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An acute threat lies over the subalpine primeval forest in Änok – one of the country's most beautiful river deltas. The Änok delta is a magnificent primeval forest landscape, unique on its own but also valuable as a part of a vast and intact wilderness. In Änok, the nature reserve Pärlälvens montane virgin forest meets the world heritage Laponia, which includes the national park Sarek among with many other protected areas. Änok lies in the heart of one of Europe's last wilderness, without roads or other signs of large-scale human activity.

Despite of this, the Swedish Forest Agency has authorized permission for the clear-cutting of 40 hectares (100 acres) of old-growth forest, only one kilometer from the border of the UNESCO world heritage Laponia. The regional authorities in Norrbotten could give this area formal protection, but to do so, the signature of the county governor is required. Until then, these forests are in peril and logging could start at any time.

Help us to stop the logging by urging Governor of Norrbotten County Per-Ola Eriksson to immediately establish a nature reserve in Änok.

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Photo: Tor Lundberg (www.kvikkjokk.nu)

Dear Per-Ola Eriksson,

As Governor of Norrbotten County you could prevent the logging in the Änok river delta, and instead preserve this unique wilderness area in the magnificent mountains of Kvikkjokk. Clear-cutting in Änok would cause irreparable damage to nature, and would also make it impossible for future generations to experience one of Swedens last unspoiled virgin forest landscapes.

There is no doubt that the natural values in Änok have the very highest qualities. The three concerned authorities – the Swedish Forest Agency, the County Administrative Board and the Environmental Protection Agency – all assess that this area has a very high conservation value. If Swedish forestry is to achieve its aspirations of ecological sustainability, they cannot continue to move in to previously untouched and roadless virgin forest landscapes.

Logging in Änok would also seriously damage the reputation of Swedish forestry, which is already today under severe critique from the environmental movement. Swedish forest policy is built on the idea of equality between production and nature conservation, which means that some forests should be managed while others preserved. If the pristine forests in Änok do not belong to the latter, there is absolutely no credibility left in Sweden's current forest policy.

As County Governor in Norrbotten you are the highest official in a government agency with the task to work towards achieving the environmental goals adapted by the Swedish parliament. Logging in Änok violates at least three of these; A Magnificent Mountain Landscape, Sustainable Forests and A Rich Diversity of Plant and Animal Life. In addition, the area is classified as having national interest concerning conservation and recreation.

Logging in the heart of Änok would be one of the 21st century's greatest environmental scandals in the forests of Sweden. We appeal to you to stop this logging and immediatly protect the Änok river delta from exploitation.

Sincerely,

 
Virgin forest is a term for forests which have never been affected by systematic forestry. Single trees which have been felled, or other signs of human activity, are disregarded if they have not affected the forest's natural structures. Only a few percent of the natural old-growth forests remain in Sweden, and many of the species which are dependent on the virgin forest as habitat are now threatened.
The Änok river delta is located in the heart of a vast wilderness, covered with virgin forests and mountains. There are no roads or other signs of large-scale forestry. Änok lies within one of the thirteen Intact Forest Landscapes (IFL-areas) in Sweden, identified by Greenpeace and other NGO's as unbroken expanses of high importance for biodiversity. Änok borders directly to the Laponia World Heritage and is only five kilometers from the Sarek National Park. Since the establishment of Kamajokk Nature Reserve in 2007, Änok is totally surrounded by protected areas. The river delta is both geomorphological interesting and visually beautiful, with winding meanders and oxbow lakes. The natural values in Änok have the very highest qualities.


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Two new independent scientific studies commissioned by BirdLife International, the European Environmental Bureau and Transport & Environment cast further doubt on the EU’s policy of promoting biomass as fuel for heat and power generation, and biofuels for transport.

The first study, carried out by Joanneum Research, identifies a major flaw in the way carbon savings from forest-derived biomass are calculated in EU law as well as under UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol mechanisms. It concludes that harvesting trees for energy creates a ‘carbon debt’: the carbon contained in the trees is emitted upfront while trees grow back over many years.  The true climate impact of so-called woody biomass in the short to medium term can, as a result, be worse than the fossil fuels it is designed to replace.

