The Swedish Forest Agency informs that the Swedish forest owners must take more responsibility to protect protected species during forestry operations. As for an example, all bird species need to be considered as they are protected according to the Species Protection Ordinance. This is the result of indicative court rulings nationally in Sweden, and in the EU.

More attention to protected species

Photo: Åke Sjöström, Swedish Forest Agency

More attention to protected species

“There is a new order in the forest, and we understand that it means a major change for the forest owners,” says Göran Rune at the Forest Agency and continues, “But the legal developments are clear and both forest owners and us as an authority must gradually adapt to that.”

Several court rulings during the last year shows that the prohibitions of the Species Protection Ordinance must be strictly followed when it comes to birds and protected species. The court rulings also show that many more of the felling cases that the Forestry Agency handles, where protected species are at risk, must be handled according to the Environmental Code.

In the environmental Code it´s clearly stated that there is a demand for knowledge of those who plan or executes forestry operations. This means that it is the forest owner or the operator/wood buyer who is responsible for finding out whether there are any protected species and prevent that those are damaged during forestry operations.

The EU affects Swedish practice

A ruling of the European Court of Justice in March 2021 showed that parts of the Swedish application of the Species Protection Ordinance is not compatible with EU law. Sweden’s earlier practice was that the prohibitions only were valid if the species’ conservation status was adversely affected.

Some of the changes that the rulings lead to are:

– The forest owner is obliged to protect all wild bird species individually as all wild birds are protected according to the Species Protection Ordinance.

– The forest owner is also obliged to protect other protected species of flora and fauna during forestry operations.

– Prior to a felling operation, the forest owner is obliged to acquire the necessary knowledge to prevent that protected species are affected in a way that is against the law.

– The Swedish Forest Agency will more than before require supplementary documentation and investigations from the forest owner concerning protected species that may be adversely affected.

More information to come

“The Forest Agency must as an authority follow valid laws, regulations, and court rulings. More guidance will be needed in a near future about how to handle this. We know that more rulings are underway in ongoing court cases,” says Andrea Airosto, lawyer at the Swedish Forest Agency.

More information will come.