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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 319-330

Shaking Hands: Balancing Tensions in the Swedish Forested Landscape

1 Gothenburg Research Institute and School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
2 Department of Political Science, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

Correspondence Address:
Annelie Sjölander-Lindqvist
Gothenburg Research Institute and School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_18_112

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Date of Submission03-Sep-2018
Date of Acceptance03-Jun-2019
Date of Web Publication14-Oct-2019


Wild ungulates play a key role in the management and governance of Swedish wildlife. They are primarily harvested for meat, but are also important for non-consumptive uses of wildlife such as recreation. However, due to browsing and crop raiding, ungulates also reduce the forest's economic value and make it difficult for farmers to maintain agricultural practices. While current policies and regulations clearly indicate that wildlife is to be treated as a valuable, others may disagree. This setting provided an opportunity to study the search for mutually acceptable outcomes and working relationships in parallel to the state-regulated management arrangements. The shared and disputed issues in the studied case echo the broader issues of entitlement to resources and value transformation that can stabilise but also disturb or even disrupt environmental management. The diverging interests, claims and experiences of forestry, hunting, farming, recreation, and protection, expressed in their own voices and consolidated into narratives about land, land use, and rights and obligations, can be seen as an important driver of collective action. The connections between the experiences of and the dynamics behind the decision to collaborate reveal a contested space in which the commercial wood industries, agriculture, the decentralised state, conservation, and recreational interests are all involved and must negotiate with one-another to secure their interests. The participants justify their actions symbolically, referring to an idiom of rights, the construct of forestry's importance for the public good, and the desire to be resourceful and authoritative outside the framework of state action.

Keywords: collaboration, wildlife, governance, cultural meaning, conflict, agreement

How to cite this article:
Sjölander-Lindqvist A, Sandström C. Shaking Hands: Balancing Tensions in the Swedish Forested Landscape. Conservat Soc 2019;17:319-30

How to cite this URL:
Sjölander-Lindqvist A, Sandström C. Shaking Hands: Balancing Tensions in the Swedish Forested Landscape. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Feb 26];17:319-30. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2019/17/4/319/264364

   Introduction Top

The populations of multiple ungulate species in Swedish forests have increased recently, including native species such as elk (Alces alces), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and red deer (Cervus elaphus), as well as deliberately introduced non-native species such as wild boar (Sus scrofa), mouflon (Ovis orientalis musimon, and fallow deer (Dama dama). The expanding ranges of ungulate species, and their effects on the interlinked arenas of forests and forestry, hunting, and wildlife management constitute the background of the present study.

As a heavily forested country, Sweden has a large, export-oriented forestry sector that is severely affected by ungulate activity. Damage caused by ungulates includes browsing damage to saplings and young trees, the stripping of bark, uprooted seedlings, tree scrubbing, and removal of leaves, twigs and buds or flowers (Bergqvist et al. 2014). Crop-raiding by wild mammalian herbivores is another problem with serious effects on agriculture. Diverse property rights (ranging from state-owned forests to privately owned forests of different size), sectorised regulation, and the co-occurrence of large carnivores further complicate production and biodiversity maintenance. At the same time, the forests, including the human and non-human beings occupying the forest space, provide opportunities for resource extraction in the form of meat and other edibles, but also for outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyles.

The forest is an important setting for meat provision, wood production, agriculture, biodiversity, and opportunities for human recreation and the liveability of non-human and human collectives. Therefore, maintaining ecological, climatic, economic, and socio-cultural values may be difficult (Sandström et al. 2013; Dressel et al. 2018). The different interests and the consequences following on ungulate activity create conflict between the desires of hunters on the one hand and landowners involved in agricultural and forestry production on the other. Broadly speaking, foresters and farmers wish to maximise forestry and agricultural production, whereas hunters wish to maintain or increase hunting opportunities on viable ungulate populations.

This context will be used to illustrate how collaborative solutions come into being through concerted, fortuitous, embodied and lived practices and are affected by ownership structures and regulations concerning the protection of natural resources. Our case for examination is the establishment of an agreement to collaborate, aimed at the identification of mutually acceptable management outcomes and working relations beyond the state, or in parallel, to established state-initiated and regulated collaborative measures. This new collaborative routine, supported by large-scale forest companies, a non-governmental organisation representing primarily non-industrial private forest owners and farmers, and a hunters' association, was initiated in 2016 to balance sector-specific interests and goals and to enable accountable relationships and decision-making.

Taking the collaborative activity and the written agreement as an empirical point of departure, this paper aims at showing how the effort created what Toda (1976) describes as a 'nested situation', i.e., a situation where the parties' understandings came to revolve around value-driven circumstances and were confined by emotions and socially and culturally framed commitments. Our case for interrogation exemplifies the dynamics associated with handling the interactions between humans, wildlife, and habitats, and balancing the concerns of different concerned interest groups, and its association with the issue of property and property rights. This coordination of different concerns is, as Strang put it, “the result of specific social, spatial, economic and political arrangements, cosmological and religious beliefs, knowledges and material culture, as well as ecological constraints and opportunities” (Strang 2004: 5, 2009). Hence, in the making and implementation of operational decisions on forestry, forest-edge agriculture, hunting and wildlife management, it can be assumed that tacitly held assumptions about land and living beings become pronounced. With this as departure point, we focus on the concerned parties' understandings and conceptualisations of the reasons for coming to an agreement and we therefore ask what are the value frameworks informing the establishment of the agreement to balance interests and find agreed-upon management solutions? The importance of the question arises from the understanding that collaborative arrangements are embedded within different frameworks of meaning and rationales of action. These may not always be compatible, thereby creating a need to explore conceptual and practical challenges associated with measures intended to overcome friction (Sjölander-Lindqvist et al. 2015; Sjölander-Lindqvist et al. 2018).