“The EU is taking out a sub-prime carbon mortgage that it may never be able to pay back. Biomass policy needs to be fixed before this regulatory failure leads to an ecological crisis that no bail out will ever fix”, commented Ariel Brunner, Head of EU Policy at BirdLife International.

The second study, by CE Delft, examines the full climate impact of the main biofuels used in Europe. In particular it looked at the impact of the expansion of agricultural land into environmentally sensitive areas when food production is displaced by fuel crops, a process known as indirect land use change (ILUC). The report, based on analysis of several EU Commission-sponsored research projects and other international model studies, found that most current biofuels are as bad as fossil fuels for the climate once ILUC is taken into consideration. The study proposes concrete ways of correcting current greenhouse gas balance calculations to fully account for indirect land use change related emissions.

“As long as the EU refuses to take the full climate impacts of biofuels into account, its climate strategy for transport is doomed to failure.” said Nuša Urbancic, Policy Officer at Transport & Environment, the sustainable transport campaigners. 

“If left unchanged, biomass for energy policy will soon be in the same dire and confused state as biofuel policy is today”, added Pieter de Pous, Senior Policy Officer at the European Environmental Bureau. “This can be avoided if the Commission and industry are ready to face up to these facts and develop the necessary measures that will ensure bioenergy policy will actually make a positive contribution to fighting climate change”.

Together, current EU policy on biomass and biofuels risks severe environmental impacts across the globe, and a carbon debt that could take centuries to pay off.

The three groups are calling on the EU to come forward with mandatory sustainability criteria for biomass and to incorporate indirect land use change calculations into the existing sustainability criteria for biofuels and to incorporate indirect land-use change and carbon-debt calculations into sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioenergy.

Read more here.

Download the report here.

"Genetically Engineered Trees Risky, Unnecessary and Must Be Resisted Until Banned. “Eucalyptus is the perfect neoliberal tree. It grows quickly, turns a quick profit in the global market and destroys the earth.” Jaime Aviles, La Jornada"


Take action here

http://protecttheforest.se/images/svensboberget%20bergvik.jpg

 

The Swedish forestry model has been claimed across Europe as an example of a sustainable way to cultivate forests; in particular through the certification system FSC. In reality though, the Swedish forestry has caused a devastating impact on forest diversity since the 1950´s when the clear cutting period started.

Today, more than 2000 forest dwelling species are endangered, vulnerable or threatened, mainly due to the modern forestry methods. Between 2007 and 2009, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) has conducted field documentation of close to 500 threatened and unprotected old-growth boreal forests with high conservation values owned by large forestry companies as well as smallholders.

“The natural forests of Sweden are about to disappear. It is time that consumers and procurers all over Europe become aware that present forestry methods biodiversity in unique ecosystems in Sweden,” says Mikael Karlsson, President of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, the largest environmental organization in Sweden.

The largest forest companies in Sweden are FSC-certified. Numerous field studies carried out by SSNC during the past three years show that a remarkable number of logged areas do not live up to the FSC-standard´s key criteria. However, these violations of the FSC-regulations have not altered the companies’ possibilities to continue with using the FSC label. In as much as one third of the cases, forestry logging is also violating Swedish laws on nature protection, according to the Swedish Forestry Agency.

The SSNC has now released the report “Cutting the Edge – the Loss of Natural Forests in Sweden” in order to make buyers, traders and consumers in Europe aware of the downside of the Swedish forestry model.

“A new Swedish forestry model is needed, with regulations that safeguard the biodiversity and the forest ecosystems in Sweden. In a short-term perspective, new and strict sanctions are needed to force the forestry industry to follow present legislation. In addition, a new environmental law is needed, with the aim to protect the nature values in Swedish forests,” says Mikael Karlsson.

During SSNC´s field studies, hundreds of old-growth forests with high conservation values and woodland key habitats have been found slated for logging or logged. The forest companies have been contacted, but follow-up reviews shows that very little has changed in the companies’ procedures.

