The patter of rain has just stopped when Christer opens the folder. He flips through it to a long checklist, takes out the pen that has been firmly wedged behind his right ear and looks out through the windscreen. We are just outside Åtvidaberg, parked on the edge of a ten hectare stand of forest.
A natural value assessment is on the agenda. This is about assessing natural values, such as the presence of red listed indicator species and key biotopes, in the forest being studied. In his role as timber buyer at Setra, Christer Ekström buys standing timber which is then felled and sent to Setra’s unit in Vimmerby. The natural value assessment is made before any purchase agreement is signed.
It is nine o’clock when we get out of the car. Christer grabs some red/yellow tape and a spray can of red paint which are used to mark smaller areas which, for example, should not be felled. Also with us on the assessment is Lotta Thedéen, Setra’s Environmental Manager. When we are in the stand Christer moves sleuth-like from tree to tree. Occasionally he stops, glances at something and makes a short note. Points for possible natural values are collected in the checklist. If the sum is too great, Christer will not buy the stand.
“It’s only a fraction that result in a deal. I look at many possible sites, but sometimes they aren’t suitable. High natural values can be one reason,” says Christer, Who usually looks for sites within a radius of 100 km around Vimmerby.
Christer is based at Setra’s unit in Vimmerby and shares his time as a timber buyer with his role as raw material coordinator. The number of natural value assessments and deals made varies but Christer estimates that during 2015 it was some 40 assessments.
“On average I am out in the forest a couple of days each week. But it doesn’t have to be formal natural value assessments. I might meet the contractors carrying out the felling or swap experiences and advice with the landowner. It can also be an initial visual survey when I feel that a site is interesting. With my experience I can often sense if a stand can be bought. If a site exudes natural values there won’t be a deal,” he says.
Setra supports the development of responsible forestry. This means consideration for nature when felling and that forests and nature areas with high conservation values are set aside. All raw material that Setra buys in must meet the requirements for controlled raw material which means that the origin is traceable and meets basic demands. This also applies when Christer buys standing timber.
When we stop during the assessment there is complete silence around us with the exception of some birds twittering a little way off. Otherwise there is just a dull rustle as we wander around the ten hectare area.
“A challenge when making a natural value assessment is borderline cases. For example, when the forest starts to get old it goes into a new phase. In general you can say that the older the forest is, the greater its natural values. Woodpeckers move in and so on,” says Christer.
After a couple of hours the natural value assessment is complete. Christer stops at the top of a knoll and gazes out over the dark green carpet of treetops.
“This is what made me look for this kind of job,” he says and is silent for a few seconds before he continues, “being out in the forest and land. It is a wonderful feeling to both be in the countryside and take responsibility for what becomes of it.”
Text and photo: Joakim Gerhardsson