New Model Forest in South-Central Sweden Hopes to Boost Rural Development

Once the single most important producer of iron ore in the world, the Bergslagen area in south-central Sweden has a long history of forest landscape use. But the population in rural areas has dwindled as more and more people have lost forestry- and agricultural- based jobs and moved to the cities.

On January 26, the Board of the Säfsen Forests Foundation agreed to formalize the developing Bergslagen Model Forest and apply for membership in the International Model Forest Network (IMFN) with the aim of improving what has become a significant rural-urban situation.

“In Sweden, as in most developed countries, it is said that we are in the post-industrial era—with fewer industries, fewer industry jobs, and unemployed people in the countryside,” explained Robert Axelsson, Project Manager of the Bergslagen Model Forest. ” What can we do to change this trend? I believe we need to be innovative and ready to test new approaches. Potentially the Bergslagen Model Forest could contribute.”

Säfsen Forests Foundation

The Säfsen Forests Foundation was started in 1999 with the aim to maintain a “living landscape” in the area around Fredriksberg-Säfsen. Initial partners included: two municipalities; the principal forest owner in the area, StoraEnso; Säfsen Resort, and; a university. To cope with current issues stakeholders felt that there was a need to increase their scope of activity and reach, and viewed the Model Forest approach as a potential solution.

The main goals of the Bergslagen Model Forest will be:

  • Rural economic development to stem urbanization and increase local incomes
  • Sustainable development and sustainable use of natural resources
  • Education and capacity building

Already a budding conflict in the Säfsen Forest area between the tourism and timber harvest industries has been improved through the Model Forest approach. In November of 2005, representatives from the Säfsen Forests Foundation, Bergvik/StoraEnso and Säfsen Resort, together with visiting professor Luc Bouthillier from the University of Laval Forestry Department in Canada, met to discuss a planned timber harvest in an important area for tourism. The discussion led to a management regime that was acceptable for all parties.

Next steps

The new Model Forest is seeking to create a larger partnership group, both in members and territory. They are also looking to develop strong contacts with other Model Forests and like-minded initiatives to be able to partner with, and learn from, them. The Canadian experience holds a particular interest and Bergslagen is considering “twinning” opportunities or exchanges with the Canadian Model Forest Network.

Bergslagen Model Forest will be Sweden’s second. Vilhelmina Model Forest was established in 2003 in the northern part of the country. For more information, please contact Robert Axelsson (robert.axelsson@smsk.slu.se).