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Theme meeting: February 28th, 2020

Forest governance to meet global challenges
Different aspects of forest governance were presented in the morning by three invited speakers, Erik Sollander from the Swedish Forest Agency, Carina Keskitalo from Umeå University and Marie Appelstrand from Lund University. In the afternoon, landscape approaches to achieve multiple goals were discussed and exemplified by Olof Johansson, Sveaskog. After that, a panel discussion followed, with the four speakers and Henrik Smith from Lund University. The discussion was moderated by Marianne Hall, also from Lund University. The content of the talks are very briefly described below, together with a summary of the panel discussion.

Forest trees with grass below, sunlight. Photo.

Summary of the presentations

Erik Sollander, Swedish Forest Agency/Skogsstyrelsen
PDF icon“Forest governance, how to meet global challenges?”
Erik gave an overview of current systems of governance and suggested that we have a hybrid system of governance policies and CSR certification (Corporate Social Responsibility).  He highlighted the possibilities and limitations between the two systems. He pointed out that there is a large risk for inconsistencies since the two systems are not coordinated. But he also stated that this presumably is what we were aiming for, and that the government should enable and stimulate voluntary change. The discussion afterwards was about certification, how much is certified and implications of not being certified. Erik pointed out that it is possible to sell non-certified wood, since a fraction of FSC-certified products can be non-certified inputs. One question was how certification works for small forest owners. Erik pointed out that PEFC is more adapted to smaller estates than FSC.

Carina Keskitalo, Professor in Political Science, Department of Geography, Umeå University,
”Who governs the forest in Sweden” -PDF icon links to references
Carina pointed out that forest legislation, which has existed since the 12th century, has been about extracting for economic benefits. She raised the question about how much can be done with voluntary means and discussed the role of certification from different perspectives. She presented results from studies on the “new type of forest owners”,  showing e.g. that many forest owners owning land in the north live far away from their land, and their goals for their forests differ widely. Finally she gave examples of conflicts that can occur in multiuse forestry in a changing climate. Afterwards a question was raised about the new group of forest owners and what choices they make and why, i.e. do they keep and enjoy the inheritance or sell and enjoy the money? Carina answered that It depends to a large extent on the size of the property (i.e how much money they can earn), how much they need the money and how much time they spend there. Another question was about the role for economic instruments to intervene. Carina argued that regulative instruments perhaps should be first option, rather than the economic ones. 

Marie Appelstrand, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Business Law, Lund,
PDF icon“Governing through the ages – steering and voluntariness in the Swedish forestry sector”
Marie first gave an overview of forest governance since the 1200s. Then she presented a positive example of a successful arena for cooperation between different interests, which started off in a conflict: Östra Vätterbranterna. Finding the ‘social key habitats’ was central to the good cooperation in the example given in Jönköping. The group structure, ‘adhocracy’ – was key for its success. Two key persons  (“eldsjälar”) were driving the process. The discussions after the talk were about if this can be repeated at other places. Marie pointed out the importance of the “eldsjälar” (enthusiasts/drivers of change) who were driving the process in Östra Vätterbranterna. It would not have been possible without them. She gave another example, with the same preconditions as in Östra Vätterbranterna, but without “eldsjälar”, where the efforts to cooperate failed.  

Olof Johansson, Forest policy director Sveaskog,
PDF icon“A landscape approach to biodiversity and water conservation”
Olof started to ask the question if a landscape approach could be used to take different interests into account, and described Sveaskogs way of thinking in this respect. He pointed out that nature conservation can be done in different scales – Ecoparks (currently 175 000 ha), Nature conservation forests (300 000 ha) and retention in everyday operations (125 000 ha).  He also advocated for a more holistic view, to not only divide into set-aside areas and areas used for forestry, since it depends on what kind of activities you are doing. A question afterwards was about the controversy that has been around Ecoparks, regarding how much is actually being conserved.  Olof answered that 110 000 out of the 175 000 ha is set aside, and pointed out that conservation and production (with more nature consideration than usual) was meant to be combined in the Ecoparks, and that it seems a bit non-optimizing to set aside more in the Ecoparks, since nature conservation would be more beneficial in other areas.  Furthermore, the importance of protection of deciduous trees came up in the discussions. 

the five panelmembers sitting on chairs while moderator stands besides. Photo.
Paneldiscussion with Erik Sollander, Carina Keskitalo, Marie Appelstrand, Olof Johansson and Henrik Smith. Moderator Marianne Hall.

Summary from the panel discussion

with Erik Sollander, Carina Keskitalo, Marie Appelstrand, Olof Johansson and Henrik Smith
The Forest policy's equal goals for production and environment/conservation, this two pillars or set of balance scales, is it working? Has it been overall successful or does it need improvement?
The answered spanned from “not at all” to “yes, at least partly”. 

The recent report on forest management from the Swedish Forest Agency states that: “Goals for forest production, and environmental goals as well as efforts for other social goals need to be developed jointly. Forest policy's equal goals are often seen as a set of balance scaleswhere the goals for production and environment must be weighed against each other. We see a need to supplement, or possibly replace it with the image of a web or a fabric in which all parts are interdependent.” So integrating the two goals, is this the way forward?

