Sweden has become the first European country to join the International Model Forest Network, extending the IMFN’s presence to five continents.
Leif Jougda, a land-use expert with the National Board of Forestry in Sweden, submitted a proposal to the IMFN Secretariat in May of 2003 on behalf of a stakeholder group in Vilhelmina municipality. The ambitious plan outlines a long-term strategy to establish model forests in each of the Barents Region co-operant countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia), eventually forming a regional network through which participants will share common experiences in support of sustainable forest management.
“[Model forests] are a good way to explain sustainable forest management concepts already underway in Sweden,” said Jougda. “There is already a tradition to work in partnerships, but now there is pressure to see the forest socially, not just economically.”
“In our review of the Swedish proposal we were struck not only by the quality of the submission, but particularly by the similarity of the management challenges being experience by Sweden with those being experienced throughout the IMFN,” noted Peter Besseau, Executive Director of the IMFN Secretariat.
“I have no doubt that the decade-long experience of the IMFN in model forest development, and particularly that of Canada, will prove invaluable to our Swedish colleagues. Of course, it goes without saying that the IMFNS is delighted at the opportunity of working with our Swedish counterparts on this initiative.”
How much is enough?
Swedish authorities introduced a new forest policy in 1993 and a new forestry act in 1994. The goal was to achieve a balance between timber production and the preservation of biodiversity through the voluntary participation of forest-land owners. Because forests are a dominant feature covering most of Sweden’s landscape, their use and management affects just about every inhabitant. Therefore, this new vision of forest management was for the benefit all people.
By 1995, 120 000 hectares of land had been set aside in the municipality of Vilhelmina in northern Sweden to be managed as a landscape partnership. Private landowners, government representatives, academics, communities and Aboriginal peoples were all involved in the study.
“But how much is enough,” asked Joudga. “When do we know we have preserved enough land or that we’re cutting the right amount?”
Benefits of Networking
Jougda first heard of the model forest approach in 2002 when Ken Macartney, Counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Stockholm, introduced him to the concept. The idea appealed to him because, as part of an international network, Sweden would be able to draw from the challenges and successes others have had in areas such as harvesting techniques, GIS, managing competing land-use interests, and others.
Indigenous partnerships and land use are another area of intense interest. In Sweden, about 2 500 indigenous Saamí people have the right to raise reindeer, yet the forested land that provides the lichen and water they need to survive during the winter months is mostly in private hands. The needs of the Saamí and those of the private landowners are therefore frequently in conflict. Once part of the Network, Sweden plans to look to the Canadian Model Forest experience in search of a working solution to this pressing issue.
Based on their experience with landscape partnerships, Vilhelmina became the obvious place to test the model forest approach in Sweden. The Vilhelmina Model Forest will come on-line later this year. Establishment of the Barents Model Forest Network is planned for 2005.