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Swedish forest protection fell sharply in 2019

The Swedish Forest Agency’s decisions on protection of forests fell sharply in 2019, in comparison with the previous year. The area in new nature conservation agreements decreased by 74% to the lowest level in 20 years, according to new statistics. Source: Timberbiz

Habitat protection areas and nature conservation agreements are the instruments for protecting forests that the Swedish Forest Agency uses. During 2019 the Swedish Forest Agency decided on 1424 hectares in new habitat protection areas and nature conservation agreements, 290 of these hectares were nature conservation agreements and that is the lowest area of new agreements since 1999.

From 1993 until 2019 almost 39,000 hectares in nature conservation agreements have been signed by the Swedish Forest Agency. The 290 new hectares that were added in 2019 was a decrease by almost 74% since 2018. In average around 1000 have been signed yearly since 2010. The decrease in 2019 was caused by lower government funding.

The agreements are tied to different habitats. The most common one being; natural or near-natural coniferous forests, with almost 18,400 hectares, which is about 47% of all nature conservation agreements. The largest county regarding the conservation agreements is Norrbotten with 4800 hectares, the top municipality is Malung-Sälen with 1100 hectares.

Another instrument is the habitat protection area. Since 1994 the Swedish Forest Agency has decided on 31,900 hectares of habitat protection, of which 1134 hectares were added in 2019. That was a decrease by more than 40% since 2018 however, that year the Forest Agency received unusually high levels of grants for habitat protection. The yearly average since 2010 has been around 1200 hectares of new habitat protection area per year.

Of all habitat protection areas, 68% belong to the category; natural and near-natural old-growth forests. Dalarna is the largest county with 3500 hectares and Gotland is the largest municipality with 1200 hectares habitat protection areas.

Since 1993 SEK 3,1 billion has been paid out to compensate landowners in the creation new habitat protection areas and nature conservation agreements. In 2019 SEK 163 million were paid for new habitat protection areas and SEK 9 million were paid for new nature conservation agreements.

The habitat protection area is a statutory way to protect small areas of great importance for flora and fauna. The reimbursement to the landowner corresponds to 125% of the market value of the land.