Cathedral Grove
British Columbia

The Protest

Why Europeans

An International

Big Trees:
Pictures & Politics

Big Trees &
Totem Poles

Totem Pole

European Tree

Related Stories

Digital Media


Contact & Credits



Why Europeans Care

  How Dare They Do This   Tree Activism: Europe  
  European Tree Heritage   Tree Activism: North America & Australia  

Tree Activism: Europe

Braata Forest is a small 200 hectare forest near the city of Gothenburg in Sweden, formerly owned by a monestry that had preserved the trees. In March 2002 about a quarter of the forest was sold for logging despite its high conservation value. In protest, and to demand the forest be protected, Greenpeace activists locked themselves to trees, only to be forcibly removed by police (right). 20 activists were detained by the large police force but the logging was temporarily stopped because of the protest. On 15 September 2004, when the logging began again, forest activists appeared in the provincial court to challenge the decision. They accused the Swedish state of having over exploited the public forests for over a century with the result that less than five percent of the ancient biologically diverse forests survive.


Braata Forest, 9 April 2002
Photo: Greenpeace Sweden


Almstriden, Battle of the Elms, Stockholm, 1971.
Photo: P. Rodriguez


Among the earliest and most famous cases of European tree activism was the 1971 Almstriden, or Battle for the Elms (left), in the centre of Stockholm. Initiated by Lennart Daléus, a Greenpeace leader, the protest took place the same year that Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver, Canada. To stop the destruction of a group of elm trees for a planned subway station, treesitters kept a vigil in hammocks. When they were attacked by armed state police mounted on horses, the public rallied in support and forced the city to back down. Almstriden was an important symbolic event in the Swedish environmental movement and is seen as the beginning of a grassroots "miljoevaenner" campaign (friends of the environment) to protect nature from urban development. Its success is apparent from the 1995 founding of Ecoparken in Stockholm, a landmark declaration of a "National City Park."


As the Greenpeace map (right) shows, there are no old growth forests in Europe left apart from small remnants in the far boreal north. It is important to remember that in the Nordic countries, an old growth forest is defined either as being from 100 to 150 years in age, or as having not been clearcut in 40 years. In 2004 Greenpeace Sweden staged a protest against the state destruction of old growth forests in the Jokkmokk region of northern Sweden. As a result, 17 forest activists were arrested and later charged in court. In 2005, to protest the destruction of Lappish forests by the Finnish state owned logging company Metsaehallitus, Greenpeace established a Forest Rescue Station in northern Finland at Inari (right), a place where Sami indigenous peoples still practice traditional reindeer herding which is dependent on old growth forests for winter grazing.


Old growth forests in Europe (dark green).
Greenpeace International


Greenpeace activists, Helsinki, 19 April 2005.
Photo: Greenpeace Finland


Finland and Sweden are nations whose cultural roots are deeply embedded in the northern forest. Yet during the past century, both countries have developed profitable industries by cutting down the native forests and converting them into tree plantations. Today, despite the green image that they cultivate abroad, Finland and Sweden continue to allow public and private corporations to destroy their native boreal forests by industrial logging. To protest this unsustainable practice, on 19 April 2005, forest activists scaled the Ministry of Forestry building in Helsinki and unfurled a banner saying "Don't Finnish the Sami forests." They also delivered a load of logging waste to the forest minister's office (left). Six forest activists from six European countries were arrested.


On 14 May 2007 Metahallitus began clearcut logging old growth forests in Inari (right). See: Kessi. The same company is operating in the Kainuu region of eastern Finland. See: Kainuu. Stora Enso and other multinational forest companies are buying timber from destroyed old growth habitat of threatened species such as the flying squirrel, protected by the Finnish Nature Conservation Act. Yet the logging by Metahallitus was given the go ahead by Pan European Forest Certification (PEFC), a global organisation that promotes industrial forestry. PEFC's ecological and social credibility is under scrutiny by environmental groups: PEFC Watch. The modern industrial economies of Finland and Sweden are significantly built on their forest resources: pulp, paper and wood products. As a result, the forest companies, including the state owned Metahallitus and Sveaskog, have powerful political connections that facilitate their dubious logging operations.


