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Report, 2009

Forestry legislation in Sweden

Nylund, Jan-Erik


The paper is a review of Swedish forest policy and legislation over four centuries, using mainly Swedish language literature, including Government and Forest Authority print. - Government policies during the 17th and 18th centuries favoured mining and Navy interests, restricting the rural population’s use of the forest commons. The commons and the Crown lands were largely privatised around 1800, and the ensuing philosophy of economic liberalism was against any restrictions on ownership right. Thus, modern legislation was introduced as late as in 1903, in spite of the ambitions of several generations of foresters inspired by the emerging forestry thinking on the Continent, aiming at sustainable timber production. From that year, legislation and institutions were developed gradually striving to utilise the full timber producing potential of Sweden’s forestland. From 1979, this policy reached a climax, with far-going state control of forest management while retaining formal ownership rights. The forests were restocked the forests but environment had been steamrolled – at least, a growing opinion saw it like that. After 1990, the policy was reoriented towards more broadly understood sustainability and multifunctionality. This most notably was achieved through the 1993 Forestry Act, but also through new environmental legislation, taxation and property legislation and institutional change, in parallel with similar developments in a majority of European countries. The change can be seen as a transition from state-formulated policy to forest governance where several actors compete for influence. - Policy development over the four centuries is seen as a result of political and economic forces. During the 17th century, Sweden was in many respects a military state where the Crown and the Nobility shared economic interests, while the Estate of Peasants (the peasants never lost their political freedom in Sweden) struggled to defend its land rights. During the last decades of the 18th century, the Crown aligned itself with the Peasants, curbing the former elite, preparing for the Napoleonic era (~1800). This was marked by a transition towards political and economic liberalism, privatisation of commons as well as of public land, and an ascendancy of both peasants and urban entrepreneurs. Towards the end of the 19th century, forest industry became an important actor, while the state wanted to ensure social stability by safeguarding farmer interests. After 1950, industry and the trade union interests dictated the policy, while traditional farming-with-forestry was transformed, losing political leverage. At the end of the 20th century, increasingly urban middle-class values came to dominate the ideational landscape, paving the way for present policies


Silviculture law; Forestry Act; forest owners; subsidies; extension

Published in

Rapport (SLU, Institutionen för skogens produkter)
2009, number: 14
Publisher: Department of Forest Products, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Nylund, Jan-Erik
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Products

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

URI (permanent link to this page)