World call to save Sweden's virgin forest from the saw

Posted: 25 February 2011

Conservationists  in Sweden are campaigning against the recent decision  to allow the logging of pristine subalpine forest in a vast roadless wilderness in the Anok river delta. It is, they say, an example of the country's 'hollow' forestry laws.

Two major conservation agencies, Protect the Forest and Friends of the Earth Sweden, condemn the Swedish forest policy and the Swedish forestry model and  demand a radical improvment of the forest management legislation.

The Änok river delta is located in the heart of one of Europe's last expanses of wilderness, bordering on the UNESCO World Heritage Laponia and only a few kilometers away from Sarek National Park. The forests along the delta are some of the finest virgin pine forests that remain in the country.

Protestors say there is no doubt from either environmental protection authorities or environmental NGO's that the area is of high conservation value. Despite this, the Swedish Forest Agency has recently authorized permission for clear-cutting subalpine old-growth forest in the middle of the Änok river delta.

"Virgin forest logging in Änok is a good example of how Swedish forest management legislation lacks the capacity to balance the interests of conservation and production", says Daniel Rutschman, secretary of Protect the Forest. "In combination with the severe cuts in state funding for forest protection, the Swedish forest policy has now totally collapsed."

During the UN biodiversity summit last autumn, Sweden and 192 other countries signed an international agreement which established that at least 17 percent of each land based ecosystem must be protected until the year 2020. This corresponds to the demands of the environmental movement and scientists, who argue that at least 20 percent of the productive forest land must be protected. However, none of the tools needed to realise the ambitions have been presented by the government, and there is no legislation in support of the environmental targets. The environmental movement is also critical to Swedish authorities for not using the existing EU-legislation concerning species and habitats.

"The Swedish forestry model, based on voluntary nature consideration, has proved insufficient", says Ellie Cijvat, chairperson of Friends of the Earth Sweden. "The forest industry has proved themselves unable to take this kind of responsibilty. It is time for Sweden to pass legislation which will protect remaining old-growth forests and core areas. We need a legal framework which guarantees environmentally sound forestry, so that necessary consideration is taken to soil, water and biodiversity; a framework which stimulates low-impact, nature oriented management methods".

The two agencies say the destruction of the Swedish forest ecosystem ust cease immediately, and that valuable areas like the Änok river delta must be protected from exploitation. The have issued a world  call for action, under the name of "Stop the Logging of the Änok delta" which has already attracted the support f over 200 scientists.

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