In 2023, the European Commission published guidelines on Closer-to-Nature Forest Management (CNF), which are the result of a consultation process with various stakeholders. Protect the Forest Sweden welcome the general principles of CNF, which we find to be well formulated in the EC’s document, with good scientific references. But unfortunately, the guidelines for the boreal region partly contradict the general principles, or are vague and open for interpretations which allow business-as-usual industrial forestry.

Is this the future of CNF management in continuity forest with high conservation values or in protected forest areas? Forest company SCA logged in this forest in 2023, a so called “customized logging” (aka CNF?) in a continuity forest with red listed species. Photo: Daniel Rutschman

From a Swedish perspective, the need for CNF is clear: The currently dominating forestry method in Sweden is clear-cutting followed by tree plantations, which is destructive for forest biodiversity. Because of the industry’s demand for timber, about 60% of the Swedish forest is younger than 60 years old, and only 6% of the productive forest land is under long term formal protection. We urgently need to protect and restore more forest, and outside of protected areas, we need another kind of forestry.

We hoped that the CNF guidelines would describe such a forestry. But in the boreal section, we find that forest industry representatives have influenced the text so that today’s forestry is partly greenwashed. The guidelines for the boreal region will most likely allow current forestry to be labeled as CNF. Indeed, this is what the Swedish forest industry probably aims for: See for example Peter Holmgren’s claim in May 2023 that Swedish forestry “converted to close-to-nature forest management already 30 years ago”. For example, the guidelines for the boreal region say that:

  • “5-10% should be the strict minimum percentage of forest dedicated to retention patches.” That is, 90-95% of the forest can be cut down. This pretty well describes today’s clear-cuts, which usually include small, inadequate border zones towards water, and some retained trees.
  • “…Where it is assessed as leading to better forest growth…natural regeneration could be combined with assisted planting or seedings of adapted native tree species…” The forest industry generally considers that planting seedlings which are genetically different from the local stock improves forest growth. Nothing thus guarantees natural regeneration, which should be the norm in CNF.

See our document for more in-depth analysis.

In addition, we are concerned about the application of the integrated approach highlighted in several places in the guidelines. In an integrated approach, human use of forests coexists with nature conservation.

We agree that humans are part of the ecosystem and that in many cases an integrated approach is possible and desirable. This can be the case with, for example, berry and mushroom picking, reindeer herding, cattle grazing, and household use of wood. It can also be the case when CNF is used as a form of restoration in degenerated production stands and tree plantations. But when the strong economic incentives and industrial capacity of modern forestry comes into play, the danger is that CNF will be used as an alibi to extract timber from forests with high conservation value which urgently need protection from forestry. CNF should not contribute to the expansion of commercial forestry into forests that have not previously been managed by industrial forestry methods, and/or that have not been previously clear-cut. We have already seen many examples of this (see our document).

Read the whole document here


Viktor Säfve, Protect the Forest, +46 76 114 88 11,

Elin Götmark, spokesperson, Protect the Forest, +46 70 678 74 23, email: