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The state-owned forest company Sveaskog logged a 200 year old natural forest with red-listed species at Guorpaliden in Arvidsjaur municipality in Sweden 2017. Photo: Björn Mildh.

Today, 70 organizations from 25 countries and 30 scientists send an open letter to Swedish Ministers, Members of the Swedish Parliament and authorities, demanding that all forests with high conservation values in Sweden should be protected and that clear-cutting forestry is phased out. The signatories write that decision makers need to act now to stop grave threats against the climate and forest biodiversity.

The 70 organizations and the 30 scientists who have signed the open letter stress that Sweden does not achieve its national and international environmental targets. They refer to the EU Habitats Directive, where it is reported that as many as 14 of 15 forest habitats have unfavorable conservation status in Sweden. The loss of habitats is considered to be the major contributing reason to why more than 1,800 forest plant and animal species are red-listed, that is, near threatened or threatened, in the country today.

“Given how critical the situation is for the biodiversity and climate, it is shameful that forests with high natural values still are being logged and are planned for logging in Sweden. The fate of the small last remnants of northwest Europe's old-growth forests, and all species who depend on it, rests on the politicians of today. Sweden is one of the richest countries in the world and it is beyond our comprehension that we do not take our responsibility towards the rest of the world and act exemplarily by protecting these valuable forests,” said Julian Klein, spokesperson for Protect the Forest.

The Swedish Forest Agency has recently decided that at the end of 2020 it will stop registering woodland key habitats when forest areas are notified for felling. A woodland key habitat is a forest area that is of major importance for the flora and fauna, which often harbors endangered and rare species. According to the Swedish FSC forest certification standard, woodland key habitats must be exempted from felling.

The Swedish Forest Agency has also recently released a report with several measures for intensified forest management. Measures such as increased logging, clearing of ditches and more plantations are promoted instead of preventing biodiversity loss and emissions of greenhouse gases.

“Instead of preventing logging of high conservation value forests in Sweden, the Swedish Forest Agency acts in the opposite direction by making it easier to intensify forest production. This is detrimental to the climate and to biodiversity, both under extreme pressure in this climate crisis,” said Isadora Wronski, Interim Programme Manager, Greenpeace Sweden.

In the open letter, the 70 organizations and the 30 scientists write that the situation demands that:

- Woodland key habitats continue to be registered when forest areas are notified for felling after 2020.

- Forestry is stopped in all high conservation value forests. This includes core areas along with registered and unregistered woodland key habitats. Forests in High Value Forest Landscapes and continuity forests as well as forests with unknown biological values must be visited in the field and inventoried prior to any kind of planned forestry operation. If high conservation values are discovered, these areas should be exempt from forestry.

- The state-owned forestry company Sveaskog is given amended owner directives with a lower required rate of return to be able to achieve the environmental targets regarding sustainable forests and biodiversity.

- The budget allocated to forest protection is increased to 5 billion SEK per year, starting during this Government’s tenure, until all high conservation value forests are protected in a long-term, quality assured and transparent way, with a landscape ecology approach.

- Clear-cutting forestry is phased out and replaced by forestry without clear-cutting methods in forests without high conservation values.

Among the 70 signatories of the open letter are Protect the Forest, Greenpeace Sweden, Friends of the Earth EuropeFERN (EU), Biofuelwatch (United Kingdom/US), Global Forest Coaltion (international), Robin Wood (Germany) och Australian Forests and Climate Alliance (Australia).

Professors, Associate Professors and doctoral candidates are among the 30 scientists (based in Sweden) who have signed the open letter.

Contact

Julian Klein, Spokesperson, Protect the Forest Sweden, phone: +46 (0)72 737 42 34, email: jg.klein(@)protonmail.com

Isadora Wronski, Interim Programme Manager, Greenpeace Sweden, phone: +46 (0)70 301 25 34, email: isadora.wronski(@)greenpeace.org

Download the full open letter here.

Old beech forest that has been felled in one of Romania’s national parks to become bioenergy.

Unique virgin forests are being logged in national parks, nature reserves and Natura 2000 sites in Romania. This has been ongoing for several years right in front of the eyes of the EU and with the support of the Romanian Government. In the beginning of February, Protect the Forest signed an open letter together with other international environmental NGOs in order to get the Romanian Government to act. Your support is needed – sign the petition in order to change the situation. Also watch this documentary, and share it!

However, now the European Commission is taking legal action against Romanian authorities for illegal logging of Europe's last primeval forests.

The announcement follows complaints submitted last year to the European Commission by environmental groups Agent Green, ClientEarth and EuroNatur against Romania’s ongoing and deliberate destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of its protected old-growth and primeval forests.

The groups mean that Romania’s state forestry management is conducting logging operations within protected Natura 2000 areas without proper analysis of the impact in these unique sites. Failure to carry adequate and strategic environmental assessments when approving logging in protected areas and lack of access to environmental information breaches EU law.

The environmental groups therefore welcome the launch of the Commission’s infringement proceedings against Romania as a new hope to protect the country’s natural forests.

The Romanian government will have one month to send a detailed reply to the concerns raised by the European Commission. The Commission will then decide whether to take further steps towards bringing the case before the Court of Justice of the European Union – the EU’s highest court.

Read more in Euronatur’s press release here.

The documentary BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal? (2019) shows how the burning of wood at an industrial scale for energy accelerates the destruction of forests for fuel, and probes the policy loopholes, huge subsidies, and blatant greenwashing of the burgeoning biomass power industry.

Bioenergy is generally considered as carbon neutral and is therefore subsidized by Governments. An increasing number of scientists are starting to question the climate neutrality of biofuels and imply that carbon dioxide emissions even can be higher when biofuels are burned instead of fossil fuels.

“If you are interested in reducing emissions now, then burning something that puts more carbon into the air than the thing you are replacing, which is coal, does not make sense," says Mary S. Booth, PhD, Director and Ecosystems Ecologist, Partnership for Policy Integrity, in the documentary.

Furthermore, Duncan Law from Biofuelwatch says that tax payers, through their power bills, pay for so called renewable technology which destroys forests, biodiversity and make climate change worse.

In the US South, forests are felled at a fast rate. Dogwood Alliance has documented the increased pressure that the biomass industry has put on the heavily logged landscape. Every year, thousands of hectares of Southern forests are cut down, turned into wood pellets, and shipped overseas to Europe to be burned.

Mary S. Booth continues:

"It is about what the atmosphere sees when you burn different kinds of fuel. There is just a fact that more carbon is coming out of the stack when you burn wood than when you burn coal. There is an assumption that some time in the future it will be offset. The industry says that it will never do anything to harm the climate, well, they do."

Watch the trailer of the documentary "BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal?" here.

Unsustainable forestry, Luopioinen, Pälkäne, Finland. Photo: Tero Laakso, Creative Commons (CCO by 2.0)

Protect the Forest has sent a mail to all the Members of the European Parliament and to the European Commission urging them to take action against the clear-cutting of northern Europe’s last unprotected natural forests. Increased logging is being promoted by the Swedish Forest Industries, The Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF) and the Center Party claiming that active forest management is best for the climate.

The Swedish Forest Industries, LRF and the Center Party have formed the network ”Wood be Better”, a campaign which is being promoted in Brussels. According to the campaign, the substitution of fossil fuels with wood will contribute to EU becoming climate neutral by 2050. To reach this goal more forests will need to be logged for the production of bioenergy and for products with short lifespans. Sweden’s forestry is neither sustainable or climate neutral and so it is a false solution that leads to mass extinction and adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

More voices need to be heard that contradict the forest industries’ propaganda. In the mail to the Members of the European Parliament there is a link to the documentary “BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal?”. The film shows how the burning of wood at an industrial scale for energy accelerates the destruction of forests for fuel, probes the policy loopholes, uses huge subsidies and greenwashes the biomass power industry. In the documentary Mary S. Booth, PhD, Director and Ecosystems Ecologist, Partnership for Policy Integrity, says: “If you are interested in reducing emissions now, then burning something that puts more carbon into the air than the thing you are replacing, which is coal, does not make sense."

The Members of the European Parliament and the European Commission need to know that many Swedish natural forests with high conservation values still remain unprotected, are planned for logging or are being clear-cut.

Here is the letter to the Members of the European Parliament and to the European Commission:

Please act to stop the clear-cutting of northern Europe’s last unprotected natural forests!
Sweden’s last remaining unprotected natural forests in Europe are now being rapidly clear-cut for bioenergy and short-term products. This is not in line with current research such as international reports from IPBES and IPCC, or in line with the Paris climate goal agreement or biodiversity goals.

The documentary BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal? (2019) shows how the burning of wood at an industrial scale for energy accelerates the destruction of forests for fuel. Policy loopholes, huge subsidies, and greenwashing of biomass power industry makes this possible. In Sweden, the forest industry argues that forests should be clear-cut to mitigate climate change. This idea coincides with the industry’s business interest and is a false climate solution. Over 80% of all forest products in Sweden have short lifespans and do not store carbon for a longer period.

