Real estate relationships and organizations
Of the productive forest area, private individuals own about 77 percent, companies and co- owners 7.5 percent, the state barely seven percent, municipalities three percent and the public 5.5 percent.
Norway has a larger proportion of private forests than any other country in Scandinavia. Much of the private forest is owned by farmers and operated as farm forests along with agriculture.
In 2017, there were 127,000 properties with more than 25 acres of forest. Of these, 120,000 are owned by private individuals. The forest area is very unevenly distributed between properties. An average property has an area of 450 acres. There are only about 1,200 properties with more than 5,000 acres of forest, but these have about 30 percent of the forest area.
More than a third of the forest owners are members of one of the forest owner organizations, the Norwegian Forest Owners’ Association or the Norwegian Forestry Association.
Management and legislation
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food is the supreme central agency for the forestry industry. The external agency consists of professional staff at the County Department of Agriculture and in the municipalities, which from 2004 has taken over most of the management of the legal and economic instruments in forest policy. Organization and job designations in the external agency vary between different counties and municipalities, where there was previously a uniform structure with county forest manager, county forest manager and forestry manager. The state forests are managed by the state enterprise Statskog in Namsos.
The legal basis for forestry is the Forestry Act (Act on Forestry of May 27, 2005), which aims to promote sustainable management of forest resources with a view to active local and national value creation, as well as to safeguard biodiversity, landscape considerations, outdoor life. and the cultural values of the forest. The municipalities ‘responsibility for forest management is made visible, the forest owners’ reporting obligation for forestry measures is expanded, and the forest owners are required to have an overview of the environmental values in the forest and to take these into account in the practical activities.
Since the 1990s, the forestry industry has developed in a market economy direction, for example with freer timber and real estate markets, while environmental considerations have been given greater importance in forest policy. The public subsidies for business-related forestry have been reduced, especially from 2004 when the state subsidy for forestry was withdrawn, while more support was given to environmental measures. Forest road construction is more heavily regulated and less public support is given.
Education in forestry is provided in the education program for nature use in upper secondary education. The education leads to a professional letter. Three-year higher education in forestry is provided by some state colleges. The University of Environmental and Life Sciences at Ås offers three- and five-year higher, research-based education in forest science.
Forests have been an important part of the industrial base in Norway from the earliest times. It provided food, fuel, weapons, tools, and housework. It was also a prerequisite for tar burning, iron extraction and salt boiling. Bark for tanning of hides and skins were also important. Already in the 1300s, timber was exported, initially to Germany, England and the Netherlands, in the 16th century also to Spain. Originally, the Norwegians were responsible for trade and transport, but later the Dutch took over. Domestic demand for timber increased as mining became an important industry in the 1600s.
Already the Gulating Act and the Frostings Act had provisions on forestry, and from the 16th century the authorities sought to implement a restrictive forest policy. Among other things, there was a ban on exports of timber from 1532 to 1562, partly to secure Denmark’s and Norway’s own needs and partly to prevent the demolition of the forest. Fear of forest destruction has gone back into forest law just to our own times. In 1650 a general inspector was appointed for the forests in Norway, but the position was resigned after 20 years. The next approach to permanent forest administration was the Elder General General in 1739, with German chiefs in senior positions, but this did not emerge either. The current forest administration was established in 1859, initially for the state’s own forests.
The first water saw is known from 1503, but the rapid spread of these saws indicates that they were in use before this time. Gradually, many sawmills were built in by waterfalls in the rivers, especially at the bottom of the waterways. The timber logging was put in place, and larger forest areas became raw material reservoirs in a national and international timber market. For the first time, farmers themselves advised the sawmill operation. The church and the Lords of Lords also owned large forest areas and operated sawmills, later some officials did the same. After the Reformation, the church’s goods went to the crown, which became the largest forest and sawmill owner. The krone also had large revenues from fees and duties on sawmill operations and timber. The farmers were eventually squeezed out of the market-oriented sawmill operation, and were only allowed to cut timber for local consumption. In 1662 came the city privileges which enshrined the citizens’ exclusive right to lumber trade, and in 1668 sawmill privileges which imposed strict restrictions on sawmill operation.