Who are forest owners and where do they live?

The typical forest owner lives in the same municipality where his/her forest property is located, has no more moves planned, and is a bit older than the general population. The new forest owner tends to be a younger woman, with a higher income and education.

In Sweden, half of the forest owned by private owners is found in municipalities where 6% of the population lives. In 2012, 71% of all private forest owners lived in the same municipality where their forest property was located; 42% lived on their forest property, 65% less than 10 km from the property, and 83% within 50 km of it. Only 5% lived more than 300 km from their property. The average distance between owner and property was 60 km. The average property size was 34 ha, and the average length of ownership time was 20 years.


More women among new forest owners

Percent-wise, forest owners move less than the population in general, but this is due greatly to the fact that 75% of forest owners are at an age at which the most common moves – for education, for social reasons, and to the suburbs for life with young children – have already occurred. Forest owners are namely older than the general population: in 2012 their average age was 58 years, which is nearly 18 years older than the average for the entire population. In the general population 51% are under 40, while among forest owners this figure is 11%. New forest owners, who have often inherited their forest, are slightly younger than the group overall, 48 years, and live farther from their property than those who have owned forest a longer time. New owners often have a higher income, due greatly to the fact that they often have a higher education level and live in the city. Of the new forest owners, 46% are women; this figure for all forest owners is 37%, which likely means that the gender spread will eventually come to reflect the overall society. However, large properties are a man’s arena: women more often own a smaller property and live some distance from it, and it is administrated by someone else.


The forest owner changes, but not the forest management

Even though the forest owner is slowly changing, the desire to engage or felling activities is not declining. The changes to forest owners may be occurring slowly but surely, but this does not seem to pose any threat whatsoever to the production of timber. Whether owners live on their property (resident, Swe åbo, average 6 km to property) or some distance from it (non-resident, Swe utbo, average 181 km to property), they manage their forest virtually the same.


Gun Lidestav, Camilla Thellbro, Per Sandström, Torgny Lind,  Einar Holm, Olof Olsson, Kerstin Westin, Heimo Karppinen, Andrej Ficko (2017), “Interactions between forest owners and their forests” 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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Kerstin Westin

Kerstin is a Professor of Human Geography, and her research focuses on how people act and are affected by their surroundings, both physically and socially, as well as what motives people have for moving and not moving, how they choose to travel, and how they arrange their daily life in various areas. Kerstin also studies how values and attitudes about, for example, forest and the rural areas affect the utilization and use of forest. The demands and wishes of one person are not always in line with those of others; and how we can understand the conflicts that arise in relation to the values, attitudes and specific conditions of the individual. Kerstin is active at Umeå University.

Gun Lidestav

Gun is an Associate Professor, and works with issues involving people’s use of the natural resource, forest. Her research concerns everything from individuals’ views on ownership and management to society’s attempts to control this use. A gender perspective is often applied to research on and for private forest management, as well as a local perspective on Swedish municipalities as actors and upholders of social, economic and ecological sustainability at the local level. Gun is active at the Department of Forest Resource Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Torgny Lind

Torgny holds a PhD in Forestry, and works a great deal with the decision support system Heureka and its software, as well as forest inventory. Torgny conducts analyses of the development of the forest as a resource over time for larger areas, with the help of scenario analyses; he also conducts sustainability analyses connected to the forest as a resource, with attention to the entire value chain from forest to final product. Torgny is active at 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.

Einar Holm

Einar is a Senior Professor in Human Geography who focuses on quantitative studies of population geography, regional development and the labor market. Einar is responsible for developing the longitudinal database ASTRID containing long-time series of localized records on the population, employment and land-use. ASTRID is a central resource when it comes to the development of a series of geographical micro-simulation models. Einar is active at the Department of Geography and Economic History at Umeå University.

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