Visitor-Friendly or Bioeconomy? Place-Based Collaborative Learning Towards Multiple Forest Use in Swedish Bergslagen

Inspired by international policy developments and a national strategy for long-term sustainable land use, Sweden developed a national forest programme in 2016. The intent is to increase wood and biomass production, but also to bolster biodiversity conservation and rural development.

Tiveden Church

Sweden is home to three Model Forest initiatives: Vilhelmina in the north, Helge Å in the south, and Bergslagen, central Sweden.
Following the Model Forest Approach to multi-stakeholder partnerships for the sustainable management of landscapes, a new approach to balancing competing land-use interests is applied.

Understandably, competition between different objectives can create conflict between different land-use methods, and impact the portfolios of ecosystem services that can be delivered.

The Municipality of Laxå, in the south of Sweden’s Bergslagen region and part of the boreal forest, is a good example. Currently, most of the municipality’s forests are used for sustained yield wood and biomass production. However, advanced mechanisation of forestry in recent decades has considerably reduced job opportunities related to harvesting. The question, then, is what other incomes can forests generate?

On March 22, 2017, the Municipality of Laxå adopted a new strategy to diversify employment by strengthening the nature-based tourism-sector, effectively declaring itself an “ecotourism area”. Forests, in particular the Tiveden National Park, are its main assets.

In order to resolve competing interests between forest conservation for ecotourism and wood / biomass production, the Model Forest approach to sustainable forest management was adopted, and Collaboration Tiveden was born. Key stakeholders in this scheme include Laxå municipality, the State-owned Forest Company Sveaskog, and local nature-based tourism businesses.

The focus is on how to optimally use a new 20 km2 “buffer zone”, created in 2016 on Sveaskog-owned land surrounding Tiveden National Park. The aim is to develop and apply alternative forest management methods that move away from the current clear-cutting system towards visitor-friendly methods of forest management, allowing for both harvesting and tourism opportunities.

Tiveden will thus become a laboratory for Sveaskog to collaboratively apply and evaluate visitor-friendly forestry methods, and ways to integrate those into planning processes.

Pines in Tiveden

Multiple-use, but how?

Stressing the need for multiple-use, the vision of the Swedish national forest programme is that “forests - the green gold - shall contribute to jobs and sustained growth in the entire country, as well as developing a growing bio-economy”.

The Meaning of Tiveden

"Ti" was the pagan god of forests, and "ved" stems from the dead wood that made forest areas difficult to pass through. The suffix "-en" designates a specific forest, as if it was an individual.

A Typical Story

Before the development of the Swedish railway network, beginning in the mid-19th century, large forests isolated settlements, whose economies was centered on agriculture and trade.

Tiveden, located at the border between the two ancient Swedish kingdoms of Götaland and Svealand, is a typical example of this.

For a long period, the main economic activity in Tiveden was iron production, based on three key assets of the Bergslagen region: ore; streams for kinetic energy; and the forest that provided wood for construction and for charcoal production.

Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, this was replaced by the manufacturing of metal products. However, the past 30 years saw a decline in manufacturing, and of related job opportunities.

What this means in part is that new forest-related jobs in rural areas are no longer solely linked to traditional forestry, such as wood and biomass production. Instead, new jobs now include outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism, and are focused on biodiversity and wilderness conservation. Maintaining and enhancing social values are also increasingly important.

Yet, encouraging growth in bio-economy means lowering the age of final harvesting far below what defines wilderness and biodiversity conservation. Forests are thus becoming younger, and the disparity between protected areas and managed forests becomes significant. This is a negative, especially when it is contrasted with the demands in creating new types of rural forest jobs.

In these situations, integrated spatial planning at landscape scale is required, as opposed to the current strategy of applying multiple-use independently in projects confined to individual forest stands and local areas. With collaborative planning tools and approaches, broader multi-use aspects across the landscape can be part of sustainable natural resource management solutions.

With Sveaskog as the principle land owner in Laxå municipality, it is an interesting pilot area for segregating different forest functions, as is already done by Sveaskog to encourage biodiversity conservation.

Place-based learning in Tiveden

Administratively, Tiveden is comprised of Laxå municipality. Laxå now boasts three “new” assets: a short, 30-minute commute to the regional capital, Örebro; a strong core of locally-owned tourism businesses; and the forests, which includes the Tiveden National Park and Sveaskog-owned lands.

To overcome perceived negative effects of an industry focused on a high and sustained harvest of wood and biomass, and taking into consideration the demands from tourists wanting to experience the wild, the local network of tourism entrepreneurs and Laxå municipality convinced Sveaskog to become a partner. The Collaboration Tiveden partners have now embarked together on a learning process.

Tiveden Stakeholders

According to the Model Forest concept, the first step for the stakeholders is to learn from each other. In the case of Collaboration Tiveden it means understanding what visitor-friendly forests mean for the local population, for tourists, as well as for conserving charismatic species and other features of forest ecosystems.

The next steps will be to learn how integrate current processes for municipal and forest planning so that both traditional and new forest values can be maintained.

For more information, contact:

Per Angelstam (per.angelstam@slu.se)

Harry Lundin (harry.lundin@laxa.se)

References

Angelstam, P., Elbakidze, M. 2017. Forest landscape stewardship for functional green infrastructures in Europe’s West and East: diagnosing and treating social-ecological systems. In: Plieninger, T. and Bieling, C. (eds.) The Science and Practice of Landscape Stewardship, in press (due June 2017). Cambridge University Press.

Elbakidze M, Dawson L, Andersson K, Axelsson R, Angelstam P, Stjernquist I, Teitelbaum S, Schlyter P, Thellbro C. 2015. Is spatial planning a collaborative learning process? A case study from a rural–urban gradient in Sweden. Land Use Policy 48: 270-285.

Giergiczny, M., M. Czajkowski, T. Żylicz, P. Angelstam. 2015. Choice experiment assessment of public preferences for forest structural attributes. Ecological Economics 119: 8–23.

Naumov, V. 2017. Barriers and bridges for intensified wood production and biodiversity conservation in NW Russia's boreal forest. Acta Universitatis agriculturae Sueciae, 2017:9; http://pub.epsilon.slu.se/13977/