Karatj-Råvvåive in northern Sweden from above. Photo: Mose Agestam.

Subalpine old-growth forest in Karatj-Råvvåive in northern Sweden, which previously was meant to become a nature reserve, is now at risk of being logged. Authorities are investigating the possibility to establish a so-called eco-park instead of giving the area formal and long-term protection. The organization Protect the Forest strongly opposes these plans and is now launching an international campaign and a petition to save the forest.

Karatj-Råvvåive is a vast old-growth forest at the foot of the mountains in Jokkmokk in the northernmost part of Sweden. For more than a decade the environmental movement has fought to protect this 13,000-hectare large area from logging. This forest is valuable for plants and animals, for people to enjoy and live in, for reindeer-husbandry, for the Sami cultural history and for the ancient forest itself. The area borders the more than 1,000 square kilometer large nature reserve Pärlälvens Fjällurskog (the Pearl River Alpine Virgin Forest) and is thereby a part of one of Europe’s last large roadless primeval forest landscapes.

For many years Karatj-Råvvåive was intended to be given formal protection, and in November 2018 the northern half of the area was finally protected as a nature reserve. But for the southern half there is no solution yet, since the landowner Jokkmokks Allmänning has opposed protection. Instead the authorities and the landowners have initiated a process to create an eco-park there.

"A large and intact old-growth forest of this magnitude is unique, and we must ensure that it is given proper protection. It would be devastating if the area became fragmented, there is no room for questionable solutions as eco-parks," says Linda Ellegaard Nordström from Protect the Forest.

An eco-park is a voluntary commitment where parts of the forest are protected, but where forestry and other kinds of exploitation are still allowed on about half of the area. It is also an agreement with a time-limit of a maximum of 50 years. Protect the Forest strongly opposes these plans and is now launching an international campaign in order to raise awareness of the threat against the forest. The organization has made a film and urges everyone to sign this petition, which will be sent to the authorities before their eco-park investigation is finished this fall.

"We want the authorities to show that they are taking responsibility for Sweden’s environmental targets and not succumbing to pressure from the forest industry. To create eco-parks in forests with a high conservation value is pure green-washing and nothing else than a loophole for the forest industry to continue to cut down the last remains of Sweden’s old-growth forests," says Daniel Rutschman from Protect the Forest.

Read more about the campaign here.

Watch the movie about Karatj-Råvvåive (20 min, subtitles in English and German) here.

Sign online petition at Change.org here.

Contacts
Linda Ellegaard Nordström + 46 70 – 254 11 48
Daniel Rutschman + 46 76 – 112 88 26

Facts about Karatj-Råvvåive

Karatj-Råvvåive is a forest 13 000 hectares in size, about 50 kilometers west of Jokkmokk in the county of Norrbotten in northern Sweden. Large parts of the area are roadless, subalpine old-growth forest. Karaj-Råvvåive consists of mountains that rise above the treeline, mountains covered in old-growth forest, wide areas of bare rock, heathland with hundred-year-old pines, large mires, streams and lakes. The Sami village of Tuorpon uses the area for reindeer husbandry, and the old-growth forests are important grazing-grounds for the reindeer.

In the west, Karatj-Råvvåive borders on the nature reserve Pärlälvens fjällurskog, and is a natural extension of one of Sweden's largest areas of old-growth forest. The area has a very large biodiversity, and thanks to being so untouched, it has large conservation value. About 1,500 individual finds of 85 different red-listed species have been reported, for example three-toed woodpecker, grey-headed chickadee, the beetle Northorhina muricata, the lichen Evernia divaricata and Collema curtisporum, and the endangered wood-living fungus Neoantrodia infirma. The WWF has earlier declared Karatj-Råvvåive a natural area which ought to be protected.

