The forest needs to be included in the municipalities’ planning

An overarching plan that includes forest and municipal planning as well as other land-use interests is motivated, not least with thought to the possibility to understand and handle conflicts concerning the forest landscape.

Municipalities establish a municipal development plan accounting for how the land within the municipality will be used, as well as plans for its future use. The sketch plan is not legally binding, but rather functions more as a guiding principle for future planning. Sweden’s Planning and Building Act (Swe svenska plan- och bygglagen) states that it is a municipal matter to plan the use of land and water. Planning for the use of forest land is not a simple matter, however, as there are many interests and sections of law that concern the forest but are not related to each other, and lack a common umbrella and common goals to be taken into account.


A hive of different interests

In its planning, a municipality has an obligation to consider national interests such as nature values, culture heritage, recreation or economic sectors like electricity production, mineral extraction, the fishing and reindeer industries, and important infrastructure. Even if the municipalities retain their authority when it comes to planning, the State retains some control over certain aspects of the physical planning through the county administrative boards. Ongoing land use is also not to be affected by other, new interests like outdoor life, suburban expansion, or quarry activities. Forest management is regarded as ongoing land use, and has been considered so economically important that it is not clearly linked to municipal and regional planning. We should also mention ownership rights, which are to be set in relation to both written and unwritten laws, hunting rights, the Right of Public Access, and certifications. All these interests relate to varying degrees to different governance schemes and law provisions at different geographical levels. Different ambitions and various law provisions easily create problems, and the need for an overarching picture in which the forest landscape is part of a holistic, coordinated overall plan is tangible.


Forest planning in the municipal development plan

Sectors like mining, forest management and electricity production have laws and rules with a weak or unclear connection to the Environmental Code and the Planning and Building Act, which means that the municipality has a suboptimal overview of the physical planning and the need they always have for coordination and prioritization. The motivations for including forest land in the municipal development plan are many, especially considering that it is a resource of national importance that can also have great regional and local significance. Another argument is that this could increase the understanding of how forest land located near cities is used. The overall dilemma, however, is on a central level and in different law provisions that are unrelated to each other and lack a common umbrella and common goals. Another dilemma is how national ideas regarding governance should or can be implemented in the municipal planning process, and how the common interest is handled within different planning systems. A good overarching plan could be developed into a tool that could better coordinate different interests and territorial claims both today and in the future.



Olof Stjernström, Rein Ahas, Sabina Bergstén, Jeannette Eggers, Hando Hain, Svante Karlsson, E. Carina H. Keskitalo, Tomas Lämås, Örjan Pettersson, Per Sandström, Karin Öhman (2017), “Multi-level planning and conflicting interests in the forest landscape” in: Globalisation and Change in Forest Ownership and Forest Use. Natural Resource Management in Transition. Ed. by E. Carina H. Keskitalo. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

The study was conducted within the framework of PLURAL, a project financed by FORMAS “Starka forskningsmiljöer” 2012-2017.

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Olof Stjernström

Olof is an associate professor in human geography and does research on community spatial planning, population geography and political geography. Within community planning, Olof has focused on the intersection between community planning and the forest resource, property ownership and the property owners’ values and perception on the forest stakeholders and uses. The ownership privilege is a central query however ownership also have a connection to society’s view on and need for land for recreation. Olof works for the Department of Geography and Economic History at Umeå University.

Jeannette Eggers

Jeannette Eggers is a PhD in Forest Resource Management and mainly works with forest scenario analyses. Earlier research includes forest resource modelling under different climate and land-use scenarios, carbon balance within forestry, environmental restrictions for biomass availability from forests and effect assessment of European policy on biodiversity.

Svante Karlsson

Svante is a PhD and Assistant Professor in Human Geography, and conducts research on human geography, economic and political geography with a concentration on societal transformation and rural development, and the institutional framework for local development. The legislation surrounding the forest, in a broad interpretation, assigns rights and responsibilities to different groups, which means that the forest can be seen as a space for both action and influence. In pace with the changes in society and new groups claiming forest and other lands, various conflicts of interest can arise. Svante is active at Karlstad University.

Carina Keskitalo

Carina is a Professor in Political Science and researches how the climate, policies and the market affect forest utilisation. Examples are: how Sweden and the EU can limit different forest pests that will become increasingly common with climate change, how Swedish risk management plans could handle other possible climate change effects like storm damage and risks of flood, also how improved communication with forest certification plans can support the implementation of environmental consideration. Carina works for the Department of Geography and Economic History at Umeå University as well as for the Department of Forest Resource Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Per Sandström

Per is a researcher, and works with land use issues. In northern Sweden there are many different interests in one and the same area, such as forest management, mining, infrastructure and the reindeer industry, as well as wind and hydroelectric power. This creates a complicated situation when it comes to land use, and Per examines more closely how a dialog between all these interests can be facilitated. The tool he uses most is GIS (geographic information system), which can illustrate different interests on the same map in a simple manner. Per is active at the Department of Forest Resource Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Örjan Pettersson

Örjan Petterson is Senior Lecture (Associate Professor) who primarily doing research regarding regional development in sparsely populated areas, in particular northern Sweden. Topics of research have mainly been demographic changes, business structures and alternatives for making a livelihood. In recent years focus has shifted towards questions regarding the use of natural resources and planning related to for example mining and forestry as well as windmill parks and marine areas. The research is predominantly quantitative and done with help of GIS and different types of registry data. Örjan works at the Department of Geography and Economic History at Umeå University.

Tomas Lämås

Tomas Lämås is an associated professor who research about forestry planning in a wide perspective, primarily regarding decision support systems (DSS) for multi-objective forestry. As a part of this, Tomas is heading the program for Forest Sustainability Analysis (SHa) that uses the Heureka DSS as a technical platform. The mission statement is that through competence, personal and tools provide an infrastructure for sustainability analysis within research, education and commissioned work. A particular focus is on adapting the Heureka DSS in a relevant way for new problem areas. Tomas works at the Department of Forest Resource Management at The Swedish University of Agricultural Science.

Karin Öhman

Karin Öhman is an associated professor that through her research develops new tools and models that can be used for planning of a multi objective forestry. The research can be divided in two parts. The first part concerns optimization and is a qualitative tool that can be used to find optimal solutions based on specific objectives and constraints. The optimization gives us possibilities to investigate the cost connected to one objective for getting more of another objective. However, to find the solution that represents the best balance between different objectives we also need to know the preferences of the decision makers. As a result, the second part concerns how decision makers and other stakeholder’s preferences may be included in the planning process by using multi criteria decision analysis. Multi criteria decision analysis gives us the possibility to make trade offs between the objectives and it is the preferences of the decision makers that decide. Karin works at the Department of Forest Resource Management at The Swedish University of Agricultural Science.

Sabina Bergstén

Sabina Bergstén is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at the Department of Geography and Economic History at Umeå University. Her research is about people's social, emotional and place-related relations to forest and private forest properties. The focus is on how these relations shape people's views on forests, ownership and planning, and how they are influenced by geographical distances. These studies are based on qualitative interviews with private forest owners in the north and south of Sweden, and group discussions with villagers in the case study area, Vilhelmina municipality.

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