European spruce bark beetle. Photo: Harald Kloth via Wikipedia.

The organization Protect the Forest fears that the pursuit of stopping the European spruce bark beetle, will lead to extensive logging of whole forests with rich biodiversity in Sweden. During 2019 woodland key habitats and forests with high conservation values have been logged, are being logged, or are planned for logging. This negative trend may very well continue into 2020.

During 2018 and 2019 the European spruce bark beetle has caused harm to forests’ timber value in the counties of Götaland and Svealand. The Swedish Forest Agency has therefore taken special measures to limit damages caused by the beetles and has proposed changes of 29 § in chapter six of the Swedish Forestry Act, changes which will include clear-cutting of large areas.

Protect the Forest has therefore sent a recommendation (in Swedish) to the Swedish Forest Agency and points out that the European spruce bark beetle is part of the natural ecosystem. The beetle creates dead wood, which is scarce in the Swedish woodlands and is needed for the survival of many plants, animals and fungi.
Most of the Swedish forest landscape is deeply affected by forestry and thus consists of dense spruce plantations, all of the same age, which is a landscape that the European spruce bark beetle favours. Freshly made clear-cuts attract the beetles, probably because of the smell from the stumps and brushwood and because of a pheromone excreted from other beetles. The European spruce bark beetle readily seeks out fallen-over trees in the outskirts of clear cuts.

In the mad pursuit of stopping the beetles there is a risk of extensive loggings. Not only spruce but even deciduous trees and dead trees, which are important for diversity, are in danger of being negatively affected. In 2019, several forests which were going to be protected as nature reserves or woodland key habitats were logged as a preventive measure against the beetles. A measure which is being used as an excuse for logging forests with high conservation values. In contrary, an analysis covering the affected area of Götaland, shows that about 97 per cent of the forest favoured by the beetles is situated outside protected areas.

Traces of spruce bark beetle and woodpecker at Bialowieza's National Park. Photo: Juan de Vonikov, Wikipedia

The Swedish Forest Agency has to be clearer about the preventive measures taken against the European spruce bark beetle. Logging should never be conducted in formally protected areas, such as nature reserves, national parks and woodland key habitats. Nor should these forestry methods be applied in forests planned to be protected- but yet, this is happening.

Furthermore, trees killed by the European spruce bark beetle should not be logged during winter. Most of the beetles hibernate in the ground and are still in the forest if logging takes place during winter and spring. In exceptional cases, occasional trees may be taken down because of the bark beetle, but it is not an excuse for clear-cutting whole natural forests.

Measures taken for fighting the bark beetles may be in conflict with the Species Protection Ordinance. The reason is that the European spruce bark beetle is an important food resource for several protected species, such as the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker. The strict rules in the Species Protection Ordinance also apply for forestry. It should therefore be stated in the regulations that forestry measures such as clear- cutting whole forests, should not take place if this clashes with the Species Protection Ordinance.

The forestry management used for fighting spruce bark beetles may also be in conflict with EU’s Habitat Directive and The Bird Directive. In a court case at the EU’s Court of Justice (case C-441/17), it was determined that Poland’s logging in the forest district of Białowieża to get rid of the spruce bark beetles, was in conflict with both EU Directives. The Court of Justice therefore prohibited Poland to continue its logging of spruce trees in the Białowieża forest. The court mentions threatened species, such as the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, white-backed woodpecker, the Eurasian pigmy owl and the boreal owl, species which are negatively affected by logging of spruce infested by the spruce bark beetle. All birds are included in EU’s Bird Directive and are protected according to the Swedish Species Protection Ordinance.

Protect the Forest states that the Swedish Forest Agency must inform about the importance of natural regeneration and create incitements to favour mixed forests and more deciduous trees instead of coniferous monocultures.

By Kristina Bäck

 

Ore Forest Landscape, threatened by logging. Photo: Private.

Ylva Thörn, governor in the county of Dalarna in Sweden, sends a reply to a letter sent from the organizations Protect the Forest, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) in Rättvik and Nature and Youth in Sweden about the project “Green infrastructure in Gåsberget’s forest landscape”. The NGOs call for more protection of the forests and that the governor and authorities need to stand up for environmental goals.

