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The Swedish Government jeopardizes the European natural heritage as old-growth forests continue to be logged and the level of ambition for the forest protection will be decreased after year 2010. This is according to the organization Protect the Forest, whose criticism is supported by the German environmental organization NABU. Together they demand strong efforts from the Government and the forest industry to protect the Swedish old-growth forests and other forests with high conservation values.

Protect the Forest implies that the environmental objective bill, which was presented yesterday by the Swedish Government, leaves room for arbitrary interpretations because a clear area target for long-term forest protection is lacking. The organization is critical of the Government for not increasing the funding to achieve the overall objective to safeguard the biodiversity by 2020.

“It is good that the short-term objective is considered to be achieved by 2010, meaning that a total of about 2 percent of productive forest land may be formally protected below the mountain region, but it does not justify a slower rate of protection after 2010,” says Viktor Säfve, Chairperson of Protect the Forest. “Why is the Government waiting to deliver a new area target by 2020? Old-growth forests are being logged now and resources and clear objectives to work with are needed by the concerned authorities.”

Forestry has been conducted on a major part of Sweden’s productive forest land. The old natural forests that remain are an important part of Europe’s last natural forests. Sweden is internationally committed to stop the loss of biodiversity and is required to comply with EU nature conservation directives. Despite this, more than 1,800 forest-living species are threatened or near-threatened in the country.

”Germany is a major importer of Swedish forest products and it is very worrying that the Swedish forest industry and Government still allows old-growth forests to be logged,” says Johannes Enssle, Forest Policy Officer of NABU. “The Swedish old-growth forests, which constitute a significant proportion of the remaining natural forests in Western Europe, must be protected.”

NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) is the oldest and largest member based environmental organization in Germany. NABU has signed the appeal “Protect Sweden’s Old-Growth Forests”, initiated by the organization Protect the Forest. The appeal, which is addressed to the Swedish Parliament and Government, has so far been signed by more than 185 scientists, thousands of individuals and 25 organizations. The appeal demands that 20 percent of the total productive forest land needs to be protected and that the Government increases the resources needed to safeguard the biodiversity. Large areas of forest land must also be restored in order to reach 20 percent forest protection.

“It is scandalous that the Government turns a blind eye to scientific recommendations and democratically adopted environmental objectives,” says Daniel Rutschman, Secretary of Protect the Forest. “The Government runs a counter-productive policy when it reduces the budget allocated to forest protection at the same time as it wants to make the establishment of nature reserves more expensive. However, it appears that the overall forest objectives remain, but it is important to make sure that this does not only look good on paper.”

For more information, please contact:

Viktor Säfve, Chairperson of Protect the Forest, +46 76 114 88 11, viktor.safve@skyddaskogen.se
Daniel Rutschman, Secretary of Protect the Forest, +46 73 810 72 39, daniel.rutschman@skyddaskogen.se
Amanda Tas, Forest Coordinator, Protect the Forest, +46 76 761 35 33, amanda.tas@hotmail.com