In her study on the Australian water crisis, Strang (2009) argued that achieving ecologically and socially sustainable solutions to diversified land use requires understanding how people understand nature and natural resources, but also how they understand one another. In particular, she states that “there is need to consider not just the formal institutions”, (Strang 2009: 5), but also the “social complexities, diverse subcultural perspectives, and material opportunities and constraints” (p. 6). Therefore, when a decision to interact is made (whether in response to governmental force or a non-governmental initiative), “different frameworks of meaning and rationales of action” (Colebatch 2010: 31) will be mobilised by the interweaving of diverse actors who each have their own agendas and values that influence their participation. The collective action will therefore be underpinned by the ways in which the different actors embrace the world, and the actions they take on that basis. In a similar way, Ostrom highlighted the need for a deeper understanding of the 'complex whole' of social-ecological systems to be able to move 'beyond panaceas' and identify mutually acceptable management outcomes and working relations where rules are organised and enforced through multiple layers of nested initiatives (Dressel et al. 2018; Ostrom 2007, 2009; Toda 1976). In this paper, it is suggested that the forest should be appreciated as a bounded space for human thought and action, including both material and immaterial values and meanings that will underpin the cultivation and use of the forest and the resources found within. A second statement is, following a policy anthropology perspective, that collective action embeds and reflects domains of meaning (Shore et al. 2011). These meanings and imaginaries emerge from human engagement with the landscape and reflect understandings of human existence and human society (Ingold 2000; Rival 2001).

   The Context: Action and Imagination Top

In Sweden today, increasingly mild winters are allowing ungulate species to colonise new ranges and expand beyond their historic distributions. These growing and expanding ungulate populations may disturb ecosystems, with cascading effects on food web dynamics resulting from the ungulates' exploitation of habitats, transmission of diseases, and nutrient loading. Together with changes in temperature due to climate change, these factors cause competition between species and could in a worst-case scenario even cause the extinction of other species (Appollonio et al. 2010; Post et al. 2008). The expansion of ungulate populations also has consequences for forestry and feeds into the prevailing dispute regarding how to ensure balance between fodder and population levels. For example, despite the common objective to decrease the proportion of browsing damages on standing forest it has continued to increase from 11% for inventories made in 2015/2016 to 13% for inventories carried out in 2017/2018. Moreover, there was a 35% increase in elk-vehicle collisions from 2012/2013 to 2017/2018 (SEPA 2018). Population growth among other ungulate species has prompted efforts to develop management systems that account for these different dimensions, based on the understanding that all mammals (and birds) should be seen as renewable natural resources with the potential to enhance many people's quality of life and at the same time promote regional development (SEPA 2018).

An important objective of elk management has been to balance the interests of hunters (who want high elk populations and good opportunities for recreational hunting) against other societal interests – most notably, those of commercial forest industries whose profitability is damaged by elk browsing on economically valuable trees (Wennberg DiGasper 2008; Sandström et al. 2013). To address this, an ecosystem-level approach was introduced in 2012 to better take the ecological range of elk populations into consideration. To match the ecological management scale a new management unit - elk management areas - that exist at a scale intermediate between those of the regional (county-level) and elk management units at the local levels was introduced. The areas are led by elk management groups consisting of representatives of hunters and landowners and have as a main purpose to manage wildlife from an ecosystem perspective, with elk as the primary target species (SOU 2009: 54; Prop. 2009/2010: 239). There are 149 elk management groups whose main tasks is (based on monitoring results of the elk population) to set up elk management plans every third year. The elk management groups also have to annually evaluate plans, and, as far as possible, coordinate elk management in the area through annual consultation with the elk management units at the local level (SEPA 2011).

This change was based on a compromise between the wishes of landowners, who favoured decision-making at the new ecosystem level, and the preference of hunters to keep decision-making power within the elk management units at the local level. A debated notion following the establishment of an ecosystem-level unit was the casting vote, which means that in the event of a tie, the casting vote allows landowners to resolve a deadlock in their favour. While casting votes and declarations of reservations (on behalf of the hunters' representatives) have only been used rarely, their use has been threatened during discussions between landowners and hunters, creating conflicts that reduce the likelihood of striking a reasonable and mutually beneficial balance within the management system (Bjärstig et al. 2014; SEPA 2015). In 2016, to overcome these conflicts and avoid a collapse of the management system, large-scale forestry companies, the non-governmental organisation representing farmers and landowners, and a hunters' association took action to rebalance the situation by adopting a more collaborative and cooperative decision-making process. The text of the agreement struck between these organisations is referred to as the manifesto in the following discussion.

The situation leading to the manifesto can be regarded as a classic collective action problem. Swedish elk management has over the years changed from a situation similar to what Hardin (1968) defined as a tragedy of the commons – i.e., where open access and unrestricted demands on natural resource extraction led to an almost total extinction of the elk by the mid-1800s – into a situation characterised by an abundance of elk (Wennberg DiGasper 2008). Three interrelated factors explain this development. First, due to the rationalisation of agriculture, farmers stopped using the forests as a pasture for livestock, which led to less competition for food between livestock and wildlife. Second, institutional change in terms of the first modern hunting act was passed in 1938, where the landowners' (the holder of the right the hunt) responsibility to improve the conditions for wildlife and their obligation to consider different interests in wildlife management (Hunting Act 1938: 274), established the basis for the current governance and management regime in which private and public interests, rights, responsibilities and capabilities must be balanced through concerted action. More specifically the hunting act incentivised the land owners to get together and create larger collective game management areas to better match the ecological range of the elk populations with the social management scale. Through cooperation, landowners and hunters established what can be defined as a partnership to gain greater influence over the hunt while at the same time contributing to reducing the risk that the same moose population was taxed several times during the hunting period. This was the first step towards a management system building on the principle of collective action and ecosystem management (Liberg et al. 2010; Wennberg DiGasper 2008; Bjärstig et al. 2014; Lindqvist et al. 2014). Furthermore, the voluntary-based Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife management (SAHWM) was assigned the task of practical game management work, which in many other countries is a state affair. Third, the industrialisation of forest management led to the production of tree species preferable for moose (Wennberg DiGasper 2008; Liberg et al. 2010; Škerberg 2005; Kardell 2016).

