Six environmental organizations and more than 11,000 people demand that the entire montane old-growth forest of Karatj-Råvvåive is protected as a nature reserve. Four thousand hectares of the area is still unprotected, and parts of the old-growth forest may be felled.
The Karatj-Råvvåive forest covers a hundred square kilometers and lies in the Jokkmokk municipality in Sweden; it has long been intended to be a nature reserve. When the reserve was at last formed in 2018, almost half of the area with high conservation value had been excluded. Instead, the landowner and the government authorities investigated the idea of forming a so-called eco-park. This is a much weaker form of protection, which would leave the old-growth forests in the area vulnerable to felling.
“To form an eco-park can seem like a good alternative to a nature reserve, but in practise the forest which ought to be protected can be cut down. In that case, what are the gains for biodiversity?” said Linda Ellegaard Nordström from Protect the Forest.
In early 2021, the Swedish Forest Agency presented the result of their investigation on an eco-park at Karatj-Råvvåive, where they stated that “the natural and cultural-historical values of the area are unique, and a formal long-term protection of the area is recommended”. The Environmental Protection Agency and the County Administrative Board of Norrbotten have come to the same conclusion.
“We who stand behind the petition to save Karatj-Råvvåive advocate giving the whole area formal protection as a nature reserve. Large old-growth forests like Karatj-Råvvåive are very important to preserve unfragmented if we are to maintain an intact bird fauna with species like the grey-headed chickadee, three-toed woodpecker and siberian jay,” said Lotta Berg from Birdlife Sweden.
The conservation value of these forests are high and well-documented, and more than half of them are already classed as woodland key habitats. Furthermore, the pine heaths rich in hanging lichen are classed as a nationally important area for reindeer husbandry and a core area for the Sami reindeer herding village of Tuorpon. There are plenty of historical traces of bark harvesting, Sami dwellings, old hearths, and more.
Negotiations are now underway between the Environmental Protection Agency and the land owner, the Jokkmokk Commons, to decide the fate of the area. The organizations behind the petition are Protect the Forest, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Jokkmokk, Greenpeace Sweden, Nature and Youth Sweden, Birdlife Sweden, and Friends of the Earth Sweden. 11,300 people from around the world have signed it.
Linda Ellegaard Nordström, Protect the Forest +46 70 254 11 48
Siri Maassen, Friends of the Earth Sweden +46 70 770 44 66
Christer Johansson, Birdlife Sweden +46 73 422 61 57
Dima Litvinov, Greenpeace +46 70 657 65 86
Leo Rudberg, Nature and Youth Sweden, +46 76 250 82 30