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European FSC companies urge Sweden to stop logging natural forests

Sveaskog’s FSC-certified clear-cut at Lannaberget in Dalarna. Photo: Bengt Oldhammer

Press release, November 29, 2017:

A large number of biologically valuable forests are planned to be felled in Sweden. In an open letter, 90 representatives from 70 FSC-certified companies from large consumer countries in Europe demand that all forests with high conservation values in Sweden must be permanently protected. Sweden is the third largest exporter of paper, pulp and sawn timber in the world and the UK, Germany and the Netherlands belong to some of the largest importers of Swedish forest products. Representatives from these European companies warn that if the demands are not met, they will consider halting trade with Swedish forest producers.

The companies that have signed the open letter are concerned about several high conservation value forests which are planned to be felled by certified forest companies such as Sveaskog, Stora Enso and SCA (1). They appeal to the Swedish government, the Swedish Forest Agency and the certified forest companies to protect all high conservation value forests permanently.

Sweden holds a considerable proportion of the remaining natural forests in Europe. Sweden is committed to protect its biodiversity through international and national environmental targets. However, Sweden is far from reaching these targets. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a forest certification for sustainable forestry. According to the FSC standard, high conservation value forests should be exempt from forestry. Despite of this, many biological valuable forests are felled by the certified forestry in Sweden.

In the open letter the European companies write: ”It is not acceptable that these remnants of high conservation value forests, which are unique and a part of the last wilderness in Europe, lack permanent protection and are being felled under the name of the forest certification FSC. This clearly undermines the credibility of the FSC. A sustainable forest management should not degrade biodiversity, species and natural environments.” 

The companies that have signed the open letter work with everything from printing, packaging and recycling to interior design and construction, as well as forestry. 

”Consumers want to be sure that they buy responsible products. In Germany the FSC label supports a nature-oriented forestry with high environmental standards while in Sweden it supports destructive clear-cutting. This is terribly confusing for consumers and completely distorts the competition. The credibility of the whole Swedish forestry and the FSC certification is threatened”, said Knut Sturm, Head officer at Lübeck City Forest Administration in Germany. 

The initiators of the open letter are the Swedish NGO, Protect the Forest, and the German NGO Robin Wood.

“We cannot afford to lose the last remnants of older valuable forests in Sweden. The loss of biodiversity is critical and we urgently need to act with scientific nature conservation assessments in mind, not production-orientated asserts. We hope that the open letter will be an eye-opener for the decision-makers in the Swedish government, Swedish Forest Agency and forestry. All high conservation value forests must be permanently protected”, said David van der Spoel, Spokesperson, Protect the Forest.

Read the open letter here.

The undersigned companies also address the Swedish Forest Agency’s decision to suspend the registration of woodland key habitats in northwestern Sweden in 2017, indirectly allowing the felling of unregistered woodland key habitats. The decision was heavily criticized by other authorities, researchers and non-profit conservation organizations. As a result, the registration will be resumed in 2018 but with a modified definition of woodland key habitats which critics fear will be weakened (2). Read more about this issue in Endnote 2 and in the open letter.


David van der Spoel, Spokesperson, Protect the Forest (Sweden), and Professor, Biology, Uppsala University, 

+46 70 315 70 44, david.vanderspoel(@)

Stig-Olof Holm, Board member, Protect the Forest (Sweden), and University Lecturer, Ecology, Umeå University, 

+46 70 359 44 81, stigolofholm7(@)

Company contact (Germany):

Knut Sturm, Head Officer of Stadtwald Lübeck, + 49 451 122 7711,

Questions regarding Ore Forest Landscape (Sveaskog):

Sebastian Kirppu, Forest biologist and author of the report about Ore Forest Landscape, +46 70 308 19 84, sebastian.kirppu(@)

Bengt Oldhammer, Forest expert and author of the report about Ore Forest Landscape, +46 70 334 33 82, bengt.oldhammer(@)

Questions regarding Messlingen (Stora Enso):Kristina Bäck, Spokesperson, Protect the Forest, +46 70 443 28 19, kristina.back(@)