Hence, balancing societal needs and values (such as the economic role of forestry and the subsistence and recreational aspect of hunting) and ecological functions (Ostrom 2009; Dressel et al. 2018) is not new. Since the passage of Sweden's first hunting act in 1938, there has been an ongoing search for qualified collaborative solutions and strategies that can stabilise different concerns and fraught relations, and to match these to the proper ecological scale. Growing ungulate populations clearly affect the potential for preservation and enhancement of biodiversity and socioeconomic and cultural value. In parallel to the objective of maintaining viable populations of ungulate species, a major focus of current wildlife governance and management policies (SEPA 2015) and regulations (Hunting Act 1987: 259, Hunting Regulations 1987: 905, Hunting Administrative Provision 2002: 18) is to manage interactions between people and wildlife. Hence, the current situation provides a complex setting in which governance and management are permeated by trade-offs between different values related to the economic but also environmental and social values of forestry, agriculture and hunting. Because of the current governance regime, which is built upon Sweden's strong system of property rights, the responsibility for making these trade-offs rests with the forest owners and hunters.

These attempts echo and mobilise narratives that are of practical as well as of connotative and symbolic impact. Looking at a wider scale, woodlands, their trees and the animals residing in the forests play prominent roles for the environment and for society. Globally as well as nationally, the forests are recognised for their role in protecting biodiversity (SEPA 2019; Wu et al. 2013). Forests are also important for climate change mitigation because they are involved in many physical, chemical, and biological processes that affect planetary energetics, the hydrological cycle, and atmospheric composition (Bonan 2008). Humans of course affect these processes: large-scale changes in cultivation systems and the adoption of intensive agriculture and forestry strategies may result in deforestation and biodiversity loss (Donald 2004). Conversely, small-scale practices may increase biodiversity by creating habitat mosaics (Wiersum 2004).

Besides its role for the material constitution of society, the forest also gathers and reflects phenomenologically and epistemologically informed conditions of thought and life (Descola and Pálsson 1996; Karlsson 2016; Kohn 2013; Rival 2001; Sjölander-Lindqvist 2009; Temudo 2012). Such notions extend the value and cultural importance of forested areas. For example, in European cities, woods, forests and trees are important symbols of the pleasure, sacredness, and aesthetics of urban life (Konijnendijk 2008). In North Wales, forests and trees are important because wooded landscapes give people the opportunities to “relive and recall valued personal and family memories” (Henwood and Pidgeon 2001: 143). These different notions, ranging from material to immaterial, are also present in Sweden. Here, the forests as a space for different game is, as seen, a significant notion; skins and furs were in the past important sources of income but the game did also provide an important food source, and game hunting has since early on been an important means for food security, and later on, recreation (Danell et al. 2016). For people residing in the boreal European north, forests are also an important source of fuel and food, providing comfort, warmth, and well-being (Aiko and Müller-Wille 2005). Moreover, wooded land and forest-edge agricultural land provides a context for relationships between all those who use its resources, whether for economic, political, social, or cultural purposes (Sjölander-Lindqvist 2009; Bjärstig and Sténs 2018).

   Methodology Top

The work presented in this paper is part of a larger research project seeking to understand the complex interactions between humans, wildlife, and habitats in Sweden. The project explores challenges associated with increasing ungulate populations, and how conflict of interest can be resolved, or at a minimum, not to be exacerbated.

Taking the concerned parties' decision to collaborate and implement procedures for cooperative conduct as a point of departure, this study explores the meanings, associations, and emotions associated with this strategic decision, primarily made at the macro level, and later, controlled by a working group. By interrogating various interacting interests, values, short and long-term objectives, ideologies, and the particular norms of the involved parties, we were able to explore the plural meanings of cooperative processes. This is, as suggested, consistent with a policy anthropological perspective, according to which the diverse beliefs, norms, and values of the collaborators are recognised as embedding action in webs of meanings (Gellner and Hirsch 2001; Shore and Wright 1997; Shore et al. 2011).

This work is primarily based on analyses of conversations and semi-structured interviews, complemented by document studies and informal observations made during various meetings. In addition, some newspaper and journal articles were reviewed to obtain further insights. The starting point for the conversations and interviews was the agreed-upon manifesto describing the main stakeholders' agreement to work towards a social climate of beneficial cooperation. The manifesto can be seen as a text that demonstrates the social, cultural, and political contexts of the concerned parties (Bernard and Ryan 1998) but also as a medium that objectifies local relationships, interdependencies, and activities (Smith 2001). Taking the manifesto as a starting point, we investigated the process by which it came into existence, focusing on organisational relationships and conceptual structures in time and space, and how the agreement perpetuated meaning.