Old growth logs, Kessi, Finland, 2007.
Photo: Greenpeace Finland


SCA clearcut, Sweden, 2006.
Photo: Faeltbiologerna


A full 95 percent of Sweden's forests are industrial plantations. Only 5 percent are still intact natural forests and a miniscule 1.5 percent are protected from the forest industry. Scientific reports advise that 10 to 20 percent be restored to preserve biological diversity and prevent species extinction. Yet the logging companies are deviously saving low productivity forests with little biodiversity, while clearcutting more profitable forests from the 5 pecent that are hundreds of years old and on which many endangered species are dependent.

Other industrial destroyers of intact natural forests in Sweden are AssiDoman, the world's largest private forest owner, and Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget (SCA). The latter clearcut logged the intact native forest at Ratikbaecken in Vaesternorrlands in 2006 (left), despite its status as a key biotope with high conservation value. Hundreds of documentary photos of scandalous SCA clearcuts from 24 locations in Sweden taken by a "forest activist" can be seen on the Internet: Skogsaktivisten's Public Gallery. See also: Gallery. Evidence of the industrial forest destruction was collected by a youth group of field biologists that was founded in 1947 and is today active in the old growth protection movement: Faeltbiologerna.


Most forests in Sweden are younger than 100 years and dominated by single species tree plantations. Both the average tree age and age range of large diameter trees has decreased radically due to industrial logging so that trees older than 400 years are very rare. The situation was different in 1892, prior to industrial forestry, when Prince Eugene painted "Skogen," his well known scene of a dense Nordic forest with light filtering through (right). Painted at the medieval estate of Fjaellskaefte, which today is preserved as a nature reserve, the work expressed a deep respect for the cathedral like deep forest. Nature was a primary artistic motif for the Swedish prince and his contemporaries, including wildlife painter Bruno Liljefors and playright August Strindberg. As founders of the "National Romantic" movement, they celebrated the native flora and fauna as an important part of Swedish national identity.

Today most old growth forests in Sweden have vanished and the continued "rape and ravishment of the forest, people and animals" by the state owned Sveaskog (below) has become infamous. See photo evidence on a website that documents Swedish industrial forest destruction in the form of clearcuts ("Kalhugge") by Sveaskog and others: Verkligheten i Skogan (Reality of the Forest).

Sveaskog clearcut, Sweden, 2008.
Photo: Skydda Skogen


Nordic forest. Painting by Prince Eugene, 1900.
Goeteborgs konstmuseum

Sveaskog's timber is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), although the company's logging of intact old growth and high biodiversity forests violate FSC rules. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) quit FSC Sweden in 2007 because of the council's low standards and lack of transparency. An appeal to end ancient forest destruction has been made: "The big forest companies do not live up to their agreements. Nature preservers . . . plead to the countries who import forest products from Sweden to put pressure on the forest industry and the Swedish government to stop the destruction of the last primeval forests" Skydda Skogen.


Swedish and Finnish forest activists are demanding that nature conservation be safeguarded by law in the form of nature reserves and biotope protection areas. A website documenting the destruction of Finnish old growth forests has been launched: Finnish Forest Lapland. Also in Russia, the threatened boreal forest of Karelia is being illegally logged. Huge amounts of this illegal timber is exported to Finland for processing in pulp and paper mills owned by UPM and Stora Enso (right). In protest, on 22 March 2007 some 40 Greenpeace activists blocked the main entrances to the Botnia pulp mill and the Stora Enso paper mill in the northern Finnish town of Kemi. They also unfurled a banner reading "Stop Ancient Forest Destruction" to expose the world's largest paper company, Stora Enso, for destroying ancient forests to supply paper to leading European magazines.


Illegal logs, Russia, 2004.
Photo: GP/ Matti Snellman


"Stop Forest Crime," Java Sea, 15 February 2004.
Photo: Greenpeace

The Netherlands is one of the biggest importers of tropical wood in the European Union (EU). Activists make a special effort to track down this wood (right) and document its sources of origin, which all too are endangered tropical forests. Pressure is mounting on forest companies and governments, "Partners in Crime," which are responsible for the import of this illegal wood. Huge profits are made, as in the case of the notorious "blood timber" Dutch trader Gus Kouwenhoven who was sentenced to eight years in jail for his role in the timber for arms trade with Liberia between 2000 and 2003. This case and others illustrate that the international timber trade is incapable of regulating itself.


The small group of North American and northern European corporations that dominate the forest industry have a global reach making it imperative that protests against ancient forest destruction also occurs in the international arena. Greenpeace International, located in Amsterdam, is especially well positioned for such protests. On 15 February 2004 a protest banner was hung by Greenpeace activists on a cargo of illegal Indonesian timber being transported across the Java Sea (left).

