One of the forests in the Sámi reindeer herding district Luokta-Mávas that is planned to be felled by state-owned forest company Sveaskog.
Europe’s largest logging company, Swedish state-owned Sveaskog, plans to harvest the last remaining natural forests in Luokta-Mávas Sámi reindeer herding district, in the northern part of Sweden. However, due to protests, Sveaskog recently announced that it will pause its planned logging in the district Luokta-Mávas.
“Sveaskog intends to log 1000 football fields of forests, devastating to the climate and a death sentence for our community,” says Lars Anders Baer, chairman of the Sámi reindeer herding district Luokta-Mávas.
The indigenous Sámi people have been living on these lands for thousands of years, proven by archeological traces in the now threatened forests.
“If these forests are to be clear-cut, this is yet another colonial act of us being erased from the history books,” says Lars Anders Baer.
During the past 50 years a total of 70 percent of the reindeer-lichen, necessary for the survival of the reindeer, is already lost in Sápmi, the land of the indigenous Sámi people. “We have nowhere left to go.”
“We’ve always been using the land. Sveaskog is abusing the land. They are well aware of our dependence on these lands. The government is well aware of us having the right to protect our ancestral land. Our lives don’t seem to carry the same worth as money,” says Lars Anders Baer.
“Sveaskog refers to these forests as “objects”. To us forests cannot be objects. The land of the reindeer is our home,” says Lars Anders Baer.
Lina Burnelius, climate and land-use expert at Protect the Forest, has visited the forest over the last two weeks and says:
“Sveaskog’s logging plans equal enormous amounts of greenhouse gases and a further decline of biodiversity. When we find, for example, Skeletocutis lenis, we know that there is dead pinewood that it took the forest about 500 years to create. Words cannot begin to explain the bedrock of life and the size of the carbon stocks that these forests contain. They must be protected, not clear-cut.”
“One cannot clear-cut natural forests and at the same time halt the climate collapse nor honour the Paris agreement. It’s impossible. But if Luokta-Mávas’ indigenous people’s rights are respected, Sweden still has a fair chance to live up to the Paris Agreement. It’s in their hands now,” says Lina Burnelius.
Marie B Hagsgård, expert on the rights of minorities’ and indigenous peoples’ and member of the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the protection of National Minorities, Council of Europe, states:
“The Sámi people’s possibilities to maintain and develop their culture and communities is to be promoted according to the constitutional law of Sweden.”
“The Swedish Forest Agency is obligated to promote the possibility for the Sámi people to maintain and develop their reindeer husbandry culture through its supervision of the Swedish Forest Law [Skogsvårdslagen]. When two different interests are to be weighed against each other, as for instance forestry and reindeer husbandry, the Swedish Supreme Court has stated; the Sámi people’s interest to maintain its culture, including reindeer husbandry, shall be given special weight,” Marie B Hagsgård concludes.
The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation supports Luokta-Mávas’ fight for the last remaining natural forests. Johanna Nilsson, co-ordinator at SSNC in Norrbotten county, has witnessed Sveaskog’s lack of respect for the local communities and people of the North.
“Indigenous people only make up 5 percent of the global population today, but they protect over 80 percent of the last healthy natural habitats on the entire planet including the biodiversity these areas accommodate. That’s no coincidence,” says Johanna Nilsson.
“Some call this issue complex – but to me it’s simple: none of us can live without healthy nature and water. It is frightening to us that we and Sveaskog have such different perspectives on life itself,” Lars-Anders Baer concludes.
Due to the protests, Sveaskog recently announced that it will pause its planned logging in the district Luokta-Mávas.
Read more about the forests in Luokta-Mávas at Arvas Foundation here.
Lina Burnelius, Climate and Land-use Expert at Protect the Forest, Sweden. Lina has visited the forests at Luokta-Mávas.
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Lina Burnelius is Climate and Land-use Expert at Protect the Forest, Sweden.