Karatj-Råvvåive, photo: Mose Agestam

Near the mountains in Jokkmokk municipality, bordering on the Pärlälven nature reserve with subalpine old-growth forest, north of the Karats lake, lies Karatj-Råvvåive. For more than ten years, people have been trying to protect this large old-growth forest, covering more than 100 square kilometers. The forest is valuable for many reasons: for animals and plants, for people to enjoy and live in, for reindeer husbandry, for its cultural history, and for the forest's own sake.

The values of the forest have long been well-documented, and the authorities in charge of nature conservation have wanted to protect the whole area for years. In November 2018, it was decided that half of Karatj-Råvvåive will become a nature reserve. But for the southern half, there is as yet no solution, since the land owner is against a nature reserve. Because of lobbying from forest companies, and lack of money in the state budget for nature conservation, a process has now begun to form a so-called eco-park in southern Karatj-Råvvåive.

An eco-park is a voluntary commitment from the landowner, where forestry and other kinds of human land use is still permitted. In an eco-park, some areas are managed, while others are set aside for conservation. The forest company signs an agreement with the Forest Agency which is valid for at most 50 years. According to Protect the Forest, with today's critical condition for biodiversity, there is no room for half-measures when it comes to conservation, especially not for valuable subalpine old-growth forests such as Karatj-Råvvåive. A nature reserve is protected against forestry and other types of exploitative land use, with no time limit. That is why Protect the Forest wants all of Karatj-Råvvåive to be protected as a nature reserve, and nothing else.

You can help – by signing this petition to protect Karatj-Råvvåive as a nature reserve.

 

Facts about Karatj-Råvvåive

Karatj-Råvvåive is a forest 13 000 hectares in size, about 50 kilometers west of Jokkmokk in the county of Norrbotten. Large parts of the area are roadless, subalpine old-growth forest. There are low fells above the treeline, fells covered in old-growth forest, wide areas of bare rock, heathland with hundred-year-old pines, large mires, streams and lakes. The Sami village of Tuorpon uses the area for reindeer husbandry, and the old-growth forests are important grazing-grounds for the reindeer.

In the west, Karatj-Råvvåive borders on the nature reserve Pärlälvdalens fjällurskog, and is a natural extension of one of Sweden's largest areas of old-growth forest. The area has a very large biodiversity, and thanks to being so untouched, it has large conservation value. About 1500 individual find of 85 different redlisted species have been reported to the Species Observation System at the Swedish Species Information Center, for example three-toed woodpecker, grey-headed chickadee, the beetle Northorhina muricata, the lichen Evernia divaricata and Collema curtisporum, and the endangered wood-living fungus Neoantrodia infirma. The WWF has earlier declared Karatj-Råvvåive a natural area which ought to be protected.

In November 2018, it was announced that half the area would be protected as a nature reserve, read more here. Now Protect the Forest is working to ensure that the other half will also be formally protected, so that the area remains a whole and the landscape values can be secured.
Photos of the area can be found in our gallery.
Map of the area.

Protect all of Karatj-Råvvåive!
The southern half of Karatj-Råvvåive must – like the northern half – be formally protected as a nature reserve. It would be a great mistake to proceed with the plans of an eco-park in the area instead.

Why is this important?
For ten years, the organization Protect the Forest has worked to protect Karatj-Råvvåive, an area of old-growth forest near the mountains in Jokkmokk municipality which is more than 100 square kilometers. In March of 2019, a nature reserve with the name Karatj-Råvvåive was finally formed. But half the forest was missing. Instead, the land owners and the government authorities had decided to pursue plans for an eco-park in the southern half.

Since the situation for biodiversity in the forest is so critical, there is no room for half-measures when it comes to nature conservation. A nature reserve is protected against forestry and other types of exploitative land use, with no time limit.

Eco-parks are the forest industry's own nature conservation projects, with a short-term and often weak protection. Forest management and other types of developments are still allowed. There are many examples of how the state-owned forest company Sveaskog has mis-managed the nature conservation in their eco-parks, where economic profit has been more important than protection of nature and biodiversity. An eco-park is out of the question when it comes to protecting high natural values in roadless, subalpine old-growth forest.

