Photos from three de-registered woodland key habitats at Gällsjöberget and Högvedsberget in Sweden. Many red-listed species have been found in these valuable forests. Photos: Elin Götmark and Helena Björnström.
Sweden’s last remaining unprotected old-growth forests are under immediate pressure due to the government’s poor management of the state-owned forests. A new report shows that the state-owned forest company Sveaskog de-registers woodland key habitats, which are crucial for red-listed forest species. These forests are now at risk of being clear-cut. At the same time a campaign organized by all Swedish environmental organizations has delivered a petition signed by 45,000 Swedes, demanding that the Swedish state changes Sveaskog’s instructions.
“Sweden likes to project an image of its so-called environmentally sustainable forestry, but in fact this is mostly greenwashing”, says Elin Götmark, spokesperson for Protect the Forest Sweden.
“The conversion of Sweden’s natural, mostly old-growth forest ecosystems into industrial monocultures still continues. But so does the fight to save the remaining unprotected natural forests. According to the UN Convention of Biological Diversity, we should protect at least 17% of all productive forest, and the EU Habitats Directive demands that the western taiga should have a favorable conservation status. We are far from reaching these goals, and the forests needed to meet them are logged every day”, says Elin Götmark.
The report The old-growth forests threatened by the Swedish state by Protect the Forest Sweden and Greenpeace Sweden shows how Sveaskog has de-registered known woodland key habitats. Some of these forests are surveyed in the report, and many of them have been found to have high conservation value. Some of them are also registered to be logged. This means that customers who buy Sveaskog’s products marked with the FSC certification-label are misled, since the FSC standard forbids clear-cutting of woodland key habitats.
In accordance with the instructions issued by the Swedish government, Sveaskog’s primary obligation is to create a profit. This creates a strong incentive to prioritize logging over conservation, even in forests with high conservation value. A campaign organized by twenty-three Swedish environmental organizations in recent months has gathered many examples of forests with high conservation value that Sveaskog has clear-cut or planned to do so.
“Sweden’s forests and its habitats are at a critical state, the campaign ‘Our Forest’ demands that the government alters Sveaskog’s instructions so that they can start to prioritize nature conservation over profit”, says Lina Burnelius, spokesperson for forest and bio-economic issues at Greenpeace.
“The last remaining unprotected high conservation value forests we have left here need to be protected. These forests contain biological values – and carbon storages – that cannot be preserved if the Swedish state, via Sveaskog, continues to log them. Today’s conversion from natural forest to monocultures needs to stop – neither climate nor biodiversity can handle this high rate of clear-cuts”, says Lina Burnelius.
“We demand that the forest industry makes it possible for us to actually meet our national and international environmental agreements. Forests are our natural climate solution – but only if the little that remains of our natural forest is protected instead of logged. If we are to reach the 1.5 degree target the last natural forests must be protected”, says Lina Burnelius.
It is not only on Sveaskog’s land that biodiversity is threatened: a nation-wide inventory of Swedish woodland key habitats has recently been stopped by political parties with support of the government. Now when these areas are no longer being identified on official maps, FSC products from woodland key habitats are at risk of being sold to unaware customers worldwide.
“In canceling this inventory, the Swedish state is breaching its international obligations to preserve biodiversity”, says Elin Götmark.
Elin Götmark, spokesperson for Protect the Forest,
Lina Burnelius, spokesperson for forest and bio-economic issues, Greenpeace