The documentary BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal? (2019) shows how the burning of wood at an industrial scale for energy accelerates the destruction of forests for fuel, and probes the policy loopholes, huge subsidies, and blatant greenwashing of the burgeoning biomass power industry.

Bioenergy is generally considered as carbon neutral and is therefore subsidized by Governments. An increasing number of scientists are starting to question the climate neutrality of biofuels and imply that carbon dioxide emissions even can be higher when biofuels are burned instead of fossil fuels.

“If you are interested in reducing emissions now, then burning something that puts more carbon into the air than the thing you are replacing, which is coal, does not make sense," says Mary S. Booth, PhD, Director and Ecosystems Ecologist, Partnership for Policy Integrity, in the documentary.

Furthermore, Duncan Law from Biofuelwatch says that tax payers, through their power bills, pay for so called renewable technology which destroys forests, biodiversity and make climate change worse.

In the US South, forests are felled at a fast rate. Dogwood Alliance has documented the increased pressure that the biomass industry has put on the heavily logged landscape. Every year, thousands of hectares of Southern forests are cut down, turned into wood pellets, and shipped overseas to Europe to be burned.

Mary S. Booth continues:

"It is about what the atmosphere sees when you burn different kinds of fuel. There is just a fact that more carbon is coming out of the stack when you burn wood than when you burn coal. There is an assumption that some time in the future it will be offset. The industry says that it will never do anything to harm the climate, well, they do."

Watch the trailer of the documentary "BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal?" here.

A newly made road through a natural forest with woodland key habitat qualities. The photo is from  the end of June 2019. 

The non-profit conservationist Björn Mildh wrote an open letter to Herman Sundqvist, Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency:

Dear Herman,

In July 2019, I commented on your blog post entitled "The image of a divided forest landscape contributes to endless struggle". The comment is down below for anyone who wants to read it.

Since then, the disagreements have only increased. Therefore, let's recapitulate the facts of what happened in 2019.

- The Swedish Forest Agency informed that 55,000 hectares of woodland key habitats had been logged in northwestern Sweden between 2000-2018. It could be mentioned that Sveaskog and the National Property Board Sweden, both state-owned companies, are by far the largest landowners in the area. During the majority of that period you also happened to be the Head of Forest Management for Sveaskog.

- The Swedish Forest Agency has previously increased the requirements for woodland key habitats in northwestern Sweden. This means that natural forests, which in other parts of Sweden would be classified as woodland key habitats, are now classified as production forests that can be logged. This measure should be seen to the fact that while you were Head of Forest Management for Sveaskog, you stated that "Sveaskog is going to harvest all land which is not protected". (See the article "Sveaskog's giant clear-cut is heavily criticized” in Land Skogsland/LRF Media, no. 48, November 21, 2014; only in Swedish).

- The Swedish Forest Agency stopped the nationwide woodland key habitat inventory and justified it by referring to the reduced budget allocated to forest protection.

- The Swedish Forest Agency wants to stop registering woodland key habitats in forest areas notified for final felling (end of year 2020).

Nevertheless, it was the Swedish Forest Agency that launched the concept of woodland key habitats in 1990.

"The woodland key habitats represent a significant part of the diversity in the Swedish forest. It is necessary to know where the woodland key habitats are located in the landscape in order to safeguard biodiversity."

By using different maneuvers, the Swedish Forest Agency is doing its best to counteract the protection against logging, which the woodland key habitats provide.

Woodland key habitats are only seen as limitations to production.

As Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency, you run the work of the Agency.

What will be the next tactical move by the Swedish Forest Agency?

Björn Mildh, specialist in childhood (and the forestry’s) internal diseases.

The comment on Herman Sundqvist’s blog in July 2019:

Dear Herman,

For many years we have had regular contact. Ever since the events in Valvträsk in Norrbotten in 2004, when Sveaskog cut down the forest at Sörfligget. And I have given attention to a considerable number of natural forests over the years after that, when you were the Head of Forest Management for Sveaskog.

I follow your blog that you continued to write even after you were appointed as Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency. The latest post is from the 11th of June and is entitled "The image of a divided forest landscape contributes to endless struggle".

As firmly as I have stood up for the environmental objectives, you have stood up for the production. There are contradictions, of course, when we are told that 55,000 hectares of woodland key habitats have been logged in northwestern Sweden, despite all fair talks. At the same time, the Swedish Forest Agency increases the requirements for woodland key habitats in the same area so that natural forests, which in other parts of Sweden would be classified as woodland key habitats, are now classified as production forests that can be logged. Shouldn't a stupid alert have flashed red towards everybody who wants to prevent division and conflict about the forest?

