Swedish forest protection row erupts

Larsson criticises AssiDomän over land proposed for transfer to new conservation firm

Swedish environment minister Kjell Larsson has strongly criticised state forestry firm AssiDomän in a row over proposals to expand Sweden's area of forest land with nature protection status. As part of a government pledge to boost forest conservation (ENDS Daily 9 November), AssiDomän was asked to transfer 900,000 hectares of its land into Vasaskog, a new state-owned firm with conservation as one of its main objectives. The move will change the face of Sweden's largest forestry firm, which will simultaneously be privatised - its total land holdings will fall by 27%, turnover will drop by SKr630m (Ecu67m), and self-sufficiency in timber supplies will decline from 65% to 49%. While Vasaskog will continue to manage much of its land holdings, other areas will be turned into nature reserves or given to private forest owners as compensation for land they own being designated as a reserve. Mr Larsson has attacked AssiDomän because most of the land it has nominated for transfer to Vasaskog is in the north of Sweden, which environmental groups say has a lower conservation value than the south. AssiDomän referred to the dispute as "a misunderstanding". A spokeswoman for the company said it would be "difficult" and would "harm shareholders" if the company had to give up large areas in the south, since most of its land holdings are in the north.

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