Conservation value protection – how the planning process works

Every harvest we carry out on our land is preceded by a long and thorough process, where we take a wide range of aspects into account. Our most important goal is to ensure that all species living in our forests can continue to do so in the future.

Areas with high conservation value are set aside for nature conservation, while we conduct extensive planning for nature consideration in the forests that we are planning to harvest and renew. We have a whole palette of measures to choose from when adapting our management to the unique conditions of each area.

In order to consider rare species, we don’t look primarily for specific plants, insects, fungi or birds in our forests, but for the so-called structures that many different species are dependent upon. These include dead wood, old trees and thick deciduous trees. These structures were far more common in the past when forests were subjected to frequent fires.

Dead wood

Dead wood is an important structure that many different species are dependent upon.

Many trade-offs

When assessing conservation values in our forests, we look at the local conditions while also assessing values in the long term and from a landscape perspective. We have conducted ecological landscape planning for our entire land holding and identified the forests with the highest conservation value. We set those forests aside voluntarily and either let them develop freely, or manage them with the aim of promoting their conservation value.

“When looking at our forest holding from a landscape perspective, we also decide what areas we will use for timber production. The decision to harvest an area is preceded by a long list of trade-offs,” says Ola Kårén, Chief Forester at SCA.

Checklist for assessment

Operational planner

As the time for harvesting approaches, extensive planning is always carried out for the specific harvesting site. SCA’s highly proficient operational planners go through the forest systematically and one of their most important tasks is to determine the nature considerations that must be made. But they are also responsible for much more, such as planning how to regenerate the forest after harvesting.

When it comes to conservation values, the operational planners fill in a checklist based on a variety of factors, which provides a solid basis for their assessments. The checklist is mainly focused on structures, such as dead wood and the proportion of old trees. The operational planners also identify any habitats that are important for many species, such as swamp forests, or areas with lots of hanging lichen or deciduous trees.

The operational planners mark valuable old windthrows (lying dead wood) and trees with nest holes or fire scars, for example, so that they won’t be damaged by the harvesting operation. In areas where there is information about the existence of red-listed or protected species, the planners check whether any special considerations are required as a result.  

Another aspect that is taken into account in planning is a forest’s history, or why the forest looks the way it does today. What management method was used in the past, whether the site has burnt before, and so forth.

A palette of measures

Single-tree selection

In general, we have already found the areas with the highest conservation value in our ecological landscape planning or in conjunction with targeted conservation value inventories, but if we find more of these areas in the operational planning, we exempt them from harvesting and set them aside voluntarily.

“If the trade-offs are difficult, the planners can consult one of SCA’s nature conservation experts for support. It’s not always black and white when it comes to conservation value. Making assessments can be complex at times,” says Ola.

In addition to the alternatives of harvesting a forest area or setting it aside voluntarily, there is also a whole palette of other measures. In some forests with high conservation value, we can combine use with measures that preserve or develop the conservation value. We call this forests with combined targets and we can use continuous cover forestry (CCF) methods here to preserve the feeling of a forest. Selection system is one such example.

In forests with lower conservation value, we apply strengthened or adapted consideration. This means that the harvesting is adapted to the needs of specific species. This may involve shelterwood cutting of deciduous trees to create light and open deciduous forests that attract many types of birds.

Extensive basic retention

We apply basic retention in other forest areas, as well as extensive nature considerations. For example, we retain conservation patches, buffer zones around watercourses and mires, old trees and dead wood. This promotes a wide range of species – from birds and insects to fungi and lichens.

When the operational planners go through the site prior to harvesting, they mark the large areas to be retained on a digital map. They create an operational plan for the harvesting team, to let them know how and where to harvest.

The harvesting team also has a major responsibility for the design of conservation considerations. While they are harvesting, they make decisions about detailed conservation measures, meaning areas that are smaller than the type of considerations that the operational planners have marked on the operational plan’s map. The forest operators decide, for example, which preservation trees and tree groups are to be retained. On sites to be harvested with basic retention, we leave approximately 15% of the trees as part of our conservation practices.

Prioritize from a landscape perspective


Our harvesting is sometimes subject to criticism. This is mostly because the critics don’t think we should harvest some sites.

“Unfortunately, we’ve made mistakes in the past and not followed our procedures, but we are working actively to minimize the risk of that happening again. But usually it’s because we and the critics have different views about what sites should be retained,” says Ola.
“Our aim is to always account for the rarest and most endangered species, that goes without saying. But for other, more common species, we can’t take specific measures for every single species in every single harvesting operation. Basic retention will be important for these species instead, both now and in the future.”

We therefore make trade-offs from both a landscape perspective and on site in the individual stands and prioritize the areas or measures that create the most value for various species. We strive to maximize the value of the areas that we retain for free development, and the areas where we work actively to promote conservation values or use with combined targets.

Creating sustainable products


The foundation of SCA’s mission is to maximize the value of both our forest and of the products we create from it.

“We take a lot of responsibility for biodiversity and one of our most important sustainability targets is to ensure that all species found in our forests can continue to live there in the future. At the same time, we don’t want to limit the extraction of timber too much, since our mission is to produce sustainable, climate-smart products from wood. And we need good access to timber for that,” says Ola.

In addition to the fact that SCA’s products are important in the transition to a sustainable society, SCA’s operations are creating value in many others ways. SCA also creates thousands of jobs and contributes to viable communities in Northern Sweden.

SCA manages its forests so the volume of standing timber is constantly growing. For every tree harvested, we plant at least two new ones. Other important measures in forest management are soil scarification before planting and thinning and clearing. SCA also fertilizes some areas and plants fast-growing contorta pine on a small part of its land holding. We have never had more forest than we have now.


Smalsprötad bastardsvärmare

Different species have different needs

Free development – or not

Environmental considerations – in all forest operations

Read more

Nature considerations during harvesting for private forest owners