Vilhelmina Model Forest

In a nutshell

During the past few decades, there has been intense discussion as to which forestry practices should be used in the western parts of Vilhelmina Municipality. Conflict over how to manage the Blaikfjället and Njakafjäll areas specifically received substantial public interest during the 1980s and 1990s. The main land-owner, Vilhelmina Municipality, had planned harvesting operations in the old-growth forests of Njakafjäll, but these operations were strongly opposed by environmental organizations. In the end, both areas became nature reserves.

Dominating discussions today are issues related to environmental sustainability and land access rights for indigenous migrant reindeer herders vis-à-vis forest practices. Environmental adaptation of hydro power production in the catchment area of the river Ångermanälven is the main focus of practical work in the Model Forest landscape.


The land-base in Vilhelmina is in the transition area from boreal to alpine zones. The area is a typical coniferous-dominated landscape of inland northern Sweden. It is variable in its topography, from about 340 meters above sea level up to 1000 meters. There is a great variety of natural habitats and degree of disturbance by forestry. Some 350,000 hectares are productive forestland, dominated by mature forests (80 years or more). The amount of old forests increases going westward, as does the proportion of forests with high natural values. The most common tree species are spruce, pine and birch.

About half of the people who live in Vilhelmina municipality own some forest property. Around 100 Sami people are organized in indigenous reindeer herding communities.

Forestry is an important component of Vilhelmina’s economy. More than 100 people are employed as truck drivers or have other forestry-related occupations. For the informal economy and cultural heritage of the community, as well as for the well-being of the citizens, the forest is of vital importance for supporting hunting, berry picking, fishing and recreational activities.


Vilhelmina municipality is the head organization of the Model Forest.

Members of the Model Forest steering committee include:

  • National government (State Forest Agency);
  • Indigenous peoples (Sami nation);
  • Municipality of Vilhelmina;
  • Academia and research institutions;
  • Private forest owners;
  • Private forest companies;
  • Schools;
  • Tourism organizations;
  • Local entrepreneurs;
  • Representatives from organizations engaged in water related issues.


Strategic goals:

  • To increase knowledge and improve decision making for the use of the different values of the landscape through cooperation and practical efforts;
  • To support research for the concrete development of sustainable use of the landscape and its different values;
  • To work to secure local support and local exchange of all current activities within and linked to Vilhelmina Model Forest;
  • To increase exchanges with other Model Forests and similar initiatives, both nationally and internationally.

Key actions in place to reach these goals:

  • Creation of thematic groups working on water and climate issues, alternative forestry methods and social values of the forest;
  • Building of stakeholder capacity through the development and participation in networking activities;
  • River restoration activities;
  • Establishment and development of demonstration sites;
  • Research activities within and about the Model Forest landscape;
  • Strengthen partnerships and participate in exchanges between the Model Forests in Sweden and the seven participating sites in the Baltic Sea Region;
  • Release of a periodic newsletter to share knowledge, lessons learned and information about ongoing work.

Between 2012 and 2017 Vilhelmina Model Forest took part in a number of projects, e.g.:

Within the projects, collaborations were developed on different topics and between different actors such as researchers, Vilhelmina municipality, NGO’s and citizens.

Key impacts:

  • Use of the demonstration sites at excursions and thematic programs;
  • Continued theoretical and practical work with the river Ångermanälven;
  • The formation of a nature reserve highlighting social values of the forest;
  • Co-operation between the municipality and researchers in the development of municipal comprehensive planning through an extended landscape perspective and an improved participation process.

Learn more about Vilhelmina Model Forest 

Article: Participatory GIS to mitigate conflicts between reindeer husbandry and forestry in Vilhelmina Model Forest, Sweden

Article: Sustainable Landscape Management in the Vilhelmina Model Forest, Sweden

IMFN News: An Interview with Anna-Maria Fjellström, president, Vilhelmina Model Forest, Sweden

IMFN News: Research shows Model Forest effectively connects stakeholders 

Award:  Vilhelmina Model Forest received the Governor General´s Medallion.

Video: Vilhelmina Model Forest  (2013)  (in Swedish)

Video: Baltic Landscape in change – Vilhelmina Model Forest

Video: Reindeer herders, GIS and land use planning 




Northern region of the country

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Northern Europe and Russia

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Contact information



Vilhelmina Model Forest - Research and Demonstration areas

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