The Vilhelmina Model Forest was established in 2004 as the first Model Forest in Europe. The site covers about 870 000 ha of boreal forest in northwest Sweden and includes a landscape that transitions into the alpine environments of the Scandinavian Mountain Range. The area is sparsely populated and the land is viewed as a common pool for various needs and interests. Over the past ten years, the Model Forest has been involved in a wide range of projects and has had tremendous success in addressing many forest issues.
Sustainable landscape management
The Model Forest has proven to be a good forum to promote dialogue among stakeholders. It has provided an arena where different interests can meet and potentially merge into concrete landscape planning and sustainable landscape management initiatives. Current issues being explored include: management of protected areas, alternative forestry methods, water regulations, climate change and carbon accounting on landscape basis, reindeer husbandry, holistic planning and conflict management.
Improving the ecological potential of waterways
The introduction of the EU Water Framework Directive entailed a new focus on water conservation requiring increased attention be given to regulated water bodies, particularly those with hydro dams. The Ångermanälven River is Sweden’s third largest river and accounts for 17% of the country’s hydropower production. It originates in and flows through the Model Forest. The regulation and development of the river has led to a strong decline of biodiversity in the river valley and some species have completely disappeared, including wild salmon, eel and river lamprey. The Model Forest has played a leading role in developing a 16-step process called “Model Ångermanälven” that outlines a practical approach for planning and implementation of measures that could provide “good ecological potential”. The process is designed to gather information, asses various alternatives and engage stakeholders.
Community vulnerability and adaptation to climate change
The Model Forest facilitated the production of a report, “Learning about Vilhelmina Kommun Climate, Impacts and Adaptation”, to help community members enhance their understanding of climate change and potential impacts in the region. The work was guided by the Canadian Model Forest Network’s Guidebook for Canadian forest based communities entitled “Pathways to Climate Resilience”. The report highlights how the influence of climate change on biophysical landscape conditions may affect land use actors, land governance and landscape planning. The report is a synthesis and overview of current technical knowledge on climate change in the Vilhelmina Kommun, with some additional contributions on historical trends and future projections. The Model Forest has created a climate workinggroup that will conduct several public workshops in the coming months.
VMGIS – a tool for participatory planning
Using the experiences of developing a GIS tool for reindeer herders, RenGIS, the Model Forest has expanded the GIS platform to serve as a data compilation tool, where different users can and have added their specific data into the system. As well, VMFGIS serves as a data storage place, where all available GIS data can be stored and accessed by the different users. Finally, VMFGIS has been designed to be used as a communication platform for a range of land use dialogues to assist in reducing potential land use conflict. The introduction of VMFGIS to the Model Forest steering committee, working groups and staff, the Vilhelmina municipality, and the Swedish Forest Agency, including non-GIS experts, has proven quite successful. It has led to constructive land use dialogue in local area planning in Dalasjö, Vilhelmina Upper Forest Common and the Sami reindeer herding communities.