The local government commissioner in Arjeplog, a small town in the north of Sweden, stated that he would like to know what visitors think about Arjeplog. I decided to write about a topic that troubles me.

What catched my eye is the unbalanced ratio of older woods in comparison to the logged areas, plantations and young forests in northern Sweden. Each year I see more clear cuts in new places. What I do not see, and never will in my lifetime, is a clear cut becoming the forest it was before. Since it takes so long time for the trees to grow in height in this northern parts, I wonder how long you can continue with this speed of harvesting without running out of areas to harvest. From my own experience and observations I really have my doubts that the local resources are used with long sighted care and consideration to environmental needs.   

It is an absurd fact that the biggest and oldest trees around are not in the forest. I have to drive into a village or town to see big and old trees. In an area that is mostly covered by woods this is a sad observation. 

Sometimes I have the impression that the Swedes think, that all of Germany is a big industrial area with Autobahn, factories and industrial plants and no green at all. So everybody expects us to be happy to see some trees when we come up to the Arjeplog-area.

But let me tell you, most of your visitors can very well distinguish between sterile wood-plantations, “clean” and “tidy” forests with all the undergrowth removed, boring and lifeless young forests with trees of the same age and height, on one hand, and natural woods with a big variety of flora and fauna on the other hand. The last named are forests that I would have fun to hike through. These are the kind of forests for which I am prepared to drive 2.500 km to spend my holidays. Sadly, there are not many such areas left around Arjeplog and therefore I can not and will not recommend the area to anyone that wants to hike in the “untouched northern Swedish forests”.

When I pointed out the sterile plantations and the lack of older trees to my colleagues that have been here for some years during winter, it really opened up their eyes. “I always thought that these little thin trees can not grow bigger because of the harsh climate. I thought it was natural until I saw how the woods here can look like when left alone” (we have made a snow-mobile-trip to the Reivo reserve). Another colleague always thought that the open snow-covered areas on the sides of the hills were “pastures for cows” as in the Alps.

Of course there are nature reserves. When compared to the size of clear-cuts, though, they represent only a small percentage of the wooded area. As I have seen on maps, the biggest protected areas in the counties of Norrbotten and Västerbotten are in the montain region (fjäll). I can imagine that it is very easy for the government and local authorities to give such areas a protected status since it does not collide with the interests of the logging companies.

Do not misunderstand me, the fjäll is a beautiful place but we are talking about small birches, shrub, vegetation on steep slopes and mostly grassland, stones, rocks and mountains. No problems with protecting such big areas that do not have economical value. It looks good in the statistics of protected areas, too. And the figures are surely used by logging companies when they lament over how much forest is already protected, in spite of the fact, that the bare fjäll is everything but densely covered with loggable trees. Besides, I am convinced that the fjäll would be sacrificed for the “common good” and the so called “progress and development” if companies would find oil or ore reserves in it.

I am not a naive romantic and I am fully aware that it is a difficult task to maintain a balance between the needs of the forest industry and the conservation of nature, which is important to the tourist industry. But honestly speaking, I see that the focus is heavily on the forest industries´ side. Because it is much easier. When you log an area you get instant money. If you log some more, you get more money. If you have logged all of the forests you get nothing. Over a long period of time. But this is put aside because that seems so far away. Creating nature reserves decreases the size of the usable forests. And it does not make money on its own. You got to have ideas and people that convert the ideas into enterprises that attract tourists and create income and employment. It is the tougher way to go but in the long run the more rewarding both for locals that would have unspoiled areas for hunting, fishing and recreation, the tourists that would be attracted by the unspoiled areas for hunting, fishing and recreation and of course for the flora and fauna that would have habitats not threatened by human interests.

The point that always comes up is the one about employment and progress.
I was told by a former forest-worker, that technical progress within forestry was in fact the cause for the mass unemployment that stroke the area. A few people in harvesters replaced hundreds of lumberjacks with axes, saws and later chainsaws. The decreasing numbers of people making a living in the lumber industry is self-caused by the fact that there are not so many places left to harvest. Creating forest reserves does not cause unemployment of forest workers. Greedy, reckless and shortsighted exploitation paired with cost-lowering measures is the cause.

When talking about the use of the forests with the local inhabitants that I have met during my winter and summer visits in Arjeplog municipality, I was almost always confronted with a very defensive, nearly hostile attitude. Not because of the clear-cutting but because, as I realized later, the people felt that an outsider was telling them how to do the forestry business. Even though I just wanted an objective discussion, wanted to hear what they thought and was not a German Besserwisser, they felt personally attacked by my opinion as a tourist that there was too much logging in the areas. “We have always done it that way”, “We know how to do it!”. Just by not having grown up in northern Sweden does not make people totally unqualified to comment on problems in northern Sweden. The common sense always works. Often the outsiders see things that the locals have learned to ignore and accepted as an unchangeable fact. Bad things do not become good things just because one does them for a long time. Things change and so the views have to, too.

Another good example of misunderstood well-doing is the logging on the mountain where Hotel Silverhatten is located. Why on earth does the management think that us car-testers and tourists like to stay in cabins that are surrounded by prairie instead of the cosy forest? I always liked the illusion of staying somewhere deep in the woods while staying in the cabins. If the reason was “to improve the view on the city”, why take away almost all of the trees down to the base of the hill? Besides, I have enough of “city views” back at home and strongly prefer the wilderness while I am in northern Sweden. You always had a nice view from the restaurant and hotel even with the trees.

I have to mention Galtispouda, too. How many compromises can you make?
A nature-reserve! Antennas, masts, ski-lifts and cabins, mostly above the tree-line, logged all around up to the borders of the reserve. And new projects are still to come. Purely sad. Exceptional permissions seem not to be that hard to get.

I write this to give you insight in present or upcoming problems that you maybe not knew existed. I want to prevent you from getting a one-sided and wrong picture. There are still those, especially the “veterans” , who have come here over the last 15 years or more, who see the changes, share my opinion and do not think that everything is just fine in “Lapland’s untouched forests” (as the tourist-brochures wrongly suggest).   

Best regards and thank you for reading,

Thomas Duda

The Forest Festival is an exciting cultural event and the largest meeting place for non-profit forest conservation in the Nordic region. The festival is a manifestation for the protection of the old-growth forest and for a reformation of the forestry, with concerts, film, theater, dance and poetry. Lectures will be held about conservation, climate, nature-oriented forestry, forest history and ecology. Most of the lectures will be held in Swedish, but some will be in English. Guided nature tours, field trips and many exciting workshops on culture, health and nature. The programme is eventful for both adults and children.


Read more about the Forest Festival here: http://www.skogsfestivalen.org/2010/

Some of the participants during the Forest Festival 2010:

Bengt Gunnar Jonsson, Professor, Plant Ecology, Mid Sweden Uniersity, Sundsvall.

Heidi Paltto, Ph.D., Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Uppsala.

Lutz Fähser, Ph.D., Forester in Lübeck, Germany.

Stig-Olof Holm, Ph.D., Umeå University/Protect the Forest.

Jery Skoglund, Ph.D., former at Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Uppsala.

Anders Dahlberg, Swedish Species Information Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Uppsala.

Martin Jentzen, Professional Forester, Silvaskog AB.

Anders Delin, Nature conservationist, Protect the Forest, Järbo.

Mats Karström, Nature conservationist (Steget före/"One Step Ahead"), Jokkmokk.

Malin Sahlin, Forest campaigner, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC).

Sebastian Kirppu, Nature conservationist, Granberget.

Martin Hallberg Åkerberg, Bird expert, Protect the Forest, Glanshammar.

Stefan Holmgren, Volunteer coordinator, Greenpeace Nordic.

Polticical debate about the Swedish forest and the forest policy with Members of the Swedish Parliament (the debate will be held in Swedish)

 

Music:

Invasionen

http://www.myspace.com/invasionensweden

 

Esbjörn Hazelius - virtuos irländsk violinist, svensk folksångare och strängkonstnär.
http://www.mtaprod.se/artister/esbjorn-hazelius/
www.myspace.com/esbjornhazelius

GeneralKnas
www.myspace.com/generalknas

Morgan Lee - An artist based in Stockholm who plays indie-country-pop.
www.myspace.com/epicjester