That is why Protect the Forest wants all of Karatj-Råvvåive to be protected as a nature reserve, and nothing else. The southern part of Karatj-Råvvåive must be included in the nature reserve Karatj-Råvvåive.

Watch the film "The Great Forest Karatj-Råvvåive" and read more about the forest on our campaign site (in Swedish).

Old dead tree in Maskaure Sami village. Photo: Björn Mildh.

Kristina Bäck from Protect the Forest is the author of the following blog article which has been published on Global Forest Coalition's website.

Blog article: Indigenous Sami under threat from logging in Sweden

Sweden’s state-owned forestry company Sveaskog have announced that they will sell another 10,400 hectares of forest, more than 2,000 hectares of which are reindeer grazing forests around Maskaure, a Sami village in Arjeplog municipality. The company is also planning to log 32 natural reindeer grazing forests in the same area, totaling 400 hectares. Together with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, the Sami of Maskaure are trying to stop these plans.

Read the full blog article here.

The Global Forest Coalition (GFC) is an international coalition of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations defending social justice and the rights of forest peoples in forest policies.

Read more about Global Forest Coalition here.

Piles of logged wood from a felled forest in Estonia. Photo: Karl Adami.

The environmental NGO Estonian Forest Aid is critical against the forest company Stora Enso's forest logging in Estonia.  In a letter, they urge Stora Enso to shift to contemporary forest management practices in accordance to biodiversity and climate goals which also show consideration to birds' nesting season and local people. After being in contact with Stora Enso, its Estonian subsidiary has responded that the company is open for a dialogue regarding a specific case of Märjamaa forest-park. 

Read Estonian Forest Aid's letter on Stora Enso's destructive forestry here:

Recently, Stora Enso Oy has demostranted some rather dubious practices in Estonia. Namely, forest management schemes deployed by Stora Enso make the company an investment choice that is as far from sustainable and responsable as could be.

We are concerned about forests in Estonia. The way Stora Enso is doing business in this country is destroying our forests, wildlife and local communities. Estonia is a much poorer country than Sweden or Finland and the export of huge quantities of timber is often the easiest business for many here, albeit very doubtful in the ethical and environmental aspects.

Forests are vital to combating climate change. They help regulate the Earth’s climate by drawing carbon from the atmosphere. They store nearly 300 billion tonnes of carbon in their leaves, branches and other living parts. If we do not end forest destruction, we have no chance of avoiding climate breakdown and the extinction crisis.

But it doesn’t look like companies have noticed we are in a climate emergency. They are carrying on with business as usual, and like to promote their own ‘green’ image to improve their brand. Loss of biodiversity is just as catastrophic as climate change.

Estonian legislative acts, including the Forestry Act allow practically endless clearing of forests. What is more, the EU environmental legislation is not really being enforced in Estonia.

We urge Stora Enso Estonian subsidiary to shift to contemporary forest management practices in accordance with the FSC (FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world's forests), Århus convention, climate and biodiversity goals. (Comment from Protect the Forest; The FSC has large flaws in Sweden).

For example, Stora Enso is pretending to include local people in Märjamaa, Estonia about the forest cutting next to people’s homes and singing field (important place for local public events). Märjamaa is my childhood home and my parents still live there. The forest is an important barrier against noise, pollution and dust of big Tallinn-Pärnu road. Local and other Estonian people have signed a petition to stop the plan.

Right now, countless birds are nesting. The environmental NGO’s in Estonia find that there shoud be the peace for birds in forests till the end of August. Otherwise, the birds’ offspring will die. The same can happen for young animals. Scientists warn that birds are diminishing: according to Aveliina Helm, Senior Research Fellow in Botany at University of Tartu, "57 000 – 111 000 pairs will vanish every year in Estonia".

And now Stora Enso is planning to start clearing the forest on 16 June 2020.