Facts: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international, non-governmental organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC Sweden is an independent member organization in the FSC International network. Over 12 million hectares of forests in Sweden are FSC-certified which corresponds to about half of the productive forest land.  All larger forest companies in Sweden are FSC-certified.Sweden is the third largest exporter in the world of paper, pulp and sawn timber products with an export value of SEK 125 billion. Around 80 % of all forest products in Sweden are exported.  Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands are some of the largest importer countries in Europe of Swedish forest products.  These countries receive guarantees from the Swedish forest industry that the imported Swedish forest products originate from responsible forestry. Despite this, the Swedish FSC-certified forest companies, such as Sveaskog, Stora Enso, SCA and other companies like Holmen, continue to systematically log forests with high natural values, without considering viewpoints from locals, environmental NGOs and researchers.

In total, 90 representatives from 70 FSC-certified companies in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have signed the open letter. These companies work with everything from printing and packaging, to wooden floors, furniture and forestry. Not all of these companies import or use forest products from Sweden. However, they all share a common sense that they want to safeguard the FSC as a credible brand for sustainably managed forests, and that they want the remaining high conservation value forests in Sweden to be protected.The initiators of this open letter are Protect the Forest (Sweden) and Robin Wood (Germany). These NGOs consider it crucial for the Swedish forestry sector and the Swedish government to take greater environmental responsibility and to act according to what the stakeholders in Europe demand.

(1) Endnote 

The FSC-certified forestry in Sweden relies on clear-cutting and routinely converts older and natural forests into even-aged and species-poor monoculture tree plantations and industrial tree stands. Below are a few examples of critically threatened forests which reveal persistent and structural mismanagement, systematically conducted by FSC-certified forest companies.  These are not exceptions, rather they are indicative of the prevalent destructive forestry practiced by Swedish companies. 

SVEASKOG: The state-owned forest company Sveaskog, one of Europe’s largest forest owners, has over the last 4 years clear-cut hundreds of hectares of high conservation value forests in the large valuable Ore Forest Landscape in the county of Dalarna in Sweden.Recently, Sveaskog clear-cut 40 hectares of an acknowledged high conservation value forest in Brännvinsberget in Ore Forest Landscape where 40 different red-listed and indicator species had previously been found.Many more valuable forest areas in Ore Forest Landscape are planned to be felled by Sveaskog.Moreover, Sveaskog plans to clear-cut a high conservation value forest in Melakträskliden in the municipality of Arvidsjaur in north of Sweden. See photos of the forest here.Sveaskog also plans to clear-cut biologically valuable forest at Brännliden in the municipality of Arvidsjaur which is surrounded by clear-cuts and plantations. See photos of the forest in Brännliden here.Furthermore, the unprotected and biologically valuable 1,300 hectare forest landscape with a mosaic of older natural pine and spruce forests in Rävdalen in the municipality of Gällivare in the north of Sweden, where 80 different red-listed species have been found, is at risk of being fragmented by Sveaskog. Local villagers have been struggling to protect the area over the last 2 years. The County Administration Board is planning to do inventories in the area next year since the area is of possible interest of a nature reserve establishment. However, Sveaskog plans to harvest socially valuable forests within the area already this year.

STORA ENSO: Swedish-Finnish forest company Stora Enso is planning to clear-cut high conservation value subalpine forest on a private owner’s land which is not FSC-certified, south of the lake Messlingen in the county of Härjedalen in Mid-Sweden where a total of 37 different red-listed and indicator species have been found. See photos from the forest here.Subalpine forests of significance for biological diversity should be exempt from forestry measures according to Annex 10 in the Swedish FSC standard. After protests from a large number of environmental NGOs, Stora Enso has decided to reevaluate the future management of the forest area planned to be clear-cut at Messlingen. It will not conduct any logging until the reevaluation is completed. 

SCA: Greenpeace is currently running a large campaign aimed at the Swedish paper giant Essity which receives much of its pulp from the Swedish forest company SCA. SCA and three of its external suppliers felled over 23,000 hectares of forest within high value forest landscapes between 2012-2017, while another 22,000 hectares are still threatened by felling.