“The results of our field visits are very discouraging. More than 2,000 forest dwelling species are red-listed, and hundreds are critically endangered or endangered. Despite this, we are constantly seeing habitats for these species that have been clear felled or are reported for final felling,” says Malin Sahlin, forest campaigner, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

The Swedish forestry model has enabled a shift from species-rich, valuable natural forests to homogenous, plantations with trees of the same age and few species. Attempts to improve the situation somewhat with, for example, certification have only had a marginal effect. The report shows that the depletion of the forests ecosystems is continuing and is being released to a large number of environmental organizations as well as buyers of Swedish forestry products in Europe.

 

Download and read the report “Cutting the Edge” here:


http://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/upload/press/rapport-cutting-the-edge.pdf

 

Images of forests, visited by Swedish Society for Nature Conservation between 2007-2009:

http://picasaweb.google.com/swedishforests2009
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http://picasaweb.google.com/swedishforests4
http://picasaweb.google.com/swedishforests
http://picasaweb.google.com/swedishforests2

Images of logged natural forests, visited by Swedish Society for Nature Conservation:

http://picasaweb.google.com/destroyedforests

 

Read more here:


http://www.bolagsfakta.se/pressreleaser/visa/pressrelease/245234/forestry-in-sweden/B881597E-A902-4254-AFF4-02909C7237F4

Leading Swedish scientists warn that the nation's natural heritage is at stake: We are ashamed of our decision makers’ negligence regarding the environment. The Swedish forest has been turned into a giant cultivation area. Areas where numerous species once lived together in harmony are nowadays dominated by spruce, pine and planted exotic tree species. This forest cultivation is a threat to the biological diversity and it violates the Parliament's national environmental quality objective. Swedish forest policy officially relies on the production of raw forest material being of equal importance to the environmental objective. But in practice, production is prioritized higher. The survival of almost 2,000 forest living species is now threatened because of the present policy. We are deeply concerned and ashamed of the rich country Sweden, which is not working effectively to fulfill its national and international environmental commitments. This is what 14 leading Swedish scientists in the field of plant ecology, ecological zoology, botany and other disciplines write.

Swedish forestry has been successful, and in many ways the Swedish forests are among the best managed in the world. Production has increased by 50 percent over the last 80 years. During the last 15 years, the volume of growing forest has increased by 25 percent, and yearly loggings have increased by 30 percent. The forestry is one of the backbones of the Swedish economy.

However, this story of success has a darker side. Today, after more than 100 years of intense forestry, we have a landscape almost completely dominated by managed forests in different stages after clear-cutting. We have replaced naturally growing forest trees with refined plants. The new forest proposition emphasizes increased production of raw forest material and highlights stump pulling, ditching, fertilization and intensified forest cultivation of exotic tree species as methods to achieve this.


The Swedish forest is becoming a giant cultivation where spruce, pine and exotic tree species dominate, similar to the few cereals grown in our fields. These forest cultivations pose a threat to the biological diversity.

The forestry has led to a large-scale change in the ecosystem, and a large number of species and processes which belong in natural forests have been forced back and become endangered. Complex relationships between thousands of plants and animals that regulate flows of energy, nutrients and water have been disrupted. Among other things on the long list of threatened species, the bryophyte Cephalozia macounii is found, just like the beetle Pytho kolwensis, which lives in spruce wetland forests, and the beetles Stephanopachys spp, which live in fire-induced pine trees and the white-backed woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos, which is found in old deciduous forests. These species are just a few examples of the nearly 2.000 forest living species, whose future survival is not safeguarded in Sweden.


The single most important threat to these species is that the size of areas and the remaining protected natural forests are insufficient to accommodate viable populations. This despite the fact that one central ambition, the so-called “zero vision”, in the Swedish environmental policy states that “all naturally occurring species shall be preserved in viable populations”.

 

Modern forestry has also led to a change in the genetic composition of naturally occurring forest trees, since plants and seeds used for regeneration come from refined cultivations or are imported from other countries. Genetic studies have shown that the naturally occurring Swedish spruce forests have a different genetic composition than that of much of those that has been spread over the country. On top of this, there are now proposals to increase the extent of planting non-native species, even though Sweden has signed international agreements not to spread alien species in the country.