In addition, the state-owned Sveaskog, together with the National Property Board Sweden, is the largest landowner in northwestern Sweden.

The attached image was taken on the 30th of June 2019 in the municipality of Arjeplog, showing a fresh example of why there is a struggle. Sveaskog has made a new road through an old natural high conservation value forest. The purpose of the road is to log the adjacent forest which has woodland key habitat qualities and is important land for reindeer grazing. The road was made even before any consultation was held with the Sami village about the forest. The Sami, our indigenous people, should obviously only be confronted when the fact is already completed.

Everything is about increased production, at the expense of the Sami village, the reindeer husbandry and the environmental objective.
So, is it strange if there are conflicts and "endless struggle"?

Björn Mildh in Piteå


European spruce bark beetle. Photo: Harald Kloth via Wikipedia.

The organization Protect the Forest fears that the pursuit of stopping the European spruce bark beetle, will lead to extensive logging of whole forests with rich biodiversity in Sweden. During 2019 woodland key habitats and forests with high conservation values have been logged, are being logged, or are planned for logging. This negative trend may very well continue into 2020.

During 2018 and 2019 the European spruce bark beetle has caused harm to forests’ timber value in the counties of Götaland and Svealand. The Swedish Forest Agency has therefore taken special measures to limit damages caused by the beetles and has proposed changes of 29 § in chapter six of the Swedish Forestry Act, changes which will include clear-cutting of large areas.

Protect the Forest has therefore sent a recommendation (in Swedish) to the Swedish Forest Agency and points out that the European spruce bark beetle is part of the natural ecosystem. The beetle creates dead wood, which is scarce in the Swedish woodlands and is needed for the survival of many plants, animals and fungi.
Most of the Swedish forest landscape is deeply affected by forestry and thus consists of dense spruce plantations, all of the same age, which is a landscape that the European spruce bark beetle favours. Freshly made clear-cuts attract the beetles, probably because of the smell from the stumps and brushwood and because of a pheromone excreted from other beetles. The European spruce bark beetle readily seeks out fallen-over trees in the outskirts of clear cuts.

In the mad pursuit of stopping the beetles there is a risk of extensive loggings. Not only spruce but even deciduous trees and dead trees, which are important for diversity, are in danger of being negatively affected. In 2019, several forests which were going to be protected as nature reserves or woodland key habitats were logged as a preventive measure against the beetles. A measure which is being used as an excuse for logging forests with high conservation values. In contrary, an analysis covering the affected area of Götaland, shows that about 97 per cent of the forest favoured by the beetles is situated outside protected areas.

Traces of spruce bark beetle and woodpecker at Bialowieza's National Park. Photo: Juan de Vonikov, Wikipedia

The Swedish Forest Agency has to be clearer about the preventive measures taken against the European spruce bark beetle. Logging should never be conducted in formally protected areas, such as nature reserves, national parks and woodland key habitats. Nor should these forestry methods be applied in forests planned to be protected- but yet, this is happening.

Furthermore, trees killed by the European spruce bark beetle should not be logged during winter. Most of the beetles hibernate in the ground and are still in the forest if logging takes place during winter and spring. In exceptional cases, occasional trees may be taken down because of the bark beetle, but it is not an excuse for clear-cutting whole natural forests.

Measures taken for fighting the bark beetles may be in conflict with the Species Protection Ordinance. The reason is that the European spruce bark beetle is an important food resource for several protected species, such as the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker. The strict rules in the Species Protection Ordinance also apply for forestry. It should therefore be stated in the regulations that forestry measures such as clear- cutting whole forests, should not take place if this clashes with the Species Protection Ordinance.

The forestry management used for fighting spruce bark beetles may also be in conflict with EU’s Habitat Directive and The Bird Directive. In a court case at the EU’s Court of Justice (case C-441/17), it was determined that Poland’s logging in the forest district of Białowieża to get rid of the spruce bark beetles, was in conflict with both EU Directives. The Court of Justice therefore prohibited Poland to continue its logging of spruce trees in the Białowieża forest. The court mentions threatened species, such as the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, white-backed woodpecker, the Eurasian pigmy owl and the boreal owl, species which are negatively affected by logging of spruce infested by the spruce bark beetle. All birds are included in EU’s Bird Directive and are protected according to the Swedish Species Protection Ordinance.

Protect the Forest states that the Swedish Forest Agency must inform about the importance of natural regeneration and create incitements to favour mixed forests and more deciduous trees instead of coniferous monocultures.