HOLMEN: Holmen was among other things planning to clear-cut biologically valuable forests in the county of Jämtland in 2016.–

(2) Endnote  Despite the current threats to high conservation value forests described in (1) Endnote, the Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency, Herman Sundqvist (former Head of Forestry of Sveaskog), decided to “pause” the registration of woodland key habitats in northwestern Sweden in March 2017 till the end of 2017. A woodland key habitat is a forest area that is of major importance for the flora and fauna and often harbors endangered and rare species. According to the Swedish FSC standard, woodland key habitats must be exempted from felling (criterion 6.2.1S b). The Swedish Forest Agency is heavily influenced by the forest industry and therefore plans to modify the definition of woodland key habitats including the inventory methodology prior to the resumption of registration in 2018. The “pause” process has been strongly criticized by a number of actors, including officials from the Forest Agency itself, as well as by representatives of other authorities, researchers and non-profit conservation organizations. 120 forest scientists and officials from the Swedish Forest Agency and the County Administrative Boards sent a letter of appeal to Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency in April 2017.Also, an opinion piece signed by seven of the scientists was published in the Swedish daily paper Dagens Nyheter on the 11th of April 2017.Woodland key habitats are intended to be an essential part of rational forest protection planning, and the decision to “pause” the registration of woodland key habitats is highly inappropriate since it risks exacerbating this aspiration significantly. There is a considerable risk that the new woodland key habitat definition and methodology in 2018 will be weakened. Further, the resumption of the registration of woodland key habitats in 2018 will not guarantee the protection of these valuable biotopes since they lack formal protection. Every year, many registered woodland key habitats are clear-cut or negatively affected by felling. 


Continuity forest is a forest that has never been subject to clear-cutting. Its forest environment and substrates have developed over a long period of time and provide natural values which have not been affected by the large-scale clear-cutting forestry. In total, about 34 % of the productive forest land, in 7 mapped regions in the north of Sweden are considered to be continuity forests (ca 5,5 million hectares). In total, only 12 % of these forests are formally protected.  

Core area is a forest area that the County Administrative Board and the Swedish Forest Agency appraise to be of major significance for flora and fauna and/or for a prioritized forest type. Core areas can be a part of a stand or consist of several stands. The size varies from a few hectares to several hundred hectares in rare cases. Woodland key habitats and other high conservation value forests are normally included in the concept of core areas.  About 8 % of the productive forest land is estimated to be core areas (ca 1,7 million hectares). In total, about 63 % of these core areas are formally protected, while the rest is not.  

High Value Forest Landscape (HVFL) is a critical forest area with ‘particularly high ecological preservation value’ and it contains a higher density of core areas than the general landscape.  

Productive forest land is forest land which, according to established criteria, can produce an average of one cubic meter of timber per hectare per year.  Therefore, it is used for large-scale forestry. The majority of red-listed species are found in productive forests that have not yet been affected by modern forestry. In total, less than 5% of the productive forest land is formally (strictly) protected as nature reserves, national parks, habitat protection areas and nature conservation agreements.  

Unproductive forest land is land not suitable for forestry. About 2 % of the forest living red-listed species are dependent on unproductive forest land i order to survive and another 5 % partly need unproductive forest land in order to survive. The international FAO definition of forest land includes unproductive forests, and this is why the most of the authorities in Sweden use the ‘productive forest land’ definition which excludes unproductive forest land. 

Woodland key habitat is a forest area that has a very large significance for forest flora and fauna, on the basis of a collective assessment of the habitat structure, species composition, stand history and physical environment. Red-listed species occur or can be expected to occur there. Only about 2 % of the productive forest land (ca. 466,000 hectares) in Sweden is registered as woodland key habitats. Merely 15 % of these are formally protected. Every year, about 200 hectares of registered and about 2,000 hectares of unregistered woodland key habitats are felled.  Moreover about 3,000 hectares of key habitats are negatively affected (damaged or partly damaged) by felling. —In 2015, about 27 % of the tropical forests were protected in the world, while only 3 % of all boreal (northern) forests were protected.  Sweden and Norway are two of the countries in Europe with least formally protected forests.