Governor Ylva Thörn writes in her answer to the organizations:

In a time when forest is important for future society there must be a way to conduct sustainable forestry, even in the valuable forest landscape of Gåsberget. Therefore, we don’t find it realistic to solely impose formal protection in the area. We need to work on a plan for the whole area”.

The project ”Grön infrastruktur i Gåsbergets värdetrakt” (Green infrastructure in Gåsberget’s valuable forest landscape) is a collaboration project with many actors- the County Administrative Board, the Swedish Forest Agency, the forestry companies Sveaskog and Stora Enso and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). According to the NGO's, there is not enough emphasis on need for protection in the project. Furthermore, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has been excluded from the project, even though they stand for a legitimate common interest.  

The forest landscape around Gåsberget is one of northwestern Europe’s largest and most valuable natural pine forest landscapes and it needs urgent protection.

Ylva Thörn writes that sustainable forestry will be conducted whilst biodiversity will be preserved in the forests around Gåsberget. Formal protection, logging and consideration for the forest conservation values is planned so that the green infrastructure remains intact. Protect the Forest would like to know how this will be possible. The organization states that there should be no forestry at all in forests with high conservation values at Gåsberget and in Ore Forest Landscape. This is an approach which is in line with conservation work and with national and international environmental goals, not even “sustainable forestry” should take place in forests with high conservation values.

In addition, Ylva Thörn states that ”25% of the area is already protected, in both formal and voluntary ways” but both Protect the Forest and SSNC in Rättvik have previously questioned this figure. According to SSNC in Rättvik the amount of formally protected forest in Gåsberget is only 5% and in the whole county of Dalarna only 3%.

SSNC in Rättvik has conducted inventories of the forests at Gåsberget. It is unacceptable that they are excluded from taking part in the green infrastructure project, according to the NGOs since SSNC has a legimate common interest.  Ylva Thörn says that there was an open seminar where everyone was invited to take part and that SSNC was there too. She states:

We are sorry to hear that the SSNC find themselves neglected but we imply that their inventories, petitions and opinions at the seminar are important and valued in our ongoing work”

In the outskirts of Gåsberget’s forests and within Ore Forest Landscape there are also plans to establish two large wind farms. Protect the Forest state that the planned wind farms will have a strong negative impact on biodiversity, landscape ecology, the visual impression, noise disturbance, tourism, outdoor life and recreational opportunities. The organization calls for a landscape ecological analysis of the cumulative effects of the two wind farms and demands that both permit applications for the wind farms are rejected.

By Kristina Bäck

 

Dalarnas municipality, Sweden – Ore Forest landscape. Photo: Sebastian Kirppu

One of northwestern Europe’s largest and most valuable natural pine forest landscapes at Gåsberget in Ore Forest landscape in the municipality of Dalarna in Sweden, is threatened by logging. The organizations Protect the Forest, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) in Rättvik and Nature and Youth in Sweden have sent a letter to the governor and the County Administrative Board in Dalarna and to the politicians and authorities concerned, that they have to take action now to preserve these forests.

Several forests with high conservation values in the area of Gåsberget and in Ore Forest landscape are planned to be logged. Two large wind power plants are also planned to be built in the forests. In a press-release the NGO’s state that authorities and politicians must take action. The natural pineforests at Gåsberget need protection now since few such natural pine forest landscapes remain in Sweden, or even in Europe, since they have all been logged.

The project ”Grön infrastruktur i Gåsbergets värdetrakt” (Green infrastructure in Gåsberget’s valuable forest landscape) is a collaboration project with many actors- the County Administrative Board, the Swedish Forest Agency, the forestry companies Sveaskog and Stora Enso and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). According to the NGO's the need for protection is not emphasized enough in the project. Furthermore, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation have been excluded from the project although they stand for a legimitate common interest.  