The remaining forests in Europe need urgent protection. In Sweden at least 17-20 percent of all ecologically representative and well-connected land areas should have been protected by 2020, according to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). Today only 6 percent of the productive forest in Sweden has long-term protection.
The on-going logging is a great threat to biodiversity and research shows that loss of biodiversity is a problem of the same magnitude as climate change and fundamental to human survival.”

By Kristina Bäck


A newly made road through a natural forest with woodland key habitat qualities. The photo is from  the end of June 2019. 

The non-profit conservationist Björn Mildh wrote an open letter to Herman Sundqvist, Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency:

Dear Herman,

In July 2019, I commented on your blog post entitled "The image of a divided forest landscape contributes to endless struggle". The comment is down below for anyone who wants to read it.

Since then, the disagreements have only increased. Therefore, let's recapitulate the facts of what happened in 2019.

- The Swedish Forest Agency informed that 55,000 hectares of woodland key habitats had been logged in northwestern Sweden between 2000-2018. It could be mentioned that Sveaskog and the National Property Board Sweden, both state-owned companies, are by far the largest landowners in the area. During the majority of that period you also happened to be the Head of Forest Management for Sveaskog.

- The Swedish Forest Agency has previously increased the requirements for woodland key habitats in northwestern Sweden. This means that natural forests, which in other parts of Sweden would be classified as woodland key habitats, are now classified as production forests that can be logged. This measure should be seen to the fact that while you were Head of Forest Management for Sveaskog, you stated that "Sveaskog is going to harvest all land which is not protected". (See the article "Sveaskog's giant clear-cut is heavily criticized” in Land Skogsland/LRF Media, no. 48, November 21, 2014; only in Swedish).

- The Swedish Forest Agency stopped the nationwide woodland key habitat inventory and justified it by referring to the reduced budget allocated to forest protection.

- The Swedish Forest Agency wants to stop registering woodland key habitats in forest areas notified for final felling (end of year 2020).

Nevertheless, it was the Swedish Forest Agency that launched the concept of woodland key habitats in 1990.

"The woodland key habitats represent a significant part of the diversity in the Swedish forest. It is necessary to know where the woodland key habitats are located in the landscape in order to safeguard biodiversity."

By using different maneuvers, the Swedish Forest Agency is doing its best to counteract the protection against logging, which the woodland key habitats provide.

Woodland key habitats are only seen as limitations to production.

As Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency, you run the work of the Agency.

What will be the next tactical move by the Swedish Forest Agency?

Sincerely,
Björn Mildh, specialist in childhood (and the forestry’s) internal diseases.

--
The comment on Herman Sundqvist’s blog in July 2019:

Dear Herman,

For many years we have had regular contact. Ever since the events in Valvträsk in Norrbotten in 2004, when Sveaskog cut down the forest at Sörfligget. And I have given attention to a considerable number of natural forests over the years after that, when you were the Head of Forest Management for Sveaskog.

I follow your blog that you continued to write even after you were appointed as Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency. The latest post is from the 11th of June and is entitled "The image of a divided forest landscape contributes to endless struggle".

As firmly as I have stood up for the environmental objectives, you have stood up for the production. There are contradictions, of course, when we are told that 55,000 hectares of woodland key habitats have been logged in northwestern Sweden, despite all fair talks. At the same time, the Swedish Forest Agency increases the requirements for woodland key habitats in the same area so that natural forests, which in other parts of Sweden would be classified as woodland key habitats, are now classified as production forests that can be logged. Shouldn't a stupid alert have flashed red towards everybody who wants to prevent division and conflict about the forest?

In addition, the state-owned Sveaskog, together with the National Property Board Sweden, is the largest landowner in northwestern Sweden.

The attached image was taken on the 30th of June 2019 in the municipality of Arjeplog, showing a fresh example of why there is a struggle. Sveaskog has made a new road through an old natural high conservation value forest. The purpose of the road is to log the adjacent forest which has woodland key habitat qualities and is important land for reindeer grazing. The road was made even before any consultation was held with the Sami village about the forest. The Sami, our indigenous people, should obviously only be confronted when the fact is already completed.

Everything is about increased production, at the expense of the Sami village, the reindeer husbandry and the environmental objective.
So, is it strange if there are conflicts and "endless struggle"?

Sincerely,
Björn Mildh in Piteå