Mohlavyr
http://www.myspace.com/mohlavyr
http://www.mohlavyr.com

The Wait
http://www.myspace.com/thewaitsweden
http://www.casualvinyl.se

One Step
http://www.myspace.com/theonestepswe
http://www.onestepsweden.se

Vildhjärta (Wild heart), artist Maria Westerberg, Protct the Forest, Brunskog

Josefin Wikström, Bollywood dance workshop

Rebecca Lindahl, Artist, Stockholm

Fair trade, Örebro

www.skogsfestivalen.org

www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/kretsar-lan/orebro/orebro/


www.hopajola.t.se/

www.skyddaskogen.se


www.naturby.se

Organizers: Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Örebro, Protect the Forest and Hjärtats Eko (Echo of the Heart). The Festival is supported by Hopajola and the Regional Council in Örebro County.

Global Forest Coalition: In March 2010, the European Commission launched an EU-wide consultation to find out whether the EU should increase its efforts to protect forests under a changing climate.

The main challenges facing Europe’s forests were set out in a Green Paper on forest protection and climate change.

The Global Forest Coalition formulated a response to this Green Paper, in which it says the Green Paper is a missed opportunity and contains several flawed assumptions:

• The Green Paper uses a flawed definition of forests, which does not distinguish between real forests and industrial tree plantations. The latter, commonly of non-native trees, harm biodiversity, the freshwater cycle and soils.

• Assumptions about logging, fire prevention and carbon sequestration favour greater logging and forest exploitation, especially for bioenergy. This creates the impression that what is good for bioenergy industry is also good for forests, whereas the opposite is true.

• More logging and plantations in Europe are envisioned to meet the new, fast-growing demand for bioenergy. This will also lead to more import of wood. The EU Green Paper fails to look at the impact which this massive demand, directly or indirectly – will have on forests and forest-dependent people in the Global South.

In general, The Global Forest Coalition is deeply concerned that pressures on European forests as well as forests worldwide are increasing significantly due to the EU's support for large-scale wood-based bioenergy. It says the EU should abolish the 10% renewable energy for transport target and stop subsidizing large-scale wood-based bioenergy. It also calls for a reduced demand for wood.

Read the full response here.

"The Swedish forestry industry organization Skogsindustrierna, where the companies Sveaskog, Stora Enso, SCA and Holmen skog are members, have published a website: protectedforests.com, with a map of what they claim is protected forest in Sweden. On the website they claim that as much as 25% of the Swedish forest are protected, and they also claim that Swedish forestry is environmentally sustainable. The organization Protect the Forest has examined the map and the published statistics, and the conclusion is that the campaign is simply a bluff."


Read more here

Intensified forestry – is that as climate smart and environmentally friendly as the forest industry claims? Or will the growing pressure on the world's forest ecosystems have devastating consequences? According to the report “Climate and boreal forests”, initiated by Swedish nature conservation organization Protect the Forest, protection of boreal old-growth forests is crucial to mitigate climate change.

The Swedish forestry model, which includes clear-cutting methods and plantation forestry, is heavily promoted internationally by the Swedish forest industry and the Swedish government, with the pretext to solve the global climate problem. The report “Climate and boreal forests” reveals that the promoted methods are not in accordance with recent scientific research. 

“The Swedish forest industry is misleading the international climate negotiations,” said Amanda Tas, Secretary, Protect the Forest. “The industry has vested interests and adjusts its rhetorics to the current climate debate. Studies show that forest management activities accelerate greenhouse gas emissions, especially when boreal old-growth forests are clear-cut.”

The report “Climate and boreal forests” is intended to inform international decision makers about current and up-to-date research regarding the relationship between forests and the climate.

“The importance of the boreal old-growth forests has so far been ignored in the international climate debate,” said dr. Stig-Olof Holm, Protect the Forest. “This has to change. The felling of natural and old-growth forests must be stopped globally to safeguard biodiversity and mitigate climate change. We must have international treaties that safeguard the existence of pristine, natural and old-growth forests, including the boreal forests. This needs to be developed and put into force immediately.”

The report “Climate and boreal forests” can be downloaded here



For more information, please contact:

Amanda Tas, Secretary, Protect the Forest,

+ 46 76 76 13 533; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Stig-Olof Holm, Ph.D. Ecology, Board Member, Protect the Forest,

+ 46 90 78 65 546; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.