Members from Protected the Forest have visited the urgently threatened Hammarby Forest south of Stockholm to show their support. The Hammarby Forest is a green wedge and dispersal route for species between Årsta forest nature reserve and Nacka nature reserve. Despite protests, Stockholm Vatten och Avfall AB (SVOA) has blocked off the forest and cut down old trees. SVOA is building a “temporary” working tunnel which they will connect to the so-called new Östberga tunnel, the work will last up to 10 years. “The citizens have been ignored and SVOA has committed climate crimes,” according to the group Rädda Hammarbyskogen (Save Hammarby Forest).

Hammarby forest. In the background the forest footpath has become a road for truck transport. Further up, the rock has been blasted and work on a working tunnel has begun. Photo: N. Aurgrunn

Cheapest to draw the working tunnel through the forest

Citizens have been completely ignored, according to the association Save Hammarby Forest. SVOA could build a working tunnel in another location, but it was cheapest to construct it in the forest. The international environmental organization “We don’t have time” has reported SVOA for climate violations.

The association Save Hammarby Forest has pursued a process against SVOA regarding their permit application to build a temporary working tunnel opening, but lost. The association has appealed in the Land and Environment Court, then in the Land and Environment Court of Appeal and most recently in the Supreme Court for the right of appeal.

“Ecologically significant area” meant nothing

The City of Stockholm has identified the Hammarby forest, which is approximately 11 hectares, as an ecologically particularly significant area (ESBO) and one of the core areas within the city’s green infrastructure. But despite this, large construction plans with thousands of apartments, workplaces, a new large school and new roads threaten. SVOA has now started the exploitation with the construction of the working tunnel in the forest.

Many citizens are against the exploitation

Active people from Save the Hammarby Forest and climate activists pitched tents and were present in the forest for a few weeks last autumn, ahead of SVOAS’ exploitation. They have informed the public passing by about the threat against the forest. Already in 2013, over 20,000 people signed a petition against the planned exploitation of the forest. Last year, over 2,500 people signed a petition against SVOA’s tunnel construction. The protests have led to SVOA cutting down fewer trees than they had originally intended. Johan Ekelund, who is part of the association Save Hammarby Forest, states:

-Ninety trees have been saved in the Hammarby Forest thanks to a strong public opinion. But at the same time, SVOA has now taken down more than a hundred-year-old oaks and the clearing in the forest where the bats usually hang out has become a parking lot.

Red listed wood-living fungi, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (NT) and bats

The forest partly consists of rocky parts with old pines, many of which are over 120 years old, and on several of them grows the wood-living fungus Porodaedalea pini, which is red-listed as near-threatened (NT). 1,200 oaks that are over 150 years old are in the area. On some oaks, you can find the fungi Fomitiporia robusta, which is red-listed as near threatened (NT). Frogs have been observed by several people in the forest, as well as the red-listed bat Eptesicus nilssonii (NT) and the lesser woodpecker (NT).

Johan Ekelund says that the floodlight over Veidekke’s facility will keep the bats in the forest away from their foraging site. And they have now destroyed the habitat for several species.

Hammarby forest seen from Hammarbybacken. Here you can see that it is a green wedge and at the far end it merges with Årsta forest. Photo: K Bäck

The bats have been ignored

The County Administrative Board has rejected the association Save Hammarby Forest and The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation demand about “requiring a dispensation application from SVOA for the exploitation that has impact on the bat habitat, as required by law”. The County Administrative Board referred to the fact that, according to Land and Environment Court, SVOA had taken the bats into account, which is not true. In the environmental impact assessment commissioned by SVOA, documented protected species such as bats have been ignored. SVOA says there are no bats in the forest despite several people documenting them. Members of “Save the Hammarby Forest” would like a proper bat inventory to take place.

The forest is needed for the citizens

The forest is important in terms of the climate and people’s general health. The association Save the Hammarby Forest writes in its petition: “The Hammarby Forest lowers the temperature in the area, it absorbs toxins from the nearby motorway Södra Länken, it forms a classroom for schools and is an oasis for people and animals”. But despite the fact that many preschools and schools use the forest on a daily basis, it is now blocked off and being exploited.

The association Save The Hammarby Forest has had a book table and exhibition with information by the forest during the past six months. Photo: A Svare

The tunnel paves the way for total exploitation

The association Save the Hammarby Forest writes: “The work tunnel with all its planning and infrastructure will not only devastate sensitive nature. It will also in practice pave the way for the total exploitation of the forest. All this destruction for a tunnel that can be built in an alternative location and is not really needed right here!”

Read about more articles on urban forests around Stockholm that Protect the Forest has visited in recent weeks:

The Bagarmossen forest is threatened by construction road and stone crusher

Kärrtorp’s Eastern forest