To explore this, the study included executives and board members of forestry companies, representatives of interest groups and business organisations, members of a specially appointed working party, and lower level managers. For reasons from theory and previous gained understanding from research project activities, the case was addressed as a bounded cultural setting in order to describe it and proceed with subsequent analysis. The interviews were recorded, lasted for 1.5-2.5 hours, and were undertaken over the phone because of the distant geographical locations of the interviewees. Detailed notes were taken during the interviews to complement the recordings. In total, 15 interviews were conducted and transcribed in full. The interviews focused on the informants' understanding of the context for action, including questions on the current situation, pitfalls of current management systems, reasons for coming to agreement, and the interviewee's opinions on future opportunities and challenges associated with forestry and wildlife. Typical questions included “How does wildlife affect forestry, farming and hunting?”; “Can you describe the relationship between forestry and hunting?”; “What are the divides in the current conflict”? During the interviews, participants were encouraged to expand on themes of particular interest. The research was reviewed and analysed from the perspective of field-specific perceptions, i.e. forestry, agriculture, and wildlife issues as lived and interpreted by the informants. The critical analysis thus involved capturing and representing the meanings of collaborative process. When similar themes appeared, these were grouped and compared to insights gained from previous research and theory (Saldana 2013 (2009)). This enabled the clarification of the conditions and unique circumstances and the development of case-based explanations addressing inter-organisational relationships and the role of tacit processes, ideologies, and power relationships (de Munck and Sobo 1998; Colebatch et al. 2010). This requires sensitivity to the tangible and associative values of those concerned and involved, and to the circulating discourses, multiple contestations, and regimes of power enacted and confirmed within the policy field (Shore et al. 2011; Sjölander-Lindqvist et al. 2015; Sjölander-Lindqvist et al. 2018).

   Nestedness Manifested Top

Collective Action Retaken

The transformed governance system, which can be seen as a compromise between those who wanted to strengthen the local level (primarily the hunters) and those who wanted to strengthen the ecosystem level (primarily land owners) (Bjärstig et al. 2014) left a number of aspects open to the involved parties to define and implement. Because of the power struggle between the stakeholders and the different levels and the fact that they did not reach the goals at the pace they had expected, the governance system was exposed to the risk of collapse. Because of this conflict-ridden situation, executives and board members of large-scale forestry companies, the Federation of Swedish Farmers (FSA) and SAHWM entered into dialogue in 2015. As explained in the interviews, despite the recently introduced governance system, the increasing numbers of ungulates and the associated negative and positive effects necessitated collective action. In one way or another, the concerned parties had to talk and share ideas about the future:

“I think it was the harsh climate, in the media and in our daily contacts. Despite all that, if we have the same understanding, hunters and foresters together, then we have enormous power to influence politics and policy. If we have the same message, then we might be able to change the rules of the game in a positive way. If we disagree, well, then we might be overrun instead.

- Representative, working group

The decision to formalise communication and dialogue between the concerned parties resulted in a manifesto that was signed by executive representatives of the major forest companies, SAHWM and FSF in 2016. As read (Agreement July 30, 2016), the overriding intention of the agreement is to “create a good cooperative climate and provide support for the regional and local management of wildlife”. The manifesto stipulates the need to keep the management at the regional and local level because “it is at this level we have access to the necessary information, the tools and forums for cooperative action”. Quotes like “As foresters and the hunters, we have more in common than that which divides us” and “We're the ones who own the issue, landowners and hunters together” reflects a subtle criticism of the state when claiming ownership of the dialogue and the management process. It also represents how the concerned parties continue on the pathway of partnership, established in 1938 when the first Hunting Act was implemented.

In addition, the manifesto refers the vital need to balance fodder and high-quality ungulate populations, which is to be implemented using sound and scientific evidence. Fact-based decisions are seen as basic to adaptive management, stating that harvested forests must be able to regenerate with appropriate tree species, and wildlife must adapt to the conditions of the habitat. Decisions should further build upon “a desire for consensus and cooperation”, and management efforts and stakeholder relations should, against the expressed call for sound evidence, be guided by transparency, honesty, respect, and communication. In addition, the manifesto claims that ownership of land and forest resources must be done responsibly, as must the use of resources. Reflecting the Brundtland definition of sustainable development, resources should be sustainably managed to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. Co-management should be responsible; accordingly, the parties agreed to adopt specific monitoring methods and best practices, and to highlight good cooperative climates to inspire continued resourcefulness. As regards the disputed issue of the casting vote, the manifesto states that it should only be used rarely, “with judgment”, and where there is a clear justification for its use.

To oversee the implementation of the manifesto, a working group was established comprising four representatives from each of the concerned stakeholder groups. The group holds regular meetings on monitoring methods to discuss their use and the interpretation of their output, as well as ways of improving the monitoring system. Another important task of the working group is to review cases where the landowners use their casting vote to find out what went wrong. Despite antecedent discussions that the tie had been used quite frequently, it turned out that in practice there were not many cases at all – as one interviewee put it: “it was quite easy from the start. The casting vote had only been used in five of the 149 elk management areas, and all of those uses were due to personal conflicts”.

Embedded Meanings and Values

Viewed from the perspective of cultural representations and systems of meanings, the Swedish forest is attributed symbolic power, or, as Strang (2004) puts it, “acculturated through human action” and used “to invoke meaning” (p. 6). Depending on position and concern, there will be different motivations feeding into the prospects for collaboration. These positions and associated understandings, ranging from leisure-activity, less focused on income, to forestry and farming as income-generating activities, are crucial to understand. When the forest is described as being important for industrial and economic development, as something that contributes to the consolidation of the welfare state and as a vital space for conservation (Björklund 2000; Mattsson and Li 1993; Karlsson 2016; Mårald et al. 2017), and endowed with social values, e.g. recreation (Sténs et al. 2016), the forest space and activities performed within are used to provide imagery and for many aspects of human life and experience. As suggested, any mode of environmental interaction is “as heavily symbolic and expressive as any other cultural form” (Strang 1997: 83). Whereas Swedish forest management policies have historically prioritised afforestation and resource management to maintain and increase supplies of sawn logs and material for pulp and paper production (Mårald et al. 2017), their emphasis has changed in recent times. Greater emphasis is now placed on environmental aspects and the forest's role as a source of ecological and social value (Sjölander-Lindqvist 2009; Mårald et al. 2017), the possibilities it offers for continued economic development, and its potential role in climate change mitigation and adaptation to altered ecological circumstances. The two following quotes, from two different actors, signals a shared view:

“The great opportunity is the contribution of forestry to climate change, which is a global challenge. We can meet this challenge by using our forests to replace materials that are not renewable. This is our great opportunity and it can lead us to produce new products from the forest in addition to the traditional ones. Forestry's contribution to climate change adaptation is by far our greatest opportunity.”

