Research by CERE PhD Brian Danley shows that the more a forest owner believes that the state is responsible for fulfilling environmental goals the less likely that their non-certified forest will contain set-asides. Owners of larger, non-certified properties are more likely to report that they have left set-asides. (Click on headline to read more)


Swedish forest policy explicitly relies on voluntary measures from private forest owners to contribute to national forest protection targets. One such voluntary measure is setting aside a part of productive forest for conservation purposes. For the vast majority of family owners, this action is voluntary, but little is known about why owners would want to take such an action. Complicating the issue is the requirement that all certified properties must have 5% of their productive forests set aside in a green forest management plan. Forest owners therefore face at least two overlapping instruments by which they may make a voluntary set-aside: certifying their properties and leaving a set-aside by default, or staying out of certification but independently leaving a set-aside.

Private forest owners are encouraged to leave voluntary set-asides by a principle called “freedom with responsibility.” My research therefore investigates how private forest owner beliefs concerning both their own and the Swedish state’s responsibility for nature protection differ among owners of certified forests, who automatically leave a set-aside, and those who have stayed out of forest certification but have independently decided to leave a set-aside. My main result is that the more a respondent believes the state is responsible for fulfilling environmental goals compared to private owners, the less likely it is that an owner of a non-certified forest will leave a set-aside. Beliefs about responsibility do not differ among owners of certified and non-certified forests. Owners with larger properties, owners of forests in southern Sweden, and members of owners associations are more likely to own certified properties. Furthermore, owners with larger, non-certified properties are more likely to report independently leaving set-asides.

Link to current debate
Data for this study were gathered before the matter of woodland key habitat inventory became a widely discussed issue in the Swedish media. Results are somewhat relevant to the current debate since I find that some forest owners who have stayed out of forest certification and are interested in conservation may also be skeptical of state action to direct specific conservation measures on their properties. More research is needed to investigate what kind of instrument has most appeal to secure set-asides from owners with valuable forests and how that instrument should be best designed.

Danley, B. (Published online July 5th, 2018) Skepticism of State Action in Forest Certification and Voluntary Set-asides: a Swedish Example with two Environmental Offsetting Options. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research

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