One of the EU’s few remaining old-growth montane forest areas, in the north of Sweden, is at risk. It covers a stretch of 950 km of which many parts are still unprotected. The annual number of applications for permits for final felling in the Swedish montane forest increased by almost 400 % last year. In a new report, FORESTRY AT THE EDGE, the Swedish NGO Protect the Forest highlights the importance of this large wilderness area and urges the EU to put pressure on Sweden to prioritize long-term protection of the remaining old-growth forests.
The report takes a closer look at an unprotected area of montane old-growth forest in Vilhelmina municipality in northern Sweden. In total, 3,412 findings of 113 red-listed species, indicator species and other valuable species were recorded in the forest area, of which parts are seemingly untouched by forestry and selective logging.
“In such a large area we have the unique opportunity, not only to preserve species, but also to sustain ecological integrity and the processes that create and maintain these valuable forest ecosystems. These forests store vast amounts of carbon and they constitute a valuable legacy for future EU-citizens,” said Jon Andersson, the author of the report.
The number of applications for logging permits in the Swedish montane forest has increased by almost 400 % in a year, since a court granted land owners economic compensation if their application to fell montane forest with high conservation value was denied. The Swedish Forest Agency was granted an extra 360 million SEK to compensate landowners during 2021.
“The Swedish Forest Agency remarkably often grants permits to clear-cut these valuable forests, which is why formal long-term protection is needed. These unique habitats, their biodiversity and their carbon storage are truly secured first when the Swedish government acts in line with national and international commitments and ensures formal protection for this unique part of the EU,” said Lina Burnelius, project leader and international coordinator at Protect the Forest.
A Government investigation has recently proposed that the Swedish state should provide formal long-term protection for over 500,000 hectares of productive alpine and sub-alpine forest land.
“It is of great importance that this proposal becomes a reality as soon as possible. If forestry and new logging roads are allowed to fragment these unique living environments, this will mean environmental costs for the climate, biodiversity and for future generations. Clear-cutting old-growth forests is literally like cutting the branch you are sitting on,” said Jon Andersson, the author of the report.
With the report FORESTRY AT THE EDGE, the organization Protect the Forest wants to highlight the urgent situation for one of the EU’s last true remaining wilderness areas and urge the EU to put pressure on Sweden to prioritize the long-term protection of remaining old-growth forests.
“The Swedish forest industry is currently campaigning to expand forestry in order to battle climate change. Their campaign to increase the logging of old-growth forests with rich biodiversity and high carbon stocks is exactly as strange as it sounds. It will of course not save the world nor will it solve the climate crisis, but rather do the opposite,” Jon Andersson concluded.
“Politicians have a frighteningly short time left to preserve these last irreplaceable forests. Without an immediate political intervention, this unique forest belt will be fragmented like the rest of Sweden’s forest landscape, and old-growth forest will be replaced by plantations of spruce and pine. But I do want to emphasize that protecting the montane forests cannot come at the cost of ignoring the rest of Sweden’s forest ecosystems, where far less forest with high conservation value is left,” said Lina Burnelius.
Dr. Jon Andersson, author of the report FORESTRY AT THE EDGE, +46 (0)73 037 52 74, jon.pm.andersson(@)outlook.com
Lina Burnelius, Project Leader and International Coordinator at Protect the Forest, +46 (0)73 440 47 93, lina.burnelius(@)skyddaskogen.se