- CEO, privately-owned forest company

“Forests bind carbon dioxide, we are now returning to the basics, the photosynthesis. The carbon dioxide question and the climate issue are on everyone's lips. The industry can offer completely renewable products that can replace all fossil materials. You can do that from wood. We have rarely seen such a window of opportunity… this is an important part of the solution to climate change. It is just fantastic, and there will be a lot of fun work for those who want to keep up with it.”

- CEO, shareholder-owned forest company

Whereas natural disturbance regimes such as fires and flooding are largely controlled, levels of elk browsing damage in an area can be difficult to predict because damage levels depend on a number of factors in addition to the elk density, such as the tree species composition, stand density, and the behavior of migratory moose populations (Neumann 2009). According to what we have seen, elk browsing inventories show a damage variation between 10-20% on the pine forests (Swedish Forest Agency 2018). This damage, higher than the damage levels considered tolerable by the forest industries (2-6%) (ATL 2017), is estimated to cost over two billion Swedish crowns annually (Ingemarsson et al. 2007). It is claimed that the presence of herbivores severely hampers the extraction of forest biomass resources for renewable produce:

”The elk graze on sallow and rowan, which are really important trees for forest formation, and their browsing causes so much damage that these tree species cannot function. The browsing also reduces tree growth. Lower quality and problems with pine growth, that's the reality for us.”

- CEO, privately-owned forest company

It is not just climate, economic and social values at stake: forest owners claim that browsing makes it difficult to comply with certification requirements by preserving and safeguarding trees with high biodiversity value, particularly deciduous trees such as rowan, aspen, willow, and oak. Another landscape-level effect is so-called 'spruceification', whereby forest owners preferentially plant spruce instead of pine, replacing pine-dominated landscapes with spruce forests due to the risk of browsing damages on pine (Sandström et al. 2013). This is most common in southern Sweden, but is increasingly taking place in the north as well.

Photosynthesis was another dimension mentioned repeatedly in the discussions about future prospects for forestry and forest management. It is well known that wild ungulates' grazing and browsing have important effects on the structure and dynamics of natural ecosystems (Putman and Moore 1998). Whereas photosynthesis is described as a necessary function and one of the most important physiological processes of forest biology, the presence of ungulates is understood to hinder the life cycle of the forest and the environment: “Photosynthesis occurs in the tree needles. If the elk and other deer eat the needles, well, then we don't have the same photosynthesis capacity” (CEO, shareholder-owned forest company).

Agricultural entrepreneurs also consider wildlife problematic. In the agricultural/horticultural context, most problems with expanding numbers and distributions of ungulate populations relate to pasture loss, loss of growing cereals, damage to gardens, orchards, and nurseries, and damage to fences. It also appears that fallow deer drink from water in enclosed pastures that are intended to feed livestock - a nuisance that was commonly raised during conversations with farmers. Damage to crops is typically caused by ungulates and birds, causing economic loss. Schön (2013) concluded that wild boars caused yield losses of 151.8 – 240 million SEK in southern Sweden during the year 2012. Moreover, Statistics Sweden (2014) reports that over 8% of Swedish arable land used for cereal cultivation was damaged by wildlife in 2013, and that farmers cultivating cereals, dried pulses, and oilseeds can expect to have up to 37.5% of their crops damaged by wildlife. In one of the most densely ungulate-populated areas, where fallow and red deer are regularly observed grazing on arable crops, farmers maintain that the presence of deer reduces their income by up to 20%. The expanding numbers and geographic dispersal of deer has therefore caused increasing awareness and concern about the damage they cause and the future prospects for agriculture: “...if you see this from the perspective of forestry, or from farming the land...well, then the effect is more and more troublesome because of increasing wildlife populations…” (FSA representative).

While the forester and the farmer articulate concerns about the presence of fallow deer, red deer, roe deer, wild boar and moose, hunters cherish these species. This position and understanding is reflected in the Swedish legal code: the 1938 hunting legislation tasked hunters with responsibly using and protecting wildlife and its natural environment (Lindqvist et al. 2014). Hunting has long been an important aspect of rural livelihoods in Sweden, a tradition that used to be passed down from one generation to the next. Although hunting continues to be an important method of acquiring meat for domestic use, it is no longer a necessity for the survival of the individual hunter; instead, it is a popular leisure activity (Lundhede et al. 2015). Today, there are around 280,000 hunters in Sweden. They hunt around 90,000 moose (Alces alces), 200,000 roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and more than 8,000 red deer (Cervus elaphus), and around 40,000 fallow deer (dama dama) annually (Viltdata 2018), and spend a significant amount of income and time on hunting. The total gross economic value of hunting in Sweden is estimated to have increased by around 25% since 2005, and now stands at around SEK 4.5 billion (Boman et al. 2011; Boman and Mattsson 2012; Mattsson et al. 2014).

The importance of meat varies across the country. In the northern parts of Sweden, studies show that households consume game meat at least once a week, so hunting has a substantial economic and social value (Ljung 2014). Together with the increasing consumer interest in game meat (possibly because it is perceived as an environmentally friendly and healthy alternative to red meat) and celebrities' interest in hunting, this demonstrates that game resources play an integral role in socio-economic wellbeing (Ljung 2014). While those involved in forestry and agriculture stress the importance of reducing the impact of overabundant ungulate populations, hunters argue that a balanced view is needed.

“There are quite significant values at stake. On the other hand, elk (…), is a game that has a very high value from hunting and quality of life. Without the elk we would lose the hunting culture. (…). There are many examples of people who choose to live in the countryside because of the elk hunting opportunities. We should not underestimate the problem. The big concern is how we can take these aspects into consideration: On one side of the scale are the economic consequences of lost production. On the other side is quality of life. (…) it is a difficult societal problem.”

