Bergslagen Model Forest

In a nutshell

The name Bergslagen comes from the words mountain (berg in Swedish) and legislation or teamwork (lag in Swedish). The informal Bergslagen region has the longest history of developing sustained yield forestry in the European boreal forest biome. While wood production has become effective, ecological and social objectives remain hard to satisfy.

Rural decline linked to urbanisation, and increased demands on landscapes to gain economic, ecological, social and cultural benefits, are current key challenges. There is thus a need to bridge barriers between sectors at local and regional governance levels, and to provide land owners, stakeholders and municipalities with transparent information and integrated assessment about state and trends of different dimensions of sustainability.

The aim of the Bergslagen Model Forest initiative is to encourage knowledge production and learning in support of sustainable landscapes. Exchange of experiences among local stakeholder partnerships in Bergslagen and internationally is the main tool.


The Bergslagen region forms a gradient between lowland agricultural settings with temperate forest remnants and urban areas in the south, and upland rural remote boreal forest regions in the north. Most of the lowland areas belong to farmsteads with agricultural land and forest, and the uplands are owned by large private and state forest companies that focus on wood production.

Iron, copper and silver ore; forests; and streams of Bergslagen were for very long the base for economic wealth for all of Sweden. However, mining almost ceased with the international steel crisis in the 1970s, the relative economic value of traditional forest products has decreased to less than a tenth, and rivers are no longer important as transport infrastructure. Therefore, today, municipalities that once formed the core of Bergslagen now have a peripheral location in relation to new regional centres of development. Rural inhabitants are thus moving to cities for improved well-being and employment.

Recreation and social values are important and growing interests that also need to be considered when aiming at sustainable use and conservation of rural landscapes’ goods, services and values. The long history of intensive forestry makes biodiversity conservation challenging, and requires both more protected areas and landscape restoration. Check dams and waterways were key infrastructures to regulate and distribute water and energy, and is now a cultural heritage. Today, the focus in on restoring stream habitat for migrating fish species. This causes conflicts among interests. Climate change with associated dramatic shifts between heavy rain and flooding and dry conditions with low ground water and forest fires are new features.


The NGO Sustainable Bergslagen was established to encourage collaboration and continuous learning among actors and stakeholders in the quest for sustainable use and conservation of landscapes’ goods, services and values. Local landscapes in the Bergslagen region are viewed as integrated socio-ecological systems. Increased demands on what landscapes in Bergslagen should deliver requires cross-sectoral integration at multiple levels of public, private and civil sectors, as well as academia and schools.

To support this the members of NGO Sustainable Bergslagen use in-kind resources and acquire external funding for (A) collection of data, monitoring and assessment of different aspects of sustainability, (B) knowledge production about material and immaterial landscape values relevant for the management of ecological, economic, social and cultural values, (C) information and communication using both traditional media, as well as (D) through art and culture.

Bergslagen being a large region, the focus of the NGO Sustainable Bergslagen is to promote the Model Forest concept of partnership development towards sustainability in a local landscape. The structure can be described as a regional cluster of several local clusters that use one or several of the cross-cutting themes A-D to focus on (1) sustainable rural and urban communities, (2) functional green infrastructure, (3) sustainable forest management, (4) integrated river basin management, and (5) sustainable mining.

The network of the NGO Sustainable Bergslagen includes municipalities, counties and regional administrations, museums, journalists, other NGOs, firms dependent on material natural resources (wood, mineral, water) and immaterial landscape values and universities.

By joining the International Model Forest Network (IMFN), and the network for Long Term Socio-Economic and Ecological Research (LTSER), actors and stakeholders can learn from other regions’ sustainable development processes, and make Bergslagen more visible internationally.


Strategic goals:

  • Promote rural development to reduce urbanization and increase local well-being;
  • Encourage integrated land management planning;
  • Support education, capacity- and awareness-building;
  • Support implementation of Sustainable Forest Management policy;
  • Contribute to sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity in land and water ecosystems;
  • Bridge gap between research, development and application.

Key actions in place to reach these goals:

  • Present transparent information about states and trends of economic, ecological, social and cultural dimensions of sustainability;
  • Produce knowledge needed, demonstrate innovations and develop new approaches to collaborative learning;
  • Create an information hub where evidence-based knowledge about states and trends, and examples of learning through evaluation are presented to actors and stakeholders at multiple levels.

Key impacts:

  • General public better aware about states and trends of the sustainability of their landscapes;
  • “Life-long-learning” made possible by offering courses and excursions to local citizens and visitors;
  • Evaluation through local participation and citizen science groups.

Learn more about Bergslagen Model Forest 

Affiliation: Sustainable Bergslagen is also a member of the International Network on Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) platforms

GPS Coordinates, pictures, maps:  can be found here

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

Article: Evaluation of multi-level social learning for sustainable landscapes: perspective of a development initiative in Bergslagen, Sweden. Axelsson et al., 2013.

Article:  Barriers and Bridges for Landscape Stewardship and Knowledge Production to Sustain Functional Green Infrastructures. Angelstam et al., 2018.

Report: Sustainable Bergslagen – a landscape approach initiative in Sweden. Angelstam, P. and Axelsson, R., 2014.




South-central region

Area (ha):


Regional affiliation:

Northern Europe and Russia

Year joined IMFN:


Number of inhabitants:


Contact information


Per Angelstam

Johan Törnblom


Members of the IMFN are around the world.
Explore the map or search the list for locations and further details.

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