More than 100 social leaders from across Colombia have already been assassinated in 2020. Between March 19 and 20, 2020, in the course of 24 hours, three social leaders in Colombia were murdered.

One of the victims were Ivo Humberto Bracamonte Quiroz, the social leader of Norte de Santander Department near the Venezuelan border. In another attack, Ángel Ovidio Quintero, a young social leader of Antioquia, was killed. Marco Rivadeneira was a social leader of Putumayo and worked for over 15 years as a leader of peasant and social organizations in Colomibia. He was participating in a meeting with peasant leaders when armed men barged into the meeting and forced Marcos to leave with them. He was later assassinated.

More than 100 social leaders from across Colombia have already been assassinated in 2020. Since the peace agreements between the National Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were signed in 2016, over 800 social leaders and human rights defenders have been assassinated in what organizations deem a genocide.

Protect the Forest condemns the murders of the three social leaders in Colombia.

“Our thoughts go to the victims, their families and the environmental and social movements that have lost three dedicated leaders,” said Elin Götmark, spokesperson, Protect the Forest.

Read a joint statement from Comité Colombia, Foro Social Panamazónico, on Censat Agua Viva - Friends of the Earth Colombia's website regarding the death of Marco Rivadeneira here (in Spanish).

The Panamazónico Social Forum (FOSPA) will be held in the city of Mocoa, Colombia, on the 13-16th of November 2020. It was supposed to be held on the 22-25th of March 2020 but is postponed till November due to COVID-19. Mocoa is located in the Amazon rainforest region of Colombia.

In March 2017, a large landslide caused by rains overflowed the Mocoa River and its tributaries Sangoyaco and Mulatos. The tragedy killed 254 people.

Several organizations from 9 countries of the Amazon and over 1800 people are registered to participate in FOSPA 2020. Some current initiatives in FOSPA are: River defense articulation, climate change and the Amazon, report on the panamazonic conflicts, defense of body and territory of the Andean Amazonian women, intercultural education, food security and sovereignty, companies and human rights in Panamazónia, as well as democratization of communication for good living.

Villages, communities, processes and a comprehensiveness of social actors who inhabit the Andean Amazon, as well as those who hold the territory important and are socially committed to action, investigation, oversight and analysis, are invited to participate in Forum, where work is interweaven in recognizing diversities. Everyone is invited to be an active part of the Social Forum Panamazónic, to strengthening initiatives for the defense and survival in Amazonian territories.

By the life, We defend the Amazon!

If you want to learn more about Panamazónico Social Forum, watch this on YouTube.

Read more about the Panamazónico Social Forum here.

One of the forests planned for logging at Maskaure. Photo: Björn Mildh

The state-owned forestry company Sveaskog will sell and harvest a total of 2,600 hectares of woodland in Maskaure Sami village in Arjeplog municipality, Norrbotten, Sweden. This is no coincidence, write Leif Lundberg from Maskaure Sami village, Johanna Nilsson, Marcus Lidström and Björn Mildh all three members of Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, in an open letter to Sveaskog. The Sami 'no' vote must be respected and the remaining grazing and natural forests should be saved, not clear-cut, they write. Here is the open letter to Sveaskog:

Dear Eva and Viveka,

Again, we turn to you so that we are ensured to receive a relevant answer.

Sveaskog's planned land sale can be seen on the company's website and the sales this year include 10,400 hectares. More than 9,000 hectares of the forest land is located in the county of Norrbotten.

In the consultation with Sveaskog Maskaure Sami village said no for the first time ever to Sveaskog's 17 planned loggings in the village's reindeer grazing forests. The reason they said no was not to create contradictions but because of the ever increasing lack of reindeer grazing forests, especially winter grazing.

The reindeer are starving. Almost all Sami villages are in the same, difficult predicament because of forestry. It is not possible to conduct reindeer husbandry without pastures and these pastures are in the forests which are planned for logging.

For the same reason, the Sami village publicly protested against Sveaskog's continued sale of woodland. Especially since the sale is done without any consultation, over the heads of the Sami. 9,720 hectares have already been sold. The forest land which is sold is usually harvested and the soil is prepared for plantations. This is the worst option for the reindeer grazing pastures!

We are aware that Sveaskog has a mission to sell 10% of its land holdings. But the company can choose which land it puts up for sale.

