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Transforming Forestry in Sweden: Costs and Benefits

Introduction and context

The article under discussion provides a complex cost and benefit analysis of transforming forestry in Sweden to make the process more compatible with new environmental demands, i.e. the need for recreational areas. Bostedt and Leif point out that the major value of their study resides in the very fact that careful analysis of economically driven environmental demands is not frequently performed (75).

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Thus, researchers tend to evaluate the cost and benefit value of a particular environmentally-related industry, but they fail to align cost/benefit to general changes in environmental demands. The authors, therefore, propose a specially developed model to carry out this environmental evaluation. In terms of this model, the estimated benefits and costs are retrieved from two different and distinct studies. In other words, the authors use existing cost and benefit analyses to perform their comparative study.

The main purpose of this study is to carefully examine whether changing forestry in response to new environmental demands is cost-effective from an environmental perspective. The authors are working to fill a noticeable gap in modern scientific literature, to better address the problem of forestry while considering carefully both sides of the argument related to economic and environmental aspects.

The geographic area covered in this study is limited to the county of Vasterbotten in Sweden. The analyzed environmental problem can be classified as land-related. As such, the authors explain that they examine two forms of land use: forestry and recreation (Bostedt and Leif 76). This targeted research consequently seeks to determine whether the combination of these two forms of land use can be cost-effective from both economic and environmental perspectives.

Methods and data

The authors rely on previous research findings to perform their analysis. To evaluate the benefit aspect, they use a study carried out in the early 90s by scholars Mattsson and Li. This study was based on a survey method that serves as a major data collection tool to determine the public assessment of the determined recreation value of local forests. The study sample comprises of 2000 people.

The results revealed that respondents assessed the value of recreation options at half of the value implied by timber production. The second part of the study revealed that this value might indeed vary, depending on the quality of the landscape that a particular forest area offers (Bostedt and Leif 77).

The second study that the authors use is a comparative analysis performed in the mid-90s by Hogan and Lind. This study examined the cost-effectiveness of two forestry programs: “reference” and “alternative” (Bostedt and Leif 77).

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In the former, forestry maintains the same pattern used in the 90s. In the context of the latter program, the format of forestry is transformed by new environmental needs. The study shows that the “reference” pattern is generally preferable; meanwhile, its competitive advantage is seemingly not significant when the two programs are considered instead through the lens of the overall forestry profitability instead of through the filter of a harvested timber focus.

To evaluate the cost and benefit balance under each program, the authors rely on the areal distribution of four distinct and different systems. The percentage correlation is indicated without relevant references to the primary source.

Results and discussion

Bostedt and Leif compare the cost-effectiveness of the two programs using four particular criteria: natural regeneration, single-tree selection, artificial regeneration, and shelterwood system (78). The changes in these aspects help them to evaluate the value of the analyzed programs. As such, their comparative analysis shows that the shift from the “reference” to the “alternative” program is likely to result in a considerable redistribution of the four silvicultural systems.

In the frame of the “reference” program, there is an evident dominance of artificial regeneration, while in the context of the “alternative” format, areal distribution becomes more or less proportional.

The additional recreational value for each of the criteria is estimated within 750 to 3700 SEK for a system, that makes 1361 SEK value for a Swedish resident per year. This value is relevant to the “reference program,” while in the frame of the “alternative program,” it is expected to reach 2524 SEK for a resident, per year. As a result, the total increase in benefits will make more than 200 million SEK annually. According to the authors’ estimation, the increase in the benefit implied by the shift from the “reference” to the “alternative program” is three times higher than any increase in associated costs (Bostedt and Leif 79).

The authors put particular emphasis on the fact that their estimations are dependent on the target time-frame. In other words, the evaluated recreation value, i.e., the quantitative superiority of the benefit over the cost, is most likely to increase over time. As such, this value might seem small or insignificant when considered inside a time-frame of 30 years or fewer; in fact, the quantitative superiority of the benefit will make only 1.1. However, the authors note that the recreation value will essentially grow from a long-term perspective. For instance, the recreation value is expected to make more than 6500 million SEK in a defined 100-year period.

Conclusion and criticism

Bostedt and Leif concluded that forestry in Sweden needs to be significantly transformed to adjust it appropriately to environmental demands, as well as to raise its recreation value. They recommend taking into account the approximate period of a planned transformation. As such, it is essential that this period does not exceed 30 years; otherwise, the obtained recreation value will inevitably prove too insignificant.

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Additionally, the authors admit that their estimation of the areal distribution of artificial regeneration, single-tree selection, and other systems is inaccurate since there is no existing, reliable research that would elucidate proven, accurate figures. Additionally, Bostedt and Leif note that even though the research covers only a limited region, the recreation value of the forest area may indeed still vary. The estimation of the benefit is, then, exaggerated. On the whole, the authors explain the existing inaccuracy by the fact the target problem has, in previous studies, been only superficially examined.

The essential limitation that should be pointed out here is the research methodology. The authors use secondary data instead of carrying out fresh research. It might be natural to assume that citizens’ perception of recreation value has transformed significantly over the past three decades; likewise, the authors rely on a study carried out in the 90s to identify and source cost-related information. Some assessments, such as the areal distribution, are provided without essential clarifications to explain how data was retrieved or from where it was sourced.

Works Cited

Bostedt, Goran and Leif Mattsson. “A Note on Benefits and Costs of Adjusting Forestry to Meet Recreational Demands.” Journal of Forest Economics 12.1 (2006): 75-81. Print.

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