September 1, 2004
Ottawa, Canada — When the countries of the Barents Region of northern Scandinavia and north-western Russia were looking at innovative approaches to enhance regional cooperation and achieve sustainable use of their forest resources — among the oldest and richest in Europe — they decided that the Model Forest approach to sustainable forest management (SFM), in use in 12 countries around the world, offered the combination of elements they wanted to help them address these challenges.
With the launch today of the Vilhelmina Model Forest (VMF) in northern Sweden’s Västerbotten county, Sweden has become the first country in Europe to adopt the Model Forest approach — a unique and innovative forum that tackles a wide variety of SFM issues. The Model Forest approach to SFM was pioneered by Canada in the early 1990s and has since expanded to South America, the Russian Far East and Asia.
The VMF has become the first of a planned network of Model Forests within the Barents Region, an interconnected geographical area covering 755 600 km2 that encompasses the northern parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia.
As large-scale geographic areas that focus on the environmental and the socio-economic values of the forest, Model Forests emphasize the formation of partnerships in which stakeholders have opportunities to participate in developing local solutions to their SFM and land use issues. As members of an international network of some 30 Model Forests, they can draw on the knowledge and experiences of others facing similar SFM challenges.
“The Model Forest concept facilitates a broad society dialogue to promote SFM, with respect to economical, ecological and social values,” says Mr. Håkan Wirtén, Deputy Director General of the Swedish National Board of Forestry. “The Vilhelmina Model Forest is tailored specifically to the Swedish forest policy and the specific conditions in the boreal and mountainous forests. We expect that Model Forest outcomes, channeled through the Swedish Forest Administration and the International Model Forest Network, will have substantial impact on the development of SFM.”
The choice of the Vilhelmina area for a Model Forest is a natural extension of the Vilhelmina project that began in 1995 to help resolve competing land-use interests involving the region’s aboriginal Saamí reindeer herders and private landholders, forest companies and the Vilhelmina Municipality.
Ms. Karin Baer, Saamí leader of the Vilhelmina North Saamivillage feels positive about applying the Model Forest approach. “Reindeer husbandry depends on the presence of continuous areas of natural forests — something that can not easily be combined with modern forestry. The activities within the Model Forest should provide good examples for the future of how forestry can be adjusted to meet the viewpoints and needs of indigenous land users.”
The Vilhelmina Model Forest (VMF) covers 120 000 ha that include 58 000 ha of forested land, northern eco-systems and a number of indigenous communities. The main objectives of the Barents Region Model Forest Network will be sustainable forestry development and the conservation of biological diversity.