- Representative, SAHWA

Property, Ownership and Responsibilities

The prospects of sustainability are partly dependent on the issues of property and the rights and responsibilities of ownership. To understand why different (and sometimes contradictory) beliefs and representations are associated with the forest and the resources found in or close to it, one must consider how property, as a symbolic and material context for social relations, 'directs' action. That is, one must explore the forest and its resources as a meaning-maker and a political space at the micro and macro levels (Hann 1998). To speak of property is to speak of political and legal conditions and regulations that define the rights and roles of individuals and groups. For example, the laws governing land restitution exploited the construction of ethnicity at the macro level as a means to exclude people from particular lands at lower levels (Fay and James 2008). As a process for reclaiming spaces and territories that formed the basis of earlier identities and livelihoods, the case of land restitution is a telling example of how political and economic conditions and representations inform action and create social differentiation as proposed by Emile Durkheim (Turner 1981). Material property and ownership are therefore deeply political, cultural and social, affecting perceptions of land and shaping rights to possess, control and dispose land and resources (Hann 1998; Blomley 2004; Strang 2009; Busse and Strang 2011).

In the past, there were three legal categories of land used for farming in Sweden: land 'owned' by freeholding peasants who paid land tax to the Crown (the state), land that was owned by the state but cultivated by peasant tenants who paid land rent to the Crown, and tax-exempt land that was owned by noblemen but cultivated by peasants who paid land dues to the noble landowner (Gadd 2005). Modern understandings of property and ownership, which include different kinds of collective resource ownership and control as well as more individual and privatised ownership types, likewise reflect a relational perspective between ownership, policy and ideologies regarding wildlife and nature, balancing the concerns of profitability and sustainability. Judicially, property is a mix of rights structuring access to the forest and associated resources. However, the interviews revealed a morally confined understanding of ownership based on the idea of responsibility and wise use of resources:

”There are around 330,000 private forest owners in Sweden, and they own 50 percent of the land. Larger forest companies own around 25%. All these actors take a long-term view. That's the basis for ownership. Ownership means taking responsibility for your own property because it's yours, but it also means taking responsibility for the development of society in general.”

- CEO, privately owned forest company

The idea of wise resource use and development is also prominent in environmental policy and regulation. Sustainability was identified as a core value of the Strategy for Swedish Wildlife Management (SEPA 2015), which discusses a need to constantly balance use against conservation of wildlife and to find ways to manage both opportunities provided and problems caused by wildlife. The Forestry Act (1979: 429; revised 1993: 553) with its two equal objectives, one for production and one for environmental, expresses similar ideas, noting that the forest is a renewable resource and that while forest owners will naturally seek revenues, they are also obliged to consider nature conservation and the interests of other concerned parties.

Thus, while ownership is still framed in terms of responsibility for land and on site-living resources, it is also understood as an inspiration for individual and collective acts. As such, property ownership encompasses having power over things and resources but may also inspire environmental protection. An FSF representative says that “...something happens when you own land. It's about the responsibility to manage the resource wisely, but it's also about practically transforming your thoughts and ideas regarding how to use and take care of the land in a sustainable way.”Similarly:

”We have, compared to Russia with their serfs, an old private property rights system that has contributed to a completely different development of the country and the forest sector. I would like to claim that the reason we have such good forests is that we have had private ownership with a high level of responsibility where people have built up knowledge over generations, and you should not underestimate the role of the forest owners' associations and similar organisations. If you respect this, it is an effective system of obtaining the values that the forest provides, both economically and in terms of quality of life.”

- Representative, SAHWM

In the Swedish context, the owner of a resource has (issues relating to permissibility, permits, approvals and exemptions, and conditions pursuant to environmental regulation notwithstanding), the exclusive right to make decisions about its use and management. Both landowners and hunters argue that ownership rights should define the overriding principles for decision-making - in either arena:

”It's important to remember that the right to hunt lies with the landowner...it's about the management of forest- and agricultural land, for the common good, it's the landowners' responsibility and regulated in law. This is the reality. This responsibility also means big costs, which is why the landowners should have the biggest voice in decision making...it must be this way.”

- Representative, working group

Property rights and ownership are not restricted to legal rights to occupy and dispose of land; they are also morally confined in that it inspires actions to support ecological sustainability. At the same time, as expressed: “...if you own land, you must be able to use it as a resource, you must be able to maximise its benefits. --- If you cannot use your land and your resources as a landowner, what's then left to do?”

Blomley talks about ownership as potentially transformative, supporting ideological commitments and creating what he terms 'moral deliberation' (Blomley 2004). The above illustrates a perception of property as a material 'medium' and ownership as a communicative act, tandemly embedded in economic and morality-based notions of responsibility and development. The forest emerges as intrinsically fluid and relational, a spatially bounded arrangement for interaction that is not predefined but continuously 'done' and acted upon via people's negotiations with and appropriations from one-another people and the physical environment (cf. Blomley 2004; Busse and Strang 2011).

Wildlife amplifies this fluidity. First, as animate beings, wild animals move around in the forest across ownership boundaries, hence the landowners need to collaborate to be able to match ecological and social scales. Second, because hunting rights belong to the landowners, they can as legal claimants control both wildlife and land. However, since not all land owners hunt (and not all hunters own land), they need the hunters' 'work', as an extension of human agency (Gell 1998; Ezebilo et al. 2012), to assist them in controlling the wild animals by hunting. The representative from FSF: “Of course, it is the landowner who should have the last word, but everyone understands that not all the landowners hunt. The hunters must have a voice; they're the ones who do much of the management and hunting.”