The organizations call for that there should be no forestry at all in the forests around Gåsberget and in Ore Forest Landscape, which is an approach in line with conservation research and national and international environmental goals. Elin Götmark, spokesperson in Protect the Forest, says:  

”It is unacceptable that the County Administrative Board and the Swedish Forest Agency do not stand up for our environmental goals and that they also exclude the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) from the project. SSNC stand for a legitimate common interest. To not carry out forestry in forests with high conservation values is in line with research on conservation biology since so few forests with high conservation values remain”.

Brännvinsberget in Ore Forest Landscape after being clear-cut. Photo: Sebastian Kirppu

In the letter the NGO’s state that if we don’t protect all forests with high conservation values, how are we ever going to preserve the biodiviersty in Sweden? This is a question they would like the governor, politicians and the authorities to answer.

In less than a month, by 2020, at least 17-20 per cent of all land areas should be protected in ecologically representative systems, according to international and national environmental goals. Today, only 6 percent of the productive forest in Sweden has long-term protection.

Margareta Wikström, chairperson for SSNC in Rättvik says:  

”In Ore Forest Landscape and around Gåsberget there are still some forests left which have high conservation values and these need to be protected so that we reach the national environmental goals, although these forests are just fragments of what they once were. Now they want to log the fragments too- but in a legitimate way.”

By Kristina Bäck

We can’t afford to lose any more natural forests with high conservation values. Photo: Annette Seldén /N

Stop all logging in forests with high conservation values, reduce Sveaskog’s profit returns, phase out clear-cuttings and increase the budget for the protection of forests. These are some of the requirements that NGOs and scientists call for in an appeal to members of the Swedish government, to EU parliamentarians and ministers in a wish-list for Christmas.

The NGOs and scientists demand that the politicians act because according to international reports from IPBES and IPCC, we must urgently reduce the pressure on nature and save biodiversity. More forests need protection and a system change is needed in our ways of carrying out forestry. The NGOs and scientists write:

”We are several organizations and scientists who are worried about that our last natural unprotected forests will be logged and we are therefore handing over an appeal to politicians, as a wish-list for Christmas. On the 16 December the Swedish parliament will debate the budget for general environmental and conservation issues for 2020. It is of utter importance that the budget is increased for protection of forests in the coming years”.

 

Gijmiesgielas, an old natural forest in the reindeer grazing lands of Maskaure Sami village.
Sveaskog has already built a road through the forest. Photo: Björn Mildh

In the letter (in Swedish) with the appeal  there is a list attached with examples of threatened natural forests with high conservation values, which are going to be logged, two are already logged now. The remaining forests need urgent protection. At least 17-20 percent of all ecologically representative and well-connected land areas have to be protected by 2020, according to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). Today only 6 percent of the productive forest has long-term protection in Sweden. In the appeal it is clear that there is no time left, and therefore we cannot afford to lose more valuable natural forest in Sweden. The politicians have to put their foot down. Julian Klein, spokesperson in Protect the Forest says: 

”For decades a united international body of researchers have been warning the world about the consequences of fossil fuels, long before the first politicians dared implement some modest measures. Now again, a united international body of researchers are warning the world about the on-going degradation of biodiversity, which is threatening human survival. Fast and decisive action has to be taken, not just some modest measures!”

About 45 000 individuals and 23 organizations have previously requested protection of all of Sveaskog’s natural forests with high conservation values in the campaign Vår skog (Our Forest). The campaign took place during the beginning of 2019 and a petition with requests about changes was handed over to the Minister of Enterprise and Energy, Ibrahim Baylan, but since then nothing has happened.

The natural forest planned for logging in Bientie in the county of Norrbotten, which is an important reindeer grazing forest.
Several threatened species have been found in the forest, according to an inventory. Photo: Björn Mildh.

The natural forest planned for logging in Bientie in the county of Norrbotten, which is an important reindeer grazing forest. Several threatened species have been found in the forest, according to an inventory done by the organization Nature and Youth. Photo: Björn Mildh.

