The Swedish government is to purchase a quarter of a million hectares of old-growth forest land for designation as official nature reserves, the Swedish environment ministry has announced. Nearly 4% of Swedish forests currently have protected status, and the figure will increase to around 5% if the new target is achieved. As promised in this year's budget (ENDS Daily 13 October), the government has now increased funding for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to purchase forest land for conservation purposes. This year's SK190m (Ecu20.7m) will increase to SK500m in 2001, after which date it may be reviewed. The EPA will now begin to identify the criteria to be used in deciding which forest areas should be protected, and is due to report back to the government in June 1999. Some of the sites chosen for conservation could fall within land owned by the state forest company AssiDomän. A new state company might be created to own the protected areas, an environment ministry spokesperson told ENDS Daily. The new forest conservation programme is an important tool in protecting "what little of Sweden's old-growth forests remain," an EPA official said.
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