Large decrease of new protected forest
The Swedish Forest Agency’s decisions on protection of forests fell sharply in 2019, in comparison with the previous year. The area in new nature conservation agreements decreased by 74 percent to the lowest level in 20 years, according to new statistics.
Habitat protection areas and nature conservation agreements are the instruments for protecting forests that the Swedish Forest Agency uses. During 2019 the Swedish Forest Agency decided on 1 424 hectares in new habitat protection areas and nature conservation agreements. 290 of these hectares were nature conservation agreements and that is the lowest area of new agreements since 1999.
From 1993 until 2019 almost 39 000 hectares in nature conservation agreements have been signed by the Swedish Forest Agency. The 290 new hectares that were added in 2019 was a decrease by almost 74 percent since 2018. In average around 1 000 have been signed yearly since 2010. The decrease in 2019 was caused by lower government funding.
The agreements are tied to different habitats. The most common one being; natural or near-natural coniferous forests, with almost 18 400 hectares, which is about 47 percent of all nature conservation agreements. The largest county regarding the conservation agreements is Norrbotten with 4 800 hectares, the top municipality is Malung-Sälen with 1 100 hectares.
Another instrument is the habitat protection area. Since 1994 the Swedish Forest Agency has decided on 31 900 hectares of habitat protection, of which 1 134 hectares were added in 2019. That was a decrease by more than 40 percent since 2018, however that year the Forest Agency received unusually high levels of grants for habitat protection. The yearly average since 2010 has been around 1 200 hectares of new habitat protection area per year.
Of all habitat protection areas, 68 percent belong to the category; natural and near-natural old-growth forests. Dalarna is the largest county with 3 500 hectares and Gotland is the largest municipality with 1 200 hectares habitat protection areas.
Since 1993 SEK 3,1 billion has been paid out to compensate landowners in the creation new habitat protection areas and nature conservation agreements. In 2019 SEK 163 million were paid for new habitat protection areas and SEK 9 million were paid for new nature conservation agreements.
The habitat protection area is a statutory way to protect small areas of great importance for flora and fauna. The reimbursement to the landowner corresponds to 125 percent of the market value of the land.
The nature conservation agreement is a civil and time-limited agreement. The compensation varies depending on how long the contract is valid. The time can vary from one to fifty years. For a 50-year agreement, the landowner receives 60 percent of the area's net conversion value in compensation.
The statistics show the Swedish Forest Agency's decision on habitat protection area until December 31, including non-legally enforceable decisions unless otherwise stated. The statistics for nature conservation agreements include agreements signed by the Swedish Forest Agency, excluding areas included in “vitryggs-” and “ekoparks-“ agreements. For both forms of protection, no overlap analyzes against other types of formal protection have been made.
News in the statistics
For the first time there is now municipal statistics on habitat protection areas and nature conservation agreements. The table is available on the Swedish Forest Agency’s webpage.
The Swedish Forest Agency, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Statistics Sweden and SLU have jointly created new statistics on the area of forest land that is formally protected, voluntary set-asides, consideration patches and unproductive forest land. Habitat protection and nature conservation agreements are part of the formal protection, but the statistics in this publication differ somewhat from what appears in the overall statistics from Statistics Sweden. In an effort to increase the comprehension, there is now a compilation of the area where the Swedish Forest Agency decided on habitat protection but where the decision did not gain legal force by December 31.