Illegal wood import, Netherlands, 2003.
Photo: Greenpeace


Greenpeace action, Rotterdam, 2006.
Photo: Greenpeace NL


On 23 November 2007 Greenpeace activists unfurled a huge banner on, and chained themselves to, a cargo ship with palm oil from Riau Indonesia at the Port of Rotterdam (left). Palm oil plantations are destroying the forests and peatlands of Indonesia and pose a serious threat to the global climate. Riau's peatlands store 14.6 billion tonnes of carbon and their destruction has worldwide consequences for global warming. On 13 Octover 2007, 11 Greenpeace activists were arrested for blocking a cargo ship from Canada to stop it unloading newsprint paper made from ancient trees felled in the boreal forest, also one of the world's most important carbon resevoirs. A Greenpeace campaign against clearcutting in Canada, "Kaalkap in Canada," to supply Dutch newspapers was launched: Hollands Glorie.


In March 2008 the Dutch group Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth) released a report on the use of illegal timber in EU financed projects: Building on Forest Destruction. Timber from places like Cameroon has been found in Dutch trading yards (right). The EU is currently drafting a resolution to ban the importation of illegal timber and ensure that companies and consumers do not fuel crimes against humanity and the environment; Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade: FLEGT. EU member governments must ensure a full and transparent chain of custody back to source for all imported timber products. Furthermore, to protect the Earth's remaining ancient forests, governments across the globe must urgently establish moratoria on ancient timber until proper conservation plans based on a global network of protected forest areas have been worked out. More scrutiny is required of worldwide agencies such as FSC which have been infiltrated by big business: FSC Watch.


Illegal timber in Holland, 2008.
Photo: Milieudefensie


Save Our Trees Protest, Grenoble, 2004.
Photo: Jerome Hutin

Some ten tree platforms were built in the Parc Paul Mistral elms with living and cooking spaces and some platforms were linked by hanging bridges (right). People in Grenoble showed their support for the arboreal village by bringing supplies of food and drink which included boiled beef, fondue, foie de gras, cakes, cheeses, tea, fruit juices, wine and bottles of French champagne. The protest campaign collected 15,000 signatures calling for a referendum.


Activists in Grenoble, France, founded a treesit in Parc Paul Mistral in 2004 to protest against the planned destruction by the city of more than 300 trees to make way for a giant football stadium. The trees included a group of 200 year old elms that had been planted in honour of dead people. 1000s of "eco citizens" demonstrated on the street to protest their destruction (left).

Treesit, Parc Paul Mistral, 2004.
Photo: Jerome Hutin


Tree activists, Grenoble, 2004.
Photo: Jerome Hutin


In 2004 hundreds French National Police were sent to the Parc Paul Mistral to forcibly remove a group of tree activists (left). "Le 02 Fvrier 2004, dans l'apers midi, l'abbateur assassin d'Arbres de la Metro est arrive pour tuer, assassiner la superbe alle des Platanes remarquables du Parc Paul Mistral!" Les Arbres Vénérables. In English: "On 2 February 2004, in the afternoon, the Logger Killer of trees of the Metro arrived to kill, to destroy, to murder the wonderful alley of Remarkable Plane Trees of the Parc Paul Mistral of Grenoble, France." This police crackdown was followed by a second on 12 February 2004 when the "eco citizens" were again forcibly removed and the platforms they had erected in the trees to try to save them were demolished.


The Bialowieza Forest in Poland is the single oldest mixed lowland forest in Europe and is said to have 21 species of trees that grow larger and higher than anywhere else in the world. Preserved as a royal hunting ground since the 16th century, it escaped the widespread logging that removed the primaeval forest cover of Europe. Even two World Wars and Nazi occupation did not result in the destruction of the Bialowieza Forest, although over the years much of it has been commercially logged. Since 1994, the Bialowieza Forest Campaign has lobbied for greater protection and a moratorium was placed on the harvesting of old growth trees - defined as those over 100 years in age - but logging continues along with protests by forest activists (right).

Spruce log, Bialoweza, Poland.
Photo: Bialowieza Forest Campaign


Logging protest, Bialoweza, Poland, 2003.
Photo: Bialowieza Forest Campaign

In the Bialowieza Forest, spruce trees aged 200 years or older are being logged under the pretext of battling a bark beetle pest (left). State supported foresters want to harvest the trees and forest activists are fighting to save them. "The European Section of the Society for Conservation Biology urges the EU Commission and national governments to express their desire for protection of the Bialowieza Forest as a unique component of European cultural heritage and an irreplaceable biological treasure" Bialowieza Forest Campaign.


