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Södra achieves record-high approval rates for soil and water considerations

Swedish forest owners association Södra's higher rates of approval for environmental considerations in regeneration harvesting and thinning are a continuing trend. This was revealed by the company’s Green Balance Sheet for 2017. One significant improvement was achieved in relation to impacts on soil and water, where the rate of approved regeneration harvests has risen from 76 to 98 percent since 2010 – despite a wet autumn in 2017.

Regeneration harvesting, a method that removes nearly all mature trees to make room for a new generation of trees from natural regeneration or planting (photo courtesy Södra).

Despite the difficult conditions created by a very wet autumn and winter, we could effectively limit the negative impacts of our harvesting and thinning on soil and water. The positive results are due to our systematic nature conservation activities over the past 20 years, and good teamwork and coordination between our competent contractors and field workers, said Therese Lindström, ecologist, Södra.

In 2017, 95 percent of Södra’s regeneration harvesting operations – a method that removes nearly all mature trees to make room for a new generation of trees from natural regeneration or planting – were approved in the Green Balance Sheet, on par with the record-high figure for 2016. 98 percent of the thinning operations were approved, including all environmental aspects, compared with 97 percent in 2016. As well as more areas being approved, the quality of the approved areas was also higher.

Increased focus on soil and water

One of the aspects measured in Södra’s Green Balance Sheet is soil and water considerations. The rate of approved regeneration harvests has risen from 76 to 98 percent in this category since 2010.

Extensive training programmes for our forestry professionals and harvesting contractors have led to a very positive trend for soil and water considerations over the past few years with record-high approval rates in 2016 and 2017. Because 2016 was such an unusually dry year, the results of the wet year in 2017 are even more satisfying, said Therese Lindström.

Södra introduced a soil protection guarantee in 2013, requiring more active and structured efforts with better planning and preventive measures to protect soil during regeneration harvests.

Some of the most important methods for minimising soil damage from driving include mounting wide track plates on forest machines, driving on brash from the trees that are harvested and laying special access mats for machines working in demanding conditions.

Bridges are built over watercourses to prevent negative impacts on water and aquatic environments. As of 2016, the soil protection guarantee has also applied for thinning.

Södra's Green Balance Sheet

Södra prepares a Green Balance Sheet every year. Internal auditors verify how more than 150 regeneration harvests and the same number of thinning operations have complied with the requirements of the PEFC and FSC forest certification schemes regarding general considerations in final harvesting and thinning operations.

How closely the company has followed its own policies and procedures for environmental considerations is also reviewed. The aim of the Green Balance Sheet is to create a basis for the continuous improvement of environmental considerations. External audits are also performed every year by the international certification body, DNV GL.

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