By Kristina Bäck


Siberian tit. Photo: Wikipedia

A new study from Birdlife Sweden states that many of Sweden’s woodland bird species are seriously threatened by forestry. The report emphazises that the inventory of Sweden’s woodland key habitats must be resumed and extended, forest landscapes protected and that the forest industry should start using sustainable logging methods.

The study "Sveriges fåglar 2019" (Birds of Sweden 2019) focuses on woodland birds. Svensk Fågeltaxering (Swedish Bird Monitoring) has co-operated with Birdlife Sweden and surveyed the occurrence and frequency of forest birds. Areas in the near mountain forest region in Sweden were compared with areas below the mountain forest region. The results show that many woodland bird species are decreasing rather than increasing in number. Many species need varied forests with high conservation values for their survival.

According to the report the Siberian Tit, the Siberian Jay, the Eurasian Three-Toed Woodpecker and the Pine Grosbeak are four species which stand out from the rest. These four species mainly occur in the near mountain forest region today since this is where there still exists some natural values. Previously these birds lived in the boreal forest region but now most of the boreal forest in Sweden has been clear-cut and turned into plantations, making survival difficult for many species. As quoted from the study:

” The limited occurrence of these species below the mountain range area, especially of the Siberian Tit and the Pine Grosbeak, implies that these birds are remnants from a time when the forest landscape generally offered good habitats and living conditions. If that is the case, the Siberian Tit and the Pine Grosbeak will most probably die out from extensive parts of Northern Sweden if large areas of natural forest are not restored”.

Inventories of woodland key habitats most be resumed in Northwestern Sweden and larger forest landscapes protected, according to the report. Between 2000-2018 55,000 hectares of woodland key habitats were logged in the western parts of northern Sweden. Similar loggings are taking place all over the country, which Protect the Forest has continuously been reporting about. In a press-release Birdlife Sweden states that there are good reasons to sound the alarm:

” The forest industry can no longer argue that all is peace and quiet just because plantations are allowed to grow in a larger proportion of Sweden’s landscape compared to in the 1990’s. Now the forest industry needs to start using sustainable forestry methods which support biodiversity.”

By Kristina Bäck

Ore Forest Landscape, threatened by logging. Photo: Private.

Ylva Thörn, governor in the county of Dalarna in Sweden, sends a reply to a letter sent from the organizations Protect the Forest, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) in Rättvik and Nature and Youth in Sweden about the project “Green infrastructure in Gåsberget’s forest landscape”. The NGOs call for more protection of the forests and that the governor and authorities need to stand up for environmental goals.

Governor Ylva Thörn writes in her answer to the organizations:

In a time when forest is important for future society there must be a way to conduct sustainable forestry, even in the valuable forest landscape of Gåsberget. Therefore, we don’t find it realistic to solely impose formal protection in the area. We need to work on a plan for the whole area”.

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, there is not enough emphasis on need for protection in the project. Furthermore, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has been excluded from the project, even though they stand for a legitimate common interest.  

The forest landscape around Gåsberget is one of northwestern Europe’s largest and most valuable natural pine forest landscapes and it needs urgent protection.

Ylva Thörn writes that sustainable forestry will be conducted whilst biodiversity will be preserved in the forests around Gåsberget. Formal protection, logging and consideration for the forest conservation values is planned so that the green infrastructure remains intact. Protect the Forest would like to know how this will be possible. The organization states that there should be no forestry at all in forests with high conservation values at Gåsberget and in Ore Forest Landscape. This is an approach which is in line with conservation work and with national and international environmental goals, not even “sustainable forestry” should take place in forests with high conservation values.

In addition, Ylva Thörn states that ”25% of the area is already protected, in both formal and voluntary ways” but both Protect the Forest and SSNC in Rättvik have previously questioned this figure. According to SSNC in Rättvik the amount of formally protected forest in Gåsberget is only 5% and in the whole county of Dalarna only 3%.

SSNC in Rättvik has conducted inventories of the forests at Gåsberget. It is unacceptable that they are excluded from taking part in the green infrastructure project, according to the NGOs since SSNC has a legimate common interest.  Ylva Thörn says that there was an open seminar where everyone was invited to take part and that SSNC was there too. She states:

We are sorry to hear that the SSNC find themselves neglected but we imply that their inventories, petitions and opinions at the seminar are important and valued in our ongoing work”

In the outskirts of Gåsberget’s forests and within Ore Forest Landscape there are also plans to establish two large wind farms. 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 organization 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 are rejected.

By Kristina Bäck