Forest Carnage Without Consent
I guess I should admit that I’m still a little uncomfortable with the idea that I can own a geophysical plot of space on this planet (‘state-sanctioned landownership/property rights’). That one can actually assume ownership over a sliver of mother earth – a co-evolving landscape that has been around for billions of years; cohabited/co-created by billions of different life forms weaving in and out and contributing their own characteristic ‘touches’ to enable the very unique space(s) that we see today – is quite an absurd idea when you get to thinking about it! I mean, it’s not like we can take our 10 hectares of forest with us into the afterlife! Property is a political arrangement with a lot of historically distinct contradictions that come right along with it! But, with the kind of holistic food production and forestry work that Malin and I want to be able to do, we decided to ‘play the game’ and become landowners.
With the purchase of our new house came this fairly small, but (we think) beautiful and adorable, plot of forest land (well… if you’re looking at that first picture below, we own everything that you can see that’s still ALIVE and standing – everything on the right side of the photograph).
We had recently visited this area no less than a month ago and, at the time, rejoiced over the fact that our forest lay buffered by an adjacent sea of diverse, beautiful and old trees. Even Malin’s brother (on multiple occasions) seriously admitted that he might very well offer a bid to buy the land from the adjacent owners. And, coupled with our plot, see if we could try and co-create a larger ‘environmental sanctuary’ for forest diversity while conducting more holistic forestry practice(s) (e.g. ‘single selection forestry’/a.k.a. The Lübeck method and/or Continuous Forestry, etc.) … However, that adjacent ’sea of beauty’ now looks as if some angry God decided to give Mother Earth one horrible and shitty buzz-cut… With exact precision along our property line. It now looks like a wasteland (the area formerly known as “Sea of Beauty” pictured below with a deaf dog)…
(the adjacent clearcut property bordering our property. i.e. this is not OUR land)
Granted, we never ‘owned’ this deforested area. So technically, we COULD just shut our mouths, mind our own business and humbly accept what has occurred (as many forest owners and locals residents plagued by clearcuts do) … But (beyond the fact that I cannot help from feeling that any and ALL thoughtless clearcuts rip out the very fibers of my heartstrings) what REALLY makes me frustrated about those who did the clearcutting is that they also had the nerve to plow a ROAD right through the middle of OUR forest – the very forest that Malin and I had just purchased – in order to access this newly made clearing. Cutting down some of OUR trees, damaging OUR soils and leaving groundwater exposure and runoff to an extent that I and my forestry friend had never seen before (pictures below).
To top it off, the amateur foresters hired to do this cut chose to do it during one of the worst, ecologically destructive, periods of the year; i.e. they didn’t cut when the ground was frozen, they decided to cut and clear when the ground had thawed. This wreaks havoc on the topsoil (see pictures below). That is, when massive multi-ton machinery made there way through the area, what’s left is more-than meter-deep erosive cavities along ALL paths connecting to this clearing, exposing groundwater, damaging root systems, as well as trees along the exit route (see pictures below). And now, with such large cavities along the common forest path (not ONLY the newly created path on our property), there’s no way I can even get our hearty little 250cc 4×4 to access our OWN damn forest!
What perhaps ethically frustrates me the most is that we knew nothing about this clearcut prior to our purchase of the land. And the cutting occurred during the 2 months that we waited for the previous owners to move their belongings out of the house, after we had already signed the contract and paid the downpayment. We legally owned this land while it was being raped. Nobody asked for our opinion or our permission or our perspective(s) in the use and abuse of our land. Nobody felt to inform us as to what would be occurring adjacent to our plot or how they might go about clearing it by utilizing what WE owned.
I am breathing fire right now and likely abusing the caps lock function while I look at the torn up roots/collateral damage done to this birch and willow on our property (below).