Changing the genetic composition is what is consciously pursued in forestry. Trees with a genetic composition that improves the wood production more than naturally occurring trees have been cultivated. What this genetic manipulation might lead to in terms of biological development of forest trees in the long-term, and their interaction with other species, is definitely not clear at the moment.

In Sweden, there is broad political consensus on the national environmental objectives, including the objective of "Sustainable forests". The same objective is defined by the EU and is in compliance with international agreements which Sweden has signed. Also, in the so-called 2010-target a “zero vision” is specified, which means that the loss of biodiversity should have ceased by 2010.

Today, only 5 percent of the productive forest land below the mountain region consists of protected natural forest (only about 1.5 per cent of the productive forest below the mountain region is formally protected. /editor). From an international perspective this is a low number. Worldwide, more than 12 percent of the world's forests are protected and single countries like Costa Rica, a poor country compared to Sweden, has protected more than 25 percent of its forest area. Even our neighbor in the East, Estonia, has a natural reserve system that within a year will cover 10 percent of the productive forest area.

The Swedish Forest Agency is now proposing that the new environmental objective for the 2010-2020 period should include an increase in the proportion of protected natural forests below the mountain region to nearly 8 percent. The proposal means that we will have increased ability to meet our objectives adopted in a democratic consensus, while 92 percent of Sweden's productive forest land will remain available for commercial forestry.


The proposed increase represents an absolute minimum to achieve the environmental quality objectives at all. We recommend a higher level of ambition, and that at least 10 percent of the productive forest area is protected. This level is also in line with what previous studies have shown to be necessary to protect biodiversity, and it complies with current international guidelines. In addition, these objectives must of course be implemented in the budget work, so that the necessary resources will be available to compensate landowners economically.


The effects of the extensive genetic changes to forests must be investigated. Billions of plants with different genetic background than the naturally selected plants have been spread across Sweden. Today, basic documentation as well as follow-up studies of this large-scale manipulation are lacking. It is not clear what and where genetic stocks are planted in the country. And it is unknown what potential effects this has led to or could lead to in the future.

It is well known that genetic variation is the backbone of biodiversity, and it is central to create resistance to changes in, for instance, the climate. Ecological and genetic research show that the capability of ecosystems and populations to continue to resist changes are directly linked to biodiversity. Modern forestry risks weakening the ecological resistance of the dramatic climatic and environmental changes we face. The proposals for more intensive forms of forestry and the introduction of exotic tree species must therefore be subjected to careful environmental assessments.

The Swedish forest policy relies on production and environment being equivalent objectives. While production in forests and logging volumes set new records, the Parliament's environmental objectives for biodiversity face an uncertain future. This clearly shows that the desired balance has not been achieved. In practice, production has precedence. We are deeply concerned about this development and ashamed that Sweden – one of the world's richest countries and with a profile of being progressive on environmental issues – is not working effectively to meet its national and international environmental objectives and commitments.

Bengt Gunnar Jonsson, Professor Plant ecology, Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall. Linda Laikre, Scientist Population genetics, Stockholm University. Frank Götmark, Professor Ecological zoology, University of Gothenburg. Nils Ryman, Professor Population genetics, Stockholm University. Gunilla Almered Olsson, Professor Human ecology, University of Gothenburg. Lars Björk, Scientist Ethnobotany, Uppsala University. Torbjörn Ebenhard, Scientist Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences/Uppsala University. Joakim Hjältén, Professor Animal ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå. Margareta Ihse, Professor Ecological geography, Stockholm University. Sven Jakobsson, Scientist Zoology, Stockholm University. Per Milberg, Professor Plant ecology, Linköping University. Sven G. Nilsson, Professor Animal ecology, Lund University. Henrik Smith, Professor Animal ecology, Lund University. Per Wramner, Professor Environmental science, Södertörn University.

 

 

This article was originally published in Swedish in Sweden’s biggest daily newspaper “Dagens Nyheter"  on the 14th of April 2008 as a comment on the government’s forest proposition and the situation for the Swedish forest. The government reduced the funds for nature conservation in their budget proposition later the same year.

The english translation is made by Amanda Tas, Protect the Forest 2009. Link to the original article in Swedish.