What’s in a Name: Forestry and Soil Conservation Agencies Debate New Title


The Environment and Transport Committee of Iceland’s parliament has received a proposal for a new law on forestry and land conservation, which aims to merge the two existing agencies, the Land Conservation Agency and the Forestry Service.

The proposal identifies key issues of the merger between the two agencies. The plan, called “Land and Life,” was created by the Land Conservation Agency and the Forestry Service and outlines their vision for land and forest management through 2031.

Read more: Use of Lodgepole Pine Sparks Feud

The new organization, named “Land and Forest,” has been proposed as the name for the merged agency. However, the Land Conservation Agency has suggested that a better name might be found, given that the proposed name does not reflect the activities of the two agencies.

In a statement, the Soil Conservation Agency noted the need for a “more suitable name” for the new institution. Alternatives proposed include “Land and Life,” “Institute of Land Resources,” and “Earth.”

Read more: First-Ever Joint Policy on Land Reclamation and Reforestation

The existing law on land conservation will still apply, and the merger will not change any ongoing work or projects. The proposed new law identifies the significant benefits of the merger, including streamlined operations and increased efficiency. However, the new organization will have a broader mandate and be better equipped to manage the country’s natural resources effectively.

Six Million Plants This Year, But Production Still Short of Carbon Neutrality Goal

Iceland needs to rapidly increase its plant cultivation in order to meet the government’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2040, RÚV reports.

Þröstur Eysteinsson, director of the Icelandic Forest Service, says that in order to meet the goal, plant production in Iceland will have to at least double over the next three to five years, and that production capacity will need to increase even more after that. Currently, there is not enough room in local nurseries and greenhouses to meet this demand.

“As the situation stands, our greenhouses are at full capacity,” Þröstur explained in an interview. “Because it’s May, the spring sowing has already been planned out and it isn’t possible to add anything that will be ready in spring 2023, that is to say, next spring. So for any new projects that are coming in, the earliest they could get plants is 2024.”

The Forest Service intends to deliver six million plants this year, says Þröstur, which is equivalent to pre-crash levels of production. “It was around five million last year, and four million the year before that. This is a rapid increase. Then we need seven to eight million next year, which we may not manage, and ten to twelve in 2025.”

New Path Paved Through 85-Year-Old Forest

A team of some of Iceland’s most experienced loggers is in the process of cutting a path through Vaðlaskógur, an 85-year-old forest that stands across from Akureyri, on the other side of the Eyjafjörður fjord in Northeast Iceland. RÚV reports that the felling will make way for a a 2 km [1.2 mi] walking and cycling path, as well make way for hot water pipes from the Vaðlaheiði tunnel to run water to a new bathing area in the forest. An estimated 130 tons of timber will be cut down in the process.

“You can read the history of Icelandic forestry here,” says Ingólfur Jóhannsson, managing director of the Eyjafjörður Forestry Association who is overseeing the project. “People were just experimenting in 1936, when planting started here—no one knew what [species] would thrive in the country.” Ingólfur says that at the time, pretty much anything and everything was planted in the area. “…[S]ome [trees] lived and some died, and that was the foundation for our forestry work today.”

Screenshot, Vísir

Today, several species of spruce grow in Vaðlaskógur, as do beach pines, pitch pines, mountain pines, Alpine firs, rowans, and multiple willow species. All told, Ingólfur estimates that there are some thirty species of trees growing in the forest.

The diversity of species makes this a complicated process for the loggers, who must be selective and ensure that they aren’t felling just any tree. The eleven-person team was assembled from experienced professionals hailing from Reykjavík, Skagafjörður, Akureyri, and Egilsstaðir and will spend about two weeks completing the project. The resulting timber will then be used for building materials and firewood.

Although a number of trees will need to be cleared for the project, Ingólfur spoke highly of the planned outdoor area, which will be easily accessible to visitors. “Paths are also valuable in forests.”

Four Thousand Seedlings Planted in ‘New Year’s Forest’

Members of ICE-SAR and the Icelandic Forestry Association planted 4,000 tree seedlings on Wednesday as part of the Áramótaskógur (‘New Year’s Forest’) on Selfjall mountain just outside of Kópavogur in the capital area, RÚV reports.

Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg, Facebook

The seedlings were sold as part of annual fundraising efforts for ICE-SAR, Iceland’s volunteer-staffed search and rescue association. Traditionally, ICE-SAR has sold New Year’s fireworks to raise money for its efforts. However, concerns about the environmental impact of Iceland’s New Year’s fireworks extravaganza have led, in recent years, to New Year’s seedlings being sold as well. ICE-SAR currently has a contract in place with the forestry association to sell New Year’s seedlings through 2023.

Read More: Tree Seedlings to Supplement Firework Sales Over Next 3 Years

Eight thousand seedlings were sold as part of the most recent New Year’s fundraiser and will be planted all over the country.

Tree Seedlings to Supplement Firework Sales Over Next 3 Years

Fireworks Exploding over Reykjavík

ICE-SAR will continue to sell tree seedlings at its fireworks outlets according to a new agreement with the Icelandic Forestry Association, RÚV reports. The contract expires in 2023.

Extravagant Pyrotechnics

As environmental issues have moved to the fore of the national consciousness, Iceland’s longstanding fireworks tradition has come under scrutiny lately. Most of the fireworks ignited in Iceland are imported from China, translating into a sizeable carbon footprint. Fireworks also produce smoke and dust, which besides causing lung damage, also contain various heavy metals and harmful chemicals. Residents of Iceland have ignited some 600 tonnes’ worth of fireworks annually since 2005. Many have called for moderation.

Such appeals are problematic, given that the sale of fireworks is the largest source of income for the Icelandic Association of Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR). According to some estimates, ICE-SAR enjoys a 75% share of the fireworks market in Iceland, which, in turn, accounts for about one-third of the association’s total funding (although it may account for up to 90% of the financing of individual rescue teams in rural Iceland). ICE-SAR handles approximately 1,200 emergency calls annually.

Money Growing on Trees

Last year, in response to growing environmental concerns, ICE-SAR began supplementing its sale of fireworks by offering tree seedlings – under the heading Skjótum rótum (Put Down Roots) – at its outlets. Buyers do not receive the seedlings. Instead, the Icelandic Forestry Association, in partnership with other forestry associations (there are ca. 60 forestry associations in Iceland), plant them on their behalf. ICE-SAR sold approximately 13,000 seedlings last year.

This year, ICE-SAR and the Icelandic Forestry Association hope to expand the number of forestry associations participating in the project, aiming to spread the programme to more parts of the country. The proceeds from the sale of seedlings will go directly to ICE-SAR. The seedlings will be sold around the country until New Year’s.

Pollution a Genuine Concern

According to a report introduced by the Environment Agency of Iceland this week, the Greater Reykjavík Area saw a significant increase in suspended particulate matter on New Year’s Eve last year. Measuring stations in the Greater Reykajvík Area recorded sixteen different types of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and seventeen chemical elements.

“The Environment Agency of Iceland encourages everyone to exercise moderation in their use of fireworks. We emphasise that pollution from fireworks is a genuine concern in Iceland, with suspended particulate matter accounting for the most adverse health effects. The Agency would also like to point out that the pollution harms those who experience it, especially those who are vulnerable, like children, the elderly, or the infirm. Suspended particulate matter not only causes discomfort but also reduces the quality of life for many.”