A complicating factor is that all game is protected and may only be hunted when permitted by the Hunting Act (1987:259, 3§). Nobody owns game until it is culled by hunting or if an animal is found dead for reasons other than hunting. The game accrues to whoever owns the hunting rights (usually the property owner) unless the game belongs to a protected species (as is the case for large carnivores), in which case it accrues to the government. Implicitly, living wild animals are often considered to belong to the owner of the land they are on. This is particularly true for so-called small game that (unlike big game) can be hunted by the landowner without need for a license.

Additional challenges to management and governance arise from the fact that Parliament has delegated to SAHWM responsibility for managing and organising certain aspects of hunting and wildlife management on private and public land. SAHWM receives an annual grant of 50 million SEK for this purpose, which only covers a fraction of its costs, which is why most of the associated tasks are performed on a voluntary basis. Because of this delegation, hunters have an important role in forest stewardship.

The call for collective action to improve the management of forestland is rooted in the “multiple ways of owning and appropriating” (Busse and Strang 2011: 4). In the Swedish context, this includes private ownership of productive forestland by companies, non-industrial private ownership, and public ownership by local authorities or the government. Moreover, there are also the usufructuary rights of other groups (e.g. the public, hunters, tourism companies, reindeer herders, indigenous people's groups reliant on transhumance, and recreational users) and the wildlife management system's basic reliance on voluntarism. Landowners therefore often lease hunting rights to individual hunters or hunting teams (approximately half of all Swedish hunters belong to such a team). The hunters' strong commitment to stewardship of the land blurs the distinction between their role and that of the landowners, creating a situation in which many landowners rely on the hunters' willingness to comply with common rules and regulations, while the hunters rely on the landowners willingly extending some of their rights over their land to the hunters. To encourage effective management of land and exploitation of the various resources it provides, there are strong incentives for landowners and hunters to collaborate voluntarily across estates. In areas where the land available for hunting is limited and estates are small, collaboration is important to ensure conservation of stock and sustainable hunting. Collaboration allows hunters and landowners to collectively develop their own three-year management plans, albeit within certain constraints, moving decision-making authority closer to the individuals and groups affected by the decisions. While the management system rests on strong private property rights, which are respected by all of the involved actors, the landowners and hunters depend on one-another. Since some landowners cannot hunt (because of the size of their estates) or do not wish to do so, they instead rely on hunters' recreational interest in wildlife and its stewardship.

This interdependence has created a need to establish arenas for collective action – building on trust - where rights, responsibilities, and routes to agreed-upon solutions can be negotiated and implemented (Bjärstig et al. 2014; Dressel et al. 2018; Lindqvist et al. 2014). One may be tempted to recall the question posed by Busse and Strang: “[why does] cultivation of a piece of land give rights to that land, rather than just the crops produced?” (Busse and Strang 2011: 3). This question, and the associated debate is reflective of Locke's (and later, Hegel's) argument that labour - through cultivation of material resources - is what defines rights to property, as opposed to the arguments of Hume, Rousseau, and Kant that property rights derive from possession (Garnsey 2007; Busse and Strang 2011).

Developing, Evaluating and Refining the Rules of Collective Action

Given the number of different interest groups that are involved and their various tangible and intangible foundations (Wennberg DiGasper 2008) there is a need to establish a common ground to avoid conflict and stimulate collective action. Conflicts are often expressed in disagreements about how many animals are on the land and how many should be culled each year, why an advanced system to ensure knowledge through monitoring has been developed. There are four agreed-upon monitoring methods: off-shooting statistics, elk observations, pellet group counts and calf weights. The landowners and hunters can also use aerial surveys, demographic structures, reproduction patterns, and health and genetic monitoring to better inform their decision-making. To calculate the annual outtake of animals it is necessary to have up-to-date information on the condition of their habitats and the species that are present, including population trends for plants and animals. This requires systematic monitoring using standardised survey methods to collect useful quantitative data. This task falls largely on the hunters, who do much of the monitoring work voluntarily. However, as explained by a representative of a landowners' organisation and noted in the manifesto, the monitoring process requires all relevant parties to feel confident in the results and to recall that the monitoring tools are important for stable management. However, landowners in particular have lost some trust in the monitoring methods and data. As a representative of the landowners put it:

”… despite monitoring, damage didn't decrease...why? Because, in essence, we, the parties, have different understandings. From the perspective of hunters: ok, there are moose but there is no method that can tell us the effects of browsing, the effects vary, and we don't know if we can trust the method, and it is not really as bad as the foresters claim… And the landowners become more and more frustrated and furious because they see the damage and have to spend more money to mitigate it. This, basically, made it difficult to reach consensus in the management system [referring to the local and ecosystem-based units of the management system].”

To minimise conflicts and overcome incongruent understandings of monitoring methods and disputes resulting from the management model's casting vote rule, senior representatives of the forestry, agriculture, and hunting interest groups therefore worked to establish more collaborative and consensus-based interactions, reflected through the manifesto. For example, minimising the use of the casting vote in the elk management groups and the decision to use different monitoring methods. According to the understanding of these actors, the transformation of Swedish wildlife management required a more collaborative scheme that would develop, evaluate and refine the rules under which the different interest groups engaged with one-another while promoting resourcefulness, forbearance, and autonomy.

The governance process laid out in the manifesto was described as 'classically Swedish' by one of the participants, and is informed by the complex situation confronting landowners and hunters: both parties felt that they were 'in it together' because forestry depends on hunters, and hunters depend on forest owners. The common feeling (among interviewees) that regional agencies create problems in the reformed system when they overrule decisions taken at the ecosystem level seems to exacerbate the difficulties of the situation. The participants explain this behaviour by saying that the state, through their regional authorities, want to retain their power. This contributes to the perception that hunters and landowners depend on one another; they consider it necessary to act in concert and be resourceful because “if we don't act, someone else will. That someone else will be the authorities. It is better we do it ourselves. We are the ones who are affected...” (Representative, forestry). The participants also considered well-defined rules to be critical. “...it is important that every actor – in the management system – understands the system and that we can all contribute and exert influence.” This attitude, together with the concept of shared values, exemplifies the 'social life' of the forested landscape (Appadurai 1986):

”Both have a common interest in the use of nature, a sustainable use of nature, whether it be living species or forest. I think that we share this ideology.... There is more that unites us than the opposite. We may have conflicting goals, but we still have a common understanding, we all want to use the land in a good way. New spruce trees will always grow, and if you shoot a calf, there will be a new calf next year. I think that's important. There is a good foundation for cooperation when you have a lot of shared values. There should be good opportunities to agree on many issues.”

