Five Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Sweden’s Forest Economy
Sweden’s forests are central to the nation’s history, culture and economy. They are highly valued for both their financial benefits and their contribution to Swedes’ quality of life. Here are five things that make Sweden’s forest economy unique, according to Staffan Sjöberg, Public Relations Manager at Iggesund Paperboard.
Sweden is Heavily Forested
Unlike most of continental Europe, Sweden is so heavily forested that open areas are actually the exception. Over 70 percent of the country is covered by trees.
Legal Forest Protection Began in 1903
The Swedish Forestry Act of 1903 is one of the world’s first environmental laws. The Act states that anyone harvesting forest must regenerate it. For example, Iggesund’s parent company, the Holmen Group, plants 20 million seedlings every year and for at least the past 60 years has never harvested more than the annual growth. When a forest company wants to harvest a section of forest, it must first submit a permit plan, which is open to public debate. It must also provide deadfalls and standing stumps to help insects and birds make the transition to the young trees.
The Swedish Countryside is Open to Everyone
In Sweden the Right of Public Access is an unwritten law that allows everyone to walk, jog, cycle, ride or ski through the forests and countryside and across other people’s land provided they do not damage crops, tree plantations or other sensitive land. They can also freely pick berries and mushrooms. One side benefit of this right to roam is that forestry companies’ operations are highly transparent.
Sweden Is the World’s Third-Largest Exporter of Forest Products
Sweden is only one-twentieth the size of the U.S. but exports almost the same amount of pulp, paper and sawn wood. Forestry provides between 9 and 12 percent of Swedish industry’s total employment, exports, sales and added value.
Sweden’s Forest Economy Is Nearly Fossil-Fuel Free
Through steady investment, Sweden’s pulp and paper industry has become almost entirely powered by renewable resources. Since 1980, the industry’s annual consumption of oil has been cut by roughly 80 percent, primarily through the expanded use of biofuels and wind power. For example, Iggesund powers its Swedish mill with lignin left over from the very trees it’s processing.