a kilometer away. After a forest has been logged a machine prepares the ground with a ploughing effect which completes the massacre.

There is a lot of talk about how important it is to limit emissions of carbon dioxide because of temperature rise and climate problems. From clear-cuttings and soil damage caused by machines the CO2 is literally shooting out into the atmosphere. Even if planted trees will absorb carbon it is not sure that there is enough time for the forest to become carbon neutral since the trees today are logged whilst they still are young.

Lakes and streams receive a lot of organic material from loggings and soil damage. When the organic material ends up in water and is decomposed it turns into methane gas. According to research methane is a 30 to 35 times stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and will therefore lead to much faster warming.

If the politicians are serious about environmental politics and wish to leave a society for the next generation where the great environmental issues are solved, they must urgently legislate against forestry’s deviations and the increasing damage to forest floors. The consequences of the soil damage are dangerous and unmanageable. Instead of being solved, the environmental problems in forestry are getting worse.


By Bert Andersson, forest worker