Dear Eva and Viveka,

How can it be that Sveaskog just this year wants to sell 5 + 1 forest properties in Maskaure Sami village, a total of 2,200 hectares? (one forest, the sixth, has just been planned, it is 400 hectares but not on the website yet).

Are the Board of Directors and management of Sveaskog clear about the company's planned land sale?

In addition, Sveaskog wants to have consultations to harvest 32 natural forests of about 400 hectares within the reindeer pastures of the Sami village. All together that is 2,600 hectares!

It is not a coincidence that the all-state company Sveaskog this year wants to sell and log a total of 2,600 hectares of woodland in the same Sami village, Maskaure, the village that dared to say no to the company.

Sveaskog, you are acting deeply unjustly against our indigenous people. No forests shall be sold without an equal consultation in beforehand.

The Sami's no is to be respected.

The remaining grazing and natural forests must be saved, not cut.

Leif Lundberg, Maskaure Sami village

Johanna Nilsson, member of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Luleå

Marcus Lidström, Chairman, Norrbotten County Association

Björn Mildh, member of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation

Forest with wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa). Foto: Birgitta Tulin.

Today, the 21st of March, is the United Nations’ International Day for Forests.

The forest is home to about 80 percent of the world's terrestrial species.

The forests comprise over 60,000 known tree species.

Deforestation continues at an alarming rate, causing large emissions of greenhouse gases.

What makes a tree a tree?

What makes a tree a tree? Despite numerous studies, scientists are still struggling to nail down the defining traits of these tall and long-lived woody plants. The world's oldest tree, according to the article's author, is a Pinus longaeva, which is 5,067 years old. The world's largest tree in volume of total wood is Sequoiadendron giganteum, and the tallest is Sequoia sempervirens, and both of them are thousands of years old. A Populus tremuloides clone has been estimated to be 80,000 years old. In Sweden there is Old Tjikko, Picea abies, a clone that is 9,550 years old.

Nevertheless, the scientists cannot point to any particular set of genes that confer tree-ness. The author of the article suggests that it may be time to start thinking of tree as a verb, rather than a noun. Tree-ing, or tree-ifying, like swimming or flying, with no finish in sight until a lightning, a pest, or a forest machine ends the tree-ing.

Logged woodland key habitat in what was proposed to become a nature reserve close to the lake Risten in the municipality of Åtvidaberg, Sweden. The logging was conducted by Sweden's largest FSC certified forest owner association, Södra. Photo: Mikael Schulin.

Protect the Forest, Greenpeace Sweden, Fern, Biofuelwatch, Robin Wood and Global Forest Coalition wrote that Sweden’s forest policy is wreaking havoc in an opinion piece in Euractiv on 26 February 2020. Herman Sundqvist, Director-General of the Swedish Forest Agency, replied and wrote that environmental measures in the Swedish forests will continue to be strong. Now, the six NGOs give their side of the story.

Contrary to what Herman Sundqvist, Director-General of the Swedish Forest Agency, claims in an opinion piece in Euractiv, the reality of the Swedish forests and forestry is extremely disturbing. The forestry practices of today severely damage both climate and biodiversity. The Swedish Forest Agency’s work with nature conservation has deteriorated under Sundqvist’s supervision.

In 2017, Director-General Sundqvist suspended the inventory of woodland key habitats in northwestern Sweden. The decision received massive criticism from scientists, officials from the Swedish Forest Agency, the County Administrative Boards, and non-profit conservation organizations. During the one-year long suspension, the Swedish Forest Agency developed a new inventory method for northwestern Sweden, which allowed felling in forest areas which previously were registered as woodland key habitats.

During the last 20 years, it is estimated that about 55 000 hectares of woodland key habitats have been felled in northwestern Sweden. In addition, more than 300 000 hectares of continuity forests, i.e. natural forests that have never been subject to clear-cutting, have been notified for final felling since 2010.

The inventory of woodland key habitats, which is an important tool for mapping high conservation value forests, has been used for almost 30 years in Sweden. It provides necessary information about forest areas which is useful for authorities, scientists, landowners, forest certification organizations and non-profit organizations. The Swedish Forest Agency estimates that it is three times more common that unregistered woodland key habitats are notified for final felling than registered. This clearly shows that inventory and registration of woodland key habitats are important. Studies show that woodland key habitats in general are rich in biodiversity in terms of red-listed species and volume of dead wood. Why stop registering woodland key habitats when they are threatened by logging?