We are extremely concerned about the practice of timber industry including Stora Enso in Estonia who puts profits before people, destroying our living and natural environment and local communities. We thus urge you to help to stop the ongoing destruction of Estonian forests by the Estonian subsidiary of Stora Enso.

With hope,
Riina Georg and Aivar Georg, members of non-profit environmental organisations "Estonian Forest Aid" and "Roheline Pärnumaa", Estonia,                      Tiina Georg, Member of Board, Estonian Forest Aid, Estonia
Tiiu-Liia Knaps, resident of Märjamaa, Estonia,
Udo Knaps, resident of Märjamaa, Estonia

Extinction Rebellion protester in the forest-park Märjamaa. Photo: Mari Laanesaar.

The bank vole (Myodes glareolus) lives in woodland areas in Estonia, such as decidious and mixed forests as well as coniferous forests. Photo: Karl Adami.

Protecting forests is essential to safeguard biodiversity and mitigate climate change, writes Protect the Forest in its feedback on EU's 2030 Climate Target Plan.

Protect the Forest has given feedback on EU's 2030 Climate Target Plan.

Read the full feedback from Protect the Forest here:

There is a climate and biodiversity crisis in the world, and a catastrophic future lies ahead. Both crises are intertwined. Protecting and restoring forests is essential. Natural forests store large amounts of carbon. If they are cut down, carbon is released to the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide emissions from bioenergy are considered as zero emissions. However, bioenergy is not carbon-neutral. The burning of bioenergy emits carbon dioxide immediately which contributes to the greenhouse effect just like fossil fuels. The atmosphere does not differentiate between different sources of carbon. It takes many years to compensate for these carbon emissions: in a 50-100 year perspective, biofuels can even have larger climate impact than fossil fuels.

In order to mitigate climate change, everything possible should be done to prevent carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. The use of both bioenergy and fossil fuels need to be reduced. The purported climate benefits of biofuels need to be re-evaluated urgently.

By decreasing harvest rates 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 mitigate climate change 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. According to IPCC, the net emissions of greenhouse gases need to decrease with about 50 % globally by 2030 in order to avoid a global mean temperature increase of 1,5 C above pre-industrial levels. It generally takes 50-100 years for felled trees in the boreal region to grow back and re-absorb the emitted carbon dioxide. In e.g. Sweden, about 80 % of the annual harvest is used for bioenergy, paper and other short-lived products, which increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for decades. If the increase of carbon to the atmosphere continues and the temperature increases with more than 2-3 degrees C as compared to-pre industrial levels, there is a major risk that climate tipping points will be reached where changes can become uncontrolled and practically irreversible.

Climate policy measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

• Protect at least 30 % of the forest land in the EU. The forests should be ecologically representative and well connected.
• Prioritize and incentivize protection of all remaining primary and natural forests including peat-land forests. All forest biotopes under the EU Habitats Directive must have a favorable conservation status in the EU.
• Re-direct EU subsidies for cutting and burning wood to protecting and restoring natural forests.
• Restore wetlands on drained peat-lands, since they emit a lot of greenhouse gases.
• Implement full accounting of the full climate impact of biofuels.
• Harvested wood products (HWPs) should not be considered as carbon sinks - it risks leading to increased harvesting rates without accounting for the emissions caused by the forest felling.
• Support and promote the use of nature-oriented and continuous cover forestry to decrease the release of greenhouse gases from soil. However, high conservation value forests should be exempted from forestry, not felled.
• Promote natural regeneration and favor mixed forests with a greater proportion of deciduous trees.
• Produce less short-lived forest products since these require a lot of energy to produce and release carbon to the atmosphere rapidly. Prioritize long-lived products instead.
• Reduce the energy consumption and reduce the consumption of paper, forest products and other natural resources. Promote energy efficiency and recycling.

See references in the attachment here.

The full feedback on EU's 2030 Climate Target Plan can also be read here.