The forestry company Södra is planning to log four small areas in a proposed nature reserve north of Lake Risten in Åtvidaberg municipality, Östergötland. The NGO the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Östergötland, appealed the Swedish Forest Agency‘s non-decision regarding the logging notifications to the Land and Environmental Court. Now the court rejects the NGO’s request for a temporary ban on logging, and the forests are therefore at risk of being felled shortly.

Den fridlysta och sårbara orkidén knärot (VU) växer i en av de mindre avverkningsanmälda skogarna norr om sjön Risten. Enligt Artskyddsförordningen är det förbjudet att skada knäroten. Arten är känslig för  förändringar i luftfuktighet och överlever inte den genomblåsning och uttorkning som blir följden av avverkning. Foto: Privat.
The protected and vulnerable orchid Goodyera repens (VU) grows in one of the forests that has not yet been clear-cut, north of lake Risten. According to the Species Protection Ordinance, it is forbidden to damage the Goodyera repens. The species is sensitive to changes in humidity and does not survive drying out, which is the result from logging. Photo: Private.

It was in August this year that the four small forest areas north of the lake Risten in Åtvidaberg municipality were notified for logging by the forestry company Södra, due to an attack by the European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus). Since the nature reserve proposal was presented in 2018, Södra has already logged several parts of the forest within the area. The current forests which are threatened by logging have high conservation values ​​and red-listed species, such as the protected orchid Goodyera repens, which can be found within one of the notifications for logging. The near threatened birds black woodpecker and willow tit as well as the capercaillie, can also be found in the area.

“Södra intends to carry out logging in the near future and the court does not intend to decide on a ban. It is so tragic to see how the Swedish Forest Agency’s deficient and often non-existent management leads to Södra being able to continue logging forests with high conservation values, ​​without even considering that any formal error has been committed. Nature is really completely defenseless”, said Karin Wilhelmsson from the NGO Östergötland’s forest group.

The Swedish Forest Agency is passive about logging

Östergötland’s forest group sent a request to the Swedish Forest Agency in November regarding the four forest areas notified for logging. They requested that the authority take supervisory measures to ensure that the forest’s conservation values ​​are preserved and that species protection violations are prevented. Since the Swedish Forest Agency did not respond to the request, the NGOs the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Östergötland and in Åtvidaberg aswell as Östergötland’s forest group chose to appeal the Forestry Agency’s zero decision to the Land and Environmental Court this December. The court rejected the NGOs’ appeal. The NGO’s then chose to appeal to the Land and Environment Court of Appeal. There, too, their appeal was rejected just before Christmas (12/22/2023).

“We deeply regret that the Land and Environmental Court in Växjö has made it very easy for itself. Attacks by spruce bark beetles are not listed in the Environmental Code or in the Species Protection Ordinance as a reason for exempting protected species from consideration, an assessment that is also supported by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. The requirement for species protection applies in parallel with other legislation and cannot be negotiated away”, said Nils Hydén, biologist and species expert.

Swedish authorities do not act to stop logging in forests with high conservation values

Nils Hydén continued:

“It is also the case that the Swedish Forest Agency has a mandatory supervisory responsibility according to the Environmental Code when information is received about natural values ​​worthy of protection, regardless of whether the loggings are too small to be subject to notification or not. And when, like here, they choose not to take that responsibility, it directly leads to the question of whether they are deliberately ignoring their official mission?”

In the NGO’s appeal, it appears that the spruce bark beetle is a naturally occurring species in the Swedish fauna. It creates dead wood, which is in short supply in today’s forest landscape. The spruce bark beetle also has many natural enemies such as woodpeckers, parasitic weevils, predatory beetles and predatory flies in the natural forest.

Logging in winter is counterproductive to stop the spruce bark beetle

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has written in its appeal:

“It should also be said that logging in the winter of infested spruce forests is purely counterproductive as several natural enemies of spruce bark beetles hibernate in the bark of infested spruces. They are therefore removed from the forest before they have time to wake up again. This applies, for example, to predatory long-legged flies Dolichopodidae, which, according to what is known, only hibernate under the bark. During winter logging, these flies will therefore be hit harder than the spruce bark beetles, as approximately 60% of the spruce bark beetles hibernate in the ground. The effect can therefore on the contrary, worsen next year’s attack”.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Östergötland calls on Södra to withdraw its four felling notifications north of Lake Risten.

Read more about Södra’s violations: The Land and Environmental Court stopped Södra from logging forest with protected birds, but they clear-cut it anyway

Contact

Karin Wilhelmsson, Östergötland’s forest group, tel. 076-362 77 96, k.wilhelmsson(@)telia.com Nils Hydén, biologist and species expert, tel. 070-745 00 57, nilsthyden(@)gmail