The NGOs and the researchers write that to stop the on-going degradation of biodiversity of forests the situation demands that:

Forestry is stopped in all forests with high conservation values in Sweden.
The state-owned forestry company Sveaskog is given new directives with lowered profit returns to be able to fulfill the environmental target concerning forests.
The budget for protection of Swedish forests is increased to 5 billion SEK per year, starting during this election period until all forests with high conservation values are protected in a long-term, sustainable and transparent way and are ecologically integrated in a wider landscape.
Clear-cutting forestry is phased out and replaced by forestry without clear-cutting methods in forests without high conservation values.

Sveaskog is planning to log the 200-year old pineforest at Melakträskliden in Arvidsjaur’s municipality. Photo: Björn Mildh.

In total, 28 representatives from 26 organizations, a Sami village and 13 researchers have signed the appeal. Organizations such as Climate Action Sweden, Fridays for Future, Nature and Youth Sweden, local groups from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), The Rights of Nature and End Ecocide Sweden have signed the letter to the politicians. Protect the Forest has taken the initiative to this appeal and have also written a debate article about it.

 

A valuable natural forest in Sveaskog's Ecopark Ejheden near Lannaberget where a large wind farm is planned. Photo: Bengt Oldhammer.

Not only are several forests with high natural values ​​planned for logging in Ore Forest Landscape in Dalarna in Sweden - now parts of the area are also threatened by two large wind farms. Protect the Forest demands that both permit applications for the wind farms Lannaberget and Broboberget should be completely rejected.

The wind power company Wpd plans to build two large wind farms at Broboberget and Lannaberget in Ore Forest Landscape in the municipalities of Rättvik and Ovanåker in Dalarna. A total of 80 wind turbines will be built at Broboberget and 35 wind turbines will be built at Lannaberget, both with a total height of 230 meters.

Already in 2014, Wpd submitted a permit application for the wind power projects Broboberget and Lannaberget to the County Administrative Board in Dalarna County. Permission was granted by the County Environmental Permit Board (Miljöprövningsdelegationen) at the County Administrative Board in Dalarna County in 2016. The decision was then appealed by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Rättvik to the Land and Environmental Court, which referred the case to the County Administrative Board for further processing. Wpd has now submitted documentation to supplement the former application.

Several woodland key habitats and areas with documented conservation values ​​are found where Brobobergets and Lannaberget wind farms are planned. Several of the woodland key habitats will be surrounded by wind turbines.

Protect the Forest writes in its submitted response to the Country Administrative Board in Dalarna County:

The woodland key habitats will remain as small isolated islands in a fragmented and permanently deforested landscape. This will affect many red-listed species and indicator species' ability to survive and spread extremely negatively."

In addition, the Broboberget wind farm is located near the Trollmosseskogen nature reserve in the west. Just a few kilometers south of Broboberget's wind power park is also Gåsberget nature reserve where one of Sweden's most preserved post-fire deciduous forest is located. The bird life in the reserve's deciduous forest area is very rich and, given the proximity to the wind farm, there are great risks that the bird life in the nature reserve will be negatively affected.

Protect the Forest state that the planned wind farms will have a strong negative impact on biodiversity, landscape ecology, the visual impression, noise disturbance, tourism, outdoor life and recreational opportunities. The organisation calls for a landscape ecological analysis of the cumulative effects of the two wind farms and demands that both permit applications for the wind farms Lannaberget and Broboberget are rejected.

Ore Forest Landscape harbours one of the largest and most valuable natural pine forest landscapes in northwestern Europe. As much as 20 % of protection-worthy older natural pine forest with a history of forest fire is found in the Forest Landscape. Very few such landscapes remain in Sweden below the montane region, which makes Ore Forest Landscape unique. However, the valuable forest areas in Ore Forest Landscape have decreased in recent years. Sveaskog logged over 600 hectares of high conservation value forests ​​in Ore Forest Landscape between years 2013-2017. Since then, even more high conservation value forests ​​have been logged or are planned for logging.

Download Protect the Forest's submitted response to the Country Administrative Board in Dalarna County regarding the permit application for Lannaberget wind farm, municipality of Rättvik, and Broboberget wind farm, municipalities of Rättvik and Ovanåkers, here (in Swedish).