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Report2007Open access

Forest tenure in Sweden – a historical perspective

Nylund, Jan-Erik; Ingemarson, Fredrik


Land tenure regimes are intimately coupled to land use forms, and tenure reforms accompany the ongoing re-evaluation of forest management around the globe. This report summarises forest tenure development in Sweden during the last 500 years. The driving forces of privatisation in Swedish forestry are seen in relation to the modernisation of society. The current forest owner-ship structure reflects the objectives of privatisation of forestland two hundred years ago. The Crown wished to provide every homestead with enough forest to cover it subsistence needs for major and minor forest products. The privatisation process gained momentum around 1800, well before the industrial revolution gave forestry commercial value. As there was little use for the vast timber resource, other than for household purposes, the Crown initially did not bother to define exact user rights. The transition in the North of Sweden is one example where the state did not foresee any conflict, as forestry, farming and reindeer herding were considered to co-exist. The first period of the privatisation process was turbulent when the full consequences of the transition from forest commons for subsistence to an exploittable natural resource became obvious. Corporate law infringements, dubious affairs, fraud, and exploitation of peasant landowners occurred, and much of the accessible forestland was temporarily ruined. Once secure in their tenure, the peasants started exploiting the now valuable timber resource, then, more reluctantly, began to employ modern management methods in spite of the extremely long investment horizon in northern silviculture. Today, Sweden appears to have reached an “age of maturity” regarding forest ownership, with a modern tenure system that requires an open dialogue between forest owners and stakeholders and considering multiple user rights. Private ownership of forest is a contributing factor to the success of the “Nordic Forestry Model”, and experiences from the tenure development in the Nordic countries have a broader application for global forest policy


forest certification; forest ownership structure; forest policy; forestry legislation; partitioning; property rights; Sami land use; tenure

Published in

Rapport (SLU, Institutionen för skogens produkter)
2007, number: 5
Publisher: SLU/Skogens produkter

      SLU Authors

    • Nylund, Jan-Erik

      • Department of Forest Products, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Ingemarson, Fredrik

        • Department of Forest Products, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Forest Science

      Permanent link to this page (URI)