- Representative, SAHWM

In addition to discussing their efforts to handle a serious collective action problem, both landowners and hunters repeatedly mentioned the importance of keeping the government at arm's length during the interviews, why the manifesto turned as such an important step. The parties want to keep the matter among themselves and find solutions but the groups are also well aware that if they do not manage to satisfy the overarching goals of the governance system, the government might step in. Therefore, the agreement between them partly reflects the nature of what can be referred to as discussion of rights and responsibilities in the shadow of hierarchies involving legislative threats or inducements, whereby legislators threaten to enact adverse legislation unless relevant actors alter their behaviour to accommodate the legislators' demands (Héritier and Lehmkuhl 2008). The actors' motivation to solve the collective action problem thus arises from the desire to avoid losing power to the government as well as the need to get along in the forests.

   Conclusion Top

Summing up the results of this exploration it can be stated that the forest (which covers more than half of Sweden), the woods, and forest-edge agricultural land emerge as arenas for concerted, fortuitous, embodied and lived practices. These settings are also affected by ownership legislation and regulations concerning the protection of natural resources. Hence, these dimensions together exemplify how resource management is to be conceived as a nested situation, that is where value-driven circumstances, emotions and socially and culturally framed commitments provide a set of dynamics that will influence collective action. This complexity needs to be considered in tandem with the formal institutions and rules to reach Ostrom's call for a deeper understanding of the 'complex whole' of socio-ecological systems (Ostrom 2007, 2009; cf. Colebatch 2010; Strang 2009; Toda 1976).

In this nested context, the wild animals play a key role. Particularly important are species that are harvested for meat, species that are important for non-consumptive uses of wildlife such as wildlife recreation, and species that affect humans and human activities or interests. As we have seen, the presence of ungulates reduces the forest's economic value and make it difficult for farmers in certain areas to maintain agricultural practices. However, current policies and regulations clearly indicate that wildlife is to be treated as a valuable resource and should be managed in a way that maintains its viability.

This setting provided an opportunity to study a search for mutually acceptable outcomes and working relationships in parallel to state-regulated collaborative measures. The studied actors exhibited common values to a certain extent, and conceptualised the 'cohabited' space in similar ways. Examples of their common values include an understanding of stewardship that was embedded in moral thinking, a perception that sustainability is vitally important. There is also a strong desire to establish meeting arenas, and the recognition that they had a 'symbiotic' relationship with their counterparties and a shared acceptance of property rights as a pivotal principle for governance and management. They also pronounced a desire to keep the state at arm's length. While the agreement is not legally binding upon the involved parties, therefore effectively a 'gentlemen's agreement that relies on the parties' good intentions rather than being in any way enforceable. Hence, it builds further upon the partnership between landowners and hunters that was established already in 1938 when the first Hunting Act was implemented.

In other cases, the actors' understandings and representations were in conflict, causing divides and the mobilisation of subject positions to define their unique roles in the current socio-ecological system. The parties disagreed about the numbers of animals – both the numbers of animals currently present in the landscape and the number of animals that should be present to provide acceptable hunting opportunities while minimising browsing damage. However, the dispute encompassed more than just the number of animals and the related browsing damage; there were also conflicting perceptions of what is sustainable.

Together, the actors' understandings and representations feed into management and governance, establishing collaborative performance as nested and the forest as 'social', driven by idealised probabilities and attributes. The forest is thus 'home' to a diverse set of actors and animals, and a setting for numerous activities. It can be understood as a shared space for human experience, imagination and significance, and for the use, extraction, and management of resources. All these uses and actors are entangled in a context defined by ecological processes and political, economic, and cultural structures, values and relationships. Diverse identities are built and performed in this context by performing activities such as forestry, hunting, farming, recreation, and protection. This context is also one in which claims and obligations (predicated on physical and material practices and processes, and steered by policy and regulations) are consciously and tacitly pronounced and enacted in action and speech.

These realities of life, or interdependencies, must be recognised to achieve ecological and social sustainability. The shared and disputed issues in the studied case echo the broader issues of entitlement to resources, value transformation, and labour a force that can stabilise but also disturb or even disrupt environmental management. The parties' diverging interests, claims and experiences, expressed in their own voices and consolidated into narratives about land, land use, and rights and obligations, can be seen as an important driver of collective action. The connections between their experiences and the dynamics behind the decision to collaborate reveal a contested space in which the commercial wood industries, agriculture, the decentralised state, conservation, and recreational interests are all involved and must negotiate with one-another to secure their interests.

The establishment of the manifesto represents a step in this direction. The participants justified their actions symbolically, referring to an idiom of rights, the construct of forestry's importance for the public good, and the desire to be resourceful and authoritative outside the framework of state action. However, the agreement seems to be fragile. It is unclear how the agreement to collaborate has been received by actors at lower levels of the hierarchies: do hunters and hunting teams acting at the ultra-local level conceive of the forest in a similar way to their representatives who negotiated the agreement, or is their volunteerism reflective of other values? Furthermore, recent developments points towards the state taking intervening steps by establishing control over goal fulfilment which challenges the agreement as such, as well as the foundations for collaboration.

   Acknowledgement Top

The authors thank the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency/Wildlife Management Fund for financial support in finalising this study. We are also very grateful for the constructive comments provided by the reviewers in the preparation of the final version.

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