At first glance, the map on the left hand side, which is from the website: seems to show that almost all forests in Sweden are protected. When you look closer, it is clear that the largest areas up in northwestern Sweden consist of mountainous areas above the treeline, sparsely forested areas close to the treeline, and wetlands. Also, small protected areas are shown with an exaggerated size: up to thousands of times their actual size. The map on the right shows the same data, but with less exaggeration.  Click here. for a larger picture

The Swedish forestry industry´s website

a bluff

The Swedish forestry industry organization Skogsindustrierna, where the companies Sveaskog, Stora Enso, SCA and Holmen skog are members, have published a website:, with a map of what they claim is protected forest in Sweden. On the website they claim that as much as 25% of the Swedish forest are protected, and they also claim that Swedish forestry is environmentally sustainable. The organization Protect the Forest has examined the map and the published statistics, and the conclusion is that the campaign is simply a bluff   

An important topic of the forestry debate in Sweden is how much productive species-rich forest is in fact protected. Another topic is how much needs to be protected in order to reach the government’s goal that all naturally occurring species should maintain populations that are large enough for long-term survival. Sweden has signed the Nagoya treaty, which specifies that we must protect at least 17% of the forest before 2020, but leading scientists warn that Sweden is far from reaching the goal. It lies in the interests of the forest industry to ensure that they have access to as much of the productive forest land as possible, and that is why Skogsindustrierna has published these inflated figures, according to Protect the Forest. 

“The forest industry claims that we have already protected too much. But according to official statistics, less than 4% of Sweden’s productive forest has formal protection from logging. In the area below the foothills of the mountains, it is as little as 1.6%,” says Viktor Säfve, chairman of Protect the Forest.

Protect the Forest’s examination of the campaign “Protected Forest” shows that large parts of the formally protected areas on the map consist of mountainous areas above the treeline, and that they also include a golf course, lakes, quarries, and nature reserves that do not ban logging.

“I have scrutinized these maps on behalf of our organization, and I can state that large parts of these areas are not protected forest. This is a blatant attempt to mislead politicians and customers as to the real state of the forest,” says Björn Olin from Protect the Forest. 

Protect the Forest also disagrees with the way the forest industry includes areas which are voluntarily set aside alongside the formally protected areas. 

“We do not think these voluntarily “protected” forests should be included in the statistics of protected forests, since these forests lack long-term protection. They are also not marked in the field, and their quality has not been assessed by independent experts. But most of all, these forests can be cut down if the owners change their minds, or if the land is sold,” says Viktor Säfve in Protect the Forest. “It’s great that maps are now available of most of the voluntarily protected areas, but if the companies really mean what they say, these areas should be given long-term protection. Also, many of the voluntarily protected areas which are owned by individuals are not documented anywhere, even though the forest industry includes them in their statistics.”

The forest industry also includes among their statistics sparsely forested wetlands, rocky areas, and forests near the treeline with low productivity. But these areas have no strong protection.

“More than half of the forest industry’s 25% protected forest consists of these kinds of forests with low productivity. On the one hand, their figures are incorrect, but also, these forests are not relevant to the discussion, because they cannot be logged productively anyway. And more than 90% of all red-listed forest-living species in Sweden are dependent on productive forest,” says Viktor Säfve.


Viktor Säfve, chairman of Protect the Forest: phone +0046761148811,

Björn Olin, board member of Protect the Forest: +0046733342952

The map:


Sarek, which is mostly mountainous land above the treeline, is shown as protected forest.


This map shows a golf club as protected forest.


The first version of the site was even more extreme when one zoomed out to show all of Sweden. It gave the impression that not only was all forest protected, but rather the whole country was. In this updated version of the site, the exaggerations are still quite large.

For more examples contact Protect the Forest, Sweden

Official statistics over long-term forest protection.

