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Swedish wilderness under threat

Swedish wilderness under threat – New report implies misconduct by the Swedish Forest Agency
A new report shows that the Swedish Forest Agency (SFA) is likely breaching the Swedish Forestry Act. The authority has planned a logging road through mountainous forest with high conservation values on behalf of a private forest owner in Dikanäs village in northern Sweden. Strong criticism is raised against the SFA and the Swedish Government which allow logging in one of Europe’s most valuable natural heritage.

A heated debate is currently taking place in Sweden on whether forestry should continue in mountainous forests with high conservation values that are yet untouched by industrial forestry. Simultaneously, a national survey of woodland key habitats, aiming to map high conservation forests, is halted in northwestern Sweden, since March 2017. From a European perspective, these mountainous forests in northern Sweden are thought to harbor some of the last remnants of critical and unique values for nature conservation.

During the summer and fall of 2017, Protect the Forest—a Swedish NGO with forest protection as main objective—organized a forest survey in the northern part of Vilhelmina municipality where 22 volunteers surveyed a 35 sqkm large area of mountainous forest.

“Our results suggest that these forests have very high conservation values, but surprisingly they are not formally protected. It is hard to fathom why the SFA is planning logging roads into previously untouched wilderness and thereby facilitate future logging operations. Much of what is lost due to industrial forestry, can still be found in these large forest landscapes. And our long list with findings of red-listed species provides clear evidence that these mountainous forests indeed harbor high conservation values,” said mycologist Helena Björnström.

In total, 3,243 finds of red-listed species and indicator species were found during the survey. Adjacent to the new logging road that was planned by the SFA, 32 red-listed species were found inside the old-growth forest. Most of these species are near threatened and threatened due to clear-cutting forestry.

“It is a scandal that the SFA is helping the forestry to clear-cut mountainous forests with high conservation values in violation of what is stated in the Swedish Forestry Act. One of SFA’s objectives is to make sure that logging operations is avoided in forests with high conservation values. Furthermore, the SFA and the Swedish Government must take their responsibility and protect one of Europe’s last natural heritages from industrial forestry,” said forest biologist Isak Vahlström who volunteered in the forest survey.

The report “Forestry at the edge”, indicates that the pressure on Europe´s remaining unprotected montainous forests, which contain both timber and high conservation values, increases as timber volumes decrease at coastal and inland areas. Therefore, the SFA tends to make decisions that do not always comply with the Swedish Forestry Act.

One of the Swedish Forest Agency’s main objectives is to regulate forestry in coherence with the Forestry Act.

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