D'Hoppe (La Houppe) is a small village about 40 km south of Ghent in Belgium. Most of the forest around the village is owned by the businessman Marcel Fort, who operates a sand quarry and landfill that has caused ecological damage. To prevent the villagers from protesting, the entrance to the forest was blocked and encircled with barbed wire. The town council and local activists, including pensioners and school children, removed the barbed wire and established a forest camp and treesit decorated with signs and banners (right). Tree climbing seminars were given, protest painting was taught and a documentary film was made. A festive atmosphere accompanied this public manifestation to reclaim the d'Hoppe Forest: "In plaats van een groen paradijs, dreigt La Houppe één grote afvalberg te worden."


Protest banner, d'Hoppe, Belgium, 2004.
Photo: Comit Foert/Fourte


We Need a Paper Revolution! In Germany there is not much need for tree and forest activism as ancient trees are protected as nature monuments and forests are carefully managed on sustainable principles. Instead German forest activists are working together with the government to reduce the national rate of paper consumption, which is the highest in the world. Public education campaigns include travelling exhibits such as Papierwende (left). One fifth of the German pulp import comes from Canadian forests: "First Nations are having their land robbed while we here in Germany continue to consume and waste more paper" Lydia Bartz, urgewald.


On 30 June 1993 a demonstration was held in front of the Canadian Embassy in Bonn (right) by AKU, the German Forest activist network: ArbeitsKreis noerdliche Urwaelder. "Tourismusland Canada: bald der Wildnis beraubt?" asks the banner displayed by German forest activists in solidarity with the 1993 Clayoqout Sound protest against clearcut logging. The Canadian ambassador (white jacket) stands beside a timber industry representative who is offering the protesters Douglas fir seedlings as proof of Canada's sustainable forestry practices. Bonn is home to the German Pulp and Paper Association, an industry with 45,000 employees. Canada is the fourth largest pulp supplier to the German paper industry, and ancient red cedars from BC are used for high grade magazine pulp. See a photo narrative on forest destruction in BC: Evolutionsgeschichte der Kahlschlaege.


Protest, Canadian Embassy, Bonn, 1993.
Photo: Philipp Kuechler


Kahlschlag in Kanada On 4 April 2003 another protest was held in Bonn at the Haus der Papierindustrie (right), headquarters of the German Pulp and Paper Association, to protest against its importing of high grade magazine pulp from endangered ancient cedars in BC and to show support for protecting the Great Bear Rainforest. German environmental activist groups Urgewald, RobinWood and AKU staged a symbolic clearcutting, "Kahlschlag in Kanada fuer deutsches Papier," and accused the German paper industry of being accomplice to the robbing of forest lands belonging to the indigenous peoples of the Nuxalk Nation: Symbolischer Kahlschlag.

"Paper Destroys Forests," Frankfurt, 2004.
Photo: Stephan Roehl


Paper Destroys Forests Protest, Frankfurt, 2004.
Photo: Stephan Roehl

On 1 February 2004 German environmental groups RobinWood, AKU and Pro Regenwald held a protest at Paperworld in Frankfurt, the biggest international trade fair of its kind (left). One forest activist is seen climbing a flag pole on the far left, having unfurled a huge banner "Paper Destroys Forests" urging visitors to use recycled paper. Other activists dressed as orang utans and bears and tp deliver a poignant message to fair visitors: "the global pulp and paper industry is destroying our forests" Waldverbracher Deutschland.


On 31 January 2008 the German forest activist group RobinWood protested in front of the Canadian Embassy in Berlin (right) against the destruction of the ancient Inland Rainforest of BC which is critical habitat for the endangered Mountain Caribou. A banner with the message "Save the Inland Rainforest of Canada" was unfurled and 4,500 protest letters from concerned Germans were delivered to the embassy representative. RobinWood is demanding an immediate stop to the cutting in all stands in the region's rainforest that are over 140 years old. See: RobinWood. Further coverageon the Inland Rainforest and endangered Mountain Caribou appears on the Naturschatz website. It exposes the futility of the BC government's protection plan, which does not include the ancient forest habitat on which the caribou depends because of the value of the trees to the logging industry: Der Mountain Caribou Deal.


BC forest protest, Berlin, 2008.
Photo: Stephan Roehl