Different points of view regarding this:

  • Environmental and production goals do not need always to be opposing, it depends on the question. Based on this, the “fabric” is more suitable.
  • The environmental goal is such a wide goal, production goal is straight forward. The environmental goal needs to be worked with in a different way, multifaceted.
  • A suggestion was to replace the production and environmental goals with goals for conservation, supplying goods to people, contribution to climate change mitigation, contribution to biodiversity, etc. It’s possible to have solutions that alleviate the conflicts. Forestry can be done to support the others.
  • The National Forest Strategy report focuses on ‘how to produce more in the forest, in a way that also maintains biodiversity’. This view shows that production is a priority in the planning. Second, it doesn’t acknowledge the conflicts. Biodiversity always come in later as ‘something to consider on the margins’.

Question from the audience:  If we compare with other countries, is the Swedish system working or
should we think in a different way? 

Some comments on this question were:

  • Our conflicts between stakeholders are not as bad as in many other countries. Trust here is rather high.
  • International perspective has national implications. We are the future Norway. Norway has the oil. In a future Europe, we will have the forests. Very complicated issue if we should a) use forests to absorb CO2 or b) cut the forests to replace fossil fuels. We will be supplying for the rest of the world.
  • FSC is an example of an international system that works in many countries, but there are some systems that work in some countries but not in others.
  • Experience from a UN group demonstrated that the Swedish strategy of soft-steering instruments is not suited to some international forums, where legally binding instruments are necessary.

Question from the audience: What would you guess would be the next generation of forestry legislation?
The answers were more “hopes” and “discussions” than “guesses”:

  • A hope of merging Miljöbalken and the Forestry Act to give them more muscles was expressed. And to increase the strength of soft instruments.
  • “Politics is the realm of the possible.” It’s the ‘luxury’ of the scenario building people, to look at what could be the next reality. Pressure from outside of the Forestry act is required.
  • The true value of the CSR systems needs to be highlighted. CSR substitutes this ‘ordinary law’ with a business agreement, where ‘guilty beyond reasonable doubt’ is not required.
  • Regulatory system/tools limit us, since they are too complicated.
  • A question was raised about why the trust in CSR is so extremely low among environmental organizations in Sweden? Will the rest of the world care/trust in this Swedish regulation system? This was discussed and one insight was that groups in Sweden were optimistic from the start, but that more regulation leads to less trust. The question about why the trust is less needs to be discussed with the environmental organizations.
  • The Swedish system of freedom with responsibility is desirable. Examples from elsewhere show that cherry-picking indicators from a list lacks motivation. If indicators disappear, so does the motivation.

Forest policies and agricultural policies differ widely, where forests are governed with the “freedom under responsibility” paradigm, while agriculture is very regulated and strictly governed on an EU level in the CAP. From the point of view of wanting to achieve multiple goals, how do you see the pros and cons with the different ways of governing?

  • CAP came out of a time of people starving. It is opposite of polluter pays principle, and instead pays farmers not to pollute/destroy. Creates very different drivers.
  • One view based on this was that the forestry sector is better at complying with free market setup.
  • CAP is extremely regulated.  If we compare Krav and FSC, they have different consequences.  A suggestion was proposed,  that forestry could have in essence higher-priced organic forestry products (similar to Krav). Not possible now in current FSC.

An investigation about strengthened ownership is in progress. One question on the agenda within the work with the National forest program is: “How do we achieve the environmental goals while safeguarding and strengthening ownership rights?” That leads me to question Is the ownership and the ownership rights under threat? Or are we perhaps just witnessing/ partaking in a possible change of direction of regulation and legislation, while there has always, or at least for a long time, been legislation controlling forestry and forest owners?

  • Successful stories are often built on cooperating with the person owning the land. Cooperation like this leads to more initiatives and better dialogue. What we lack in forestry is being able to promote individuals to do extra, more flexible forms for management.
  • It is important to distinguish between ownership rights and the rights related to how the land is managed. (As an example, you have the right to own a car, but there are many regulations about how to use it). The debate today is more about management rights than ownership rights. Based on this:
  • Forest ownership is not under threat (except for species protection, which varies EU/Sweden). The rights/flexibility to make decision can be kept to some extent even if there are regulations.

Final words: The way forward
Cecilia Akselsson emphasized the importance of platforms to discuss across interests/disciplines/organizations, and
mentioned a few of those platforms. 

  • At university level we apply for funding for transdisciplinary work.
  • At Lund university, we have a collaboration initiative, LU Land, aiming at contributing to knowledge about sustainable land use.  More than 25 agencies, companies, municipalities, NGOs and other organizations are involved. Presently, a horizon scanning is in progress, with the aim to identify the most crucial questions related to land use, and to find ways how to tackle them.
  • This spring, four seminars are organized related to The National Forest Strategy, in four different cities and with slightly different focus. All of them are very relevant for the discussions at this seminar, it is very relevant for researchers interested in forest governance to participate and it is open for everyone to report their interest in participation.
  • Skånsk skogsstrategi” is a regional strategy in line with the National Forest Strategy. They involve many companies, municipalities, NGOs and other organizations and organize meetings open for everyone. Researchers interested in forest governance should participate in such meetings!