These are figures from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is the government agency responsible for forest protection in Sweden:

Less than 4% of the productive forest land in Sweden has long-term protectionMore than half of this area is in the foothills of the mountains. In the lowlands, only 1.6% of the productive forest has formal protection. The debate mostly centers on the productive forest land in the lowlands, and this area is also the focus of the government’s goal Sustainable Forests –

 About 7% of all forest land, including low-productive forests like those on wetlands and in the mountains, has formal protection.

 The Swedish Forest Agency and forest owners estimate that around 5% of the productive forest land has been voluntarily set aside for protection. But this figure is uncertain for several reasons: 1. Maps of these areas are incomplete and they are not physically marked in the terrain. 2. The areas for the most part lack long-term protection*. 3. There are few independent assessments of the conservation values of the voluntarily protected areas. Unlike the nature reserves and national parks, no one knows what all these areas are like and why they have been set aside. Existing studies show that many voluntarily protected areas lack conservation value.

 *Sveaskog’s so-called eco-parks are examples of medium-term voluntarily protected areas: the company has signed 50-year contracts to preserve these areas. This initiative is good, and more companies ought to do it.


Naturvårdsverket & Skogsstyrelsen 2012

Naturvårdsverket – statistik över skyddad skog



´“Impediments” in Swedish forests

The forest industry claims that over 25% of the Swedish forest is protected, but more than half of this forest consists of sparse forests on wetlands or on rocky or mountainous land, which have no strong protection. In Swedish forest law, these are called “impediments” and are treated separately, since they are not profitable to log, and once they are cut, the regrowth of forest is slow. “Impediments” are not suitable for forestry, and all land which produces less than a cubic meter of wood per hectare and year is defined as an “impediment”.

There is no map available of all “impediments”. They do have both a direct and an indirect significance for the biological diversity which is tied to productive forests, but they are generally less rich in forest-living species. According to an evaluation done by the Swedish Species Information Centre, only 2% of forest-living redlisted species are directly tied to “impediments”. For a further 5%, “impediments” have some significance. Therefore we cannot preserve the biological diversity tied to productive forests by preserving “impediments” instead of productive forests.

From a report about the Nagoya treaty and Swedish forests, published jointly by Protect the Forest and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation: 

 ” Certainly, also low productive forests (Impediments) have their biological values, but it should be kept in mind that those forests represent only themselves in terms of biodiversity. Clearly, the low productive forests also need to be represented on a landscape level. Thus, since they, by nature, are species poor compared to the productive forests, and the productive forest area historically have been more exploited, it is important to distinguish between the concepts. Since most of the threatened forest living species are linked to the productive natural forest the national strategy for conservation of forest biodiversity is focused on the productive natural forest.”

There’s a difference between productive forest and “impediments”:

Photo examples:


Photo: Olli Manninen/Protect the Forest 2011.

Sparsely forested land not suitable for profitable forestry, a so-called impediment. More than half of the forest which the forest industry claims has formal protection consists of “impediments” which lack strong protection. Even if clear-cutting is forbidden, it is quite legal to cut down economically valuable trees singly.

Over 90% of all red-listed forest-living species are tied to productive forest; therefore we cannot preserve these species by preserving “impediments” instead of productive forests. See photos of productive forest below.


Photo: Olli Manninen/Protect the Forest

Highly productive old-growth forest with coarse dead wood is a rarity today, with the result that many species tied to these environments are threatened. It is important for Sweden to have a strategy for protecting and restoring highly productive forests of many types, from coniferous to broadleaved, to prevent further species extinction in Sweden. Today, less than 2% of the productive forest below the mountainous area has a long-term protection. It is this forest – so heavily logged, yet in its untouched state so rich in species – that the government goal Sustainable Forests is focused on. It is also this forest which is most under debate.



Photo: Anders Delin/Protect the Forest

The broadleaved forests of southern Sweden are rich in biological diversity which is threatened, since large parts of this forest has been cut down and replaced with coniferous plantations or agriculture. In southern Sweden, only a few percent of the productive forest has long-term protection, far from the 20% that leading scientists recommend as a minimum for reaching the government’s environmental goals and our international treaty obligations.

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