Biodiversity is highly ranked in opinion polls and Swedish people consider it important to protect high conservation value forests from harvesting. The Swedish Forest Agency risks eroding public and international consumer confidence if Director-General Sundqvist continues to dismantle the Agency’s nature conservation work.

The report that Director-General refers to is also heavily criticized by authorities, nature conservation scientists and the environmental movement. The report is strongly influenced by the forest industry and was not reviewed by nature conservation scientists before it was published.

Sundqvist raises misleading examples of nature conservation efforts and tools. In order to meet environmental targets, protected areas need to be long-term, functional and representative. To protect areas of special importance for the conservation of biodiversity is key.

Voluntary set-aside areas are not permanent, lack legal protection and are not always transparent. There are no consequences if these forest areas are cut down. Furthermore, there are no requirements of either ecological quality nor landscape functionality, which both are of utmost importance for protecting biodiversity.

Retention areas where single or a group of trees are left in clear-cut areas cannot be considered as protected forest. Particularly due to the fact that Sweden is internationally obliged to conserve at least 17 percent of the terrestrial land, through long term, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas. It can also be mentioned that unproductive forest land is normally not of interest for the forestry and does not have the same species diversity as high-productive forests.

In addition, about 39 % of the consideration-demanding habitats in Sweden were negatively affected by harvesting during 2014-2017. Hence, the Director-General Sundqvist is not on the right track. The felling of both woodland key habitats and voluntary set-aside areas shows that the Swedish forest policy is highly untrustworthy. Its consequences are devastating; Sweden has never had as few natural forests as of today. The amount of old forest with large-diameter and dead wood has decreased dramatically since the 1800s. This needs to change.

By decreasing the rate of harvest and protecting older natural forests, carbon will continue to be absorbed and stored in the soil. Emissions from forest harvesting are not fully accounted for in greenhouse gas emission inventory reports. Instead, harvested wood products, which include paper products and wood used for energy, are considered as carbon dioxide removals. The concept of replacing natural forests with plantations and harvested wood products to create sinks, and therefore be positive for climate mitigation, is false, as it fails to account for the carbon lost from the destroyed natural forest and when wood is used for energy.

The urgency needs to be acknowledged considering that the net emissions of greenhouse gases, according to IPCC, need to decrease with about 50 % globally before the year 2030 in order to avoid a global mean temperature increase of 1,5 C above pre-industrial levels. If this is not met, there is a large risk that climate tipping points are reached where changes can become uncontrolled and practically irreversible.

Only bioenergy from sources with a short carbon dioxide payback time can be used for energy purposes, for examples residues from agriculture. In Sweden, it takes 50-100 years for felled trees to grow back from seedlings, and since about 80 percent of the carbon in biomass in Swedish logged trees are converted to bioenergy, paper and other short lived products, the current harvest rate will not contribute to limiting global warming to 1,5 C. The ongoing conversion of semi-natural and natural forests to even-aged monoculture plantations of single tree species, also make the forests more vulnerable to damage caused by climate change, such as insect attack, fungi attacks, wind and drought.

Even though Sweden has been a member of the EU since 1995, the country still rarely implements the EU Habitats Directive in the forest, and 14 of 15 forest biotopes in the Directive do not have favourable conservation status. The act of dismantling crucial nature conservation efforts most likely violates the EU nature legislation. At least 17-20 percent of all terrestrial areas should be protected in ecologically representative and well-connected areas. Existing national and international legislation needs to be applied immediately to prevent loss of biodiversity, regardless of what Director-General Sundqvist claims.

Julian Klein, Spokesperson, Protect the Forest Sweden

Isadora Wronski, Interim Programme Manager, Greenpeace Sweden

Simone Lovera, Executive Director, Global Forest Coalition, Paraguay/International

Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, United Kingdom/USA

Jana Ballenthien, Forest campaigner, ROBIN WOOD, Germany

Kelsey Perlman, Forest and Climate Campaigner, Fern, EU

Read the six NGOs' previous opinion piece Sweden's forest crimes in Euractiv on 26 February 2020.