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Sweden fails to protect species – old-growth forests planned for logging

The forest company SCA plans to clear-cut hundreds of hectares of natural forest with high conservation values in Västernorrland county in Sweden. The NGOs Protect the Forest and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) have surveyed the forests and found 70 red-listed species. The two NGOs demand that the logging plans are withdrawn: “These are part of north-western Europe’s last remaining natural forests and they should be protected, not logged,” said forest biologist Sebastian Kirppu.

En nygjord skogsbilväg är anlagd i området Vargtjärnen där SCA har avverkningsanmält över 200 ha skog. Foto: Forskningsresan 2022.
A newly constructed road for logging leads into the natural old growth forest at Vargtjärnen where SCA is planning to log over 200 hectares of forest. Photo: From the Research Excursion 2022.

During a Research Excursion in 2022, initiated by Protect the Forest and SSNC, 40 participants surveyed 12 forested areas in Västernorrland County. Eight of these 12 areas had logging notifications registered by the FSC-certified forest companies SCA and Sveaskog and also the Swedish Church. The Research Excursion found that all surveyed areas should be permanently and legally protected.

SCA, Sveaskog and the Swedish Church had planned logging in forests with high conservation values

Since the Research Excursion took place the state-owned logging company Sveaskog and the Swedish Church – who had both planned logging in these forests, have now withdrawn their logging plans but SCA’s notifications remain. Sebastian Kirppu, forest biologist from Protect the Forest, said:

“FSC-certified logging companies and the Swedish Church claim that they manage forests sustainably but it is a complete illusion. The truth is that they clear-cut forests and destroy ecosystems. These forests are part of north-western Europe’s last remaining natural forests and they should be protected, not logged.”

Hydnellum gracilipes, globally red-listed as vulnerable (VU) is one of the fungi in the forest. Photo: Caspar S, Creative Commons cc-by-2.0.

2 400 findings of species of conservation interest

A total of almost 2 400 findings of species of conservation interest were reported into the Swedish Species Observation System during the week of the Research Excursion. Among these, 70 were red-listed species. The rare critically endangered wood-living fungus Resinoporia crassa (CR) was among the most startling discoveries and was found in an old-growth forest of 200 hectares at Vargtjärnen in Ånge Municipality, planned to be logged by the FSC-certified logging company SCA. Examples of other species are the endangered Neoantrodia infirma (EN), the endangered moth Baptria tibiale (EN), the vulnerable wood fungi Amylocystis lapponica (VU) and Hydnellum gracilipes (VU). The vulnerable moss Neckera pennata (VU), the orchid Creeping lady´s tresses, Goodyera repens (VU) and several observations of three-toed woodpecker (NT) were also reported.

The red-listed three-toed woodpecker has left its traces on the spruce. Photo: Private

“A disaster for both biodiversity and the climate

Sebastian Kirppu states: “Biological diversity such as in these forests is the basis for all living beings, including us humans. Logging these forests is therefore a disaster for both biodiversity and the climate. As an EU member, Sweden should set an example for species conservation, rather than continue on the current path of destructive forestry.”

SCA is the largest private forest owner in Västernorrland County, in Sweden as well as in Europe. Sveaskog is a state-owned Swedish logging company. Both companies are FSC certified, which is a certification system aimed at guaranteeing sustainable forestry. According to the FSC standard, threatened species and their habitats should be protected as woodland key habitats and thus exempt from forestry activities. Despite this, SCA and Sveaskog registered logging notifications in forests that have obvious woodland key habitat qualities. After protests from the NGOs, Sveaskog has now withdrawn its logging plans.

PEFC- certifikation has vague principles and criteria

The forests owned by the Swedish Church are certified according to PEFC. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) calls attention to the certification’s “very vague principles and criteria which provide far too much room for interpretation” (Sveriges Natur 2011). The Research Excursion has also found high conservation values in a forest owned by the Swedish Church. However, the Church now plans to exempt the forest from logging.

Complaints sent to the FSC

The Research Excursion has filed complaints to the FSC because of the documented high conservation values in forest areas notified for logging. The Swedish Forestry Agency and the County Administrative Board of Västernorrland County have been informed. SCA has withdrawn logging notifications for some areas, while other notifications remain.

Read the Research Excursion report (2022) (Summary in English).

Read more:

SCA plans to clear-cut 200 hectares forest with very high conservation values at Vargtjärnen


Sebastian Kirppu, forest biologist, + 46 70 308 19 84, sebastian.kirppu(@)