We called the previous owners* and asked if they knew anything about this. They said that they were aware that a clearcut would be occurring adjacent to the forest plot but that, 1) It was supposed to have occurred when the ground was frozen, 2) was only asked one question by the foresters, if they could use the already-established ‘common’ forest road (a road that has existed for centuries and just so happens to run for a long stretch through our forest plot (see 1915 map below of our strangely-quasi-parallelogram(y) allocated forest property with a Northwestern-ish running forest path weaving in and out of our property, as well as the more recent meter+deep indents)) in order to move the machines in and out and 3) perhaps most important to the illegality of the situation, he told the foresters that his opinion mattered very little because he was selling to us. He specifically gave them our names. That is, this forest company decided to go ahead and destroy our property, our trees, and our part of the common forest path – all fully aware of our names and our ownership of this land – without bothering to ask for our opinion(s) or permission.
(the clear cutting occurred on both sides of where the 1915 map is labeled ‘A.’ The red lines indicate where they crossed and damaged our land)
To temper our nerves, he DID say that the foresters were obligated (and legally bound to) repair the road, but in any case, we ought to get a professional assessment of the situation. He recommended a forester that we’ll follow up with but I’m fairly skeptical of many Swedish foresters schooled at institutions that teach and practice biodiversity eroding, ecosystem destructive methods of forestry (especially when the invention of ‘scientific forestry’ was based on marginalizing the functionality of a forest to economically productive values (for further reading into the political economic/ecological historical creation of ‘scientific forestry,’ here’s a link to the first chapter of Professor James C. Scott’s book, Seeing Like a State (it’s free)).
What’s so frustrating about this whole experience is that we had imagined (from the beginning) that by the purchasing this forest plot, we’d be able to protect a sliver of Swedish forest from the kind of economically marginalizing and ecologically destructive forestry methods and practices that are considered the status quo and ‘normal method to harvest forest’ in Swedish forestry today. But even when we legally own the land, the forest industry and its crude methods of practice still manages to leach into that which they have no rights to, backhanding us on their way out and ruining a large chunk of biomass/fertile soils.
My question is: does anybody know some good links to Swedish forestry law/lawyers with regard to malpractice? I need to read up on and be informed about the laws regarding the maintenance, use and abuse of forest roads. From what we know of this path, there’s no ‘servitut’ (which would give them the right to use the road without our formal or informal permission – permission they never had). I repeat – they decided to go ahead and destroy our property, our trees, our part of the path – all fully aware of our names and our ownership of this land yet still chose to not ask for our permission.
(UPDATE: We have (recently as of April) spoken with the forest company representative who admitted that they made a mistake and that they should have contacted us (I have this on audio recording) but, at the time, he said that he could only offer an apology).
We need to know the legal procedures we have, as owners, in addressing the ruining and enlarging forest roads on other people’s (our) property without an owner’s permission, etc. When my nerves settle, I would like to know what our legal options are in going about addressing this.
I think it’s important to state that it is not my intention to pick a fight or make enemies – the gods know we could all be a little friendlier to one another in this often stressful, confrontational world. But we are ready to take legal action if some sort retribution is not extended to us. At the same time, what sort of retribution will suffice? One can’t just magically reanimate a 40-50 year old living tree or snap one’s fingers and instantly repair the slow growing intricacies of a damaged forest root system. As self-appointed ‘holistic forest owners,’ all of this makes me feel like we’ve already failed to do that which we intended to do – and we didn’t even get to have a say during the whole destructive process…
I guess I’ll go and cut some firewood and hope that I can calm down a little.
*(I should be clear (as I am making this a public message) we are on very good terms with the previous owners and hold absolutely nothing but appreciation and admiration towards them (they have only been kind, considerate and incredibly helpful) as well as our neighboring forest owners in our community. For now, the venom of my rage is saved for the ignorance of, 1) a historically marginalizing forestry practice (a.k.a. “Forestry Science.” That is, we believe (and know) that there are alternative forestry methods and practices (Lübeck method, single-selection forestry, continuous forestry) that provide yield without the marginalizing of long-term forest biodiversity and habitat) and 2) the absolute negligence of those who were hired to carry it out (particular, large-scale forest companies whom we won’t name for the moment)).