Lapland: State of Conflict

Rapport - 14 maart, 2005
Forest Rescue Station briefing. How the Finnish government is abusing the forest rights of Sámi reindeer herders

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Executive summary: One thousand kilometers north of Finland´s capital Helsinki lie some of the largest tractsof reindeer forest left in Lapland. These forests are also the homeland of NorthernEurope´s only indigenous people, the Sámi.Traditional free-grazing reindeer herding forms the basis of Sámi culture (see Box 2).During the cold Arctic winter months Lapland´s old-growth forests provide a lifeline forgrazing reindeer. On the branches and trunks of trees grows the ‘horsetail´ lichen – anarboreal hanging lichen that is an essential wintertime food for the reindeer.The State claims ownership of up to 90% of the traditional Sámi homeland in Finland.Within the State-owned lands are areas that are, in theory, specially designated under theReindeer Herding Act (Section 2). While the Act proclaims that these defined areas “shallnot be used in a manner that causes considerable damage to the reindeer herding’, in recentdecades the state-owned forest company Metsähallitus has destroyed important wintergrazing forests that are vital to the reindeer.The Finnish State often claims that in the Inari municipality of northern Lapland, some40% of forests have been formally protected and that therefore no new areas warrantprotection. What they fail to mention is that these protected areas are concentratedin the least productive land. Almost all of the important winter reindeer grazing forestsare excluded from these zones and remain unprotected. In fact, only around 20% of pineforest (the most important grazing land for reindeer) in Upper Lapland is protected, and most of this 20% is in unproductive or high altitude areas.In 2003 the reindeer herders together with Greenpeace and the Finnish Association forNature Conservation (FANC) mapped out forest areas essential for winter grazing.Over 90% of the mapped forest areas were found to be old-growth forest.Using these maps, a coalition representing the majority of forested reindeer herding cooperativesin the Sámi area demanded a moratorium on logging in the identified areasuntil a decision regarding their future was reached. Sadly, logging did not stop and anumber of the areas found to be vital grazing pastures have been destroyed.In 2004, Metsähallitus claimed it was starting a new initiative and that by the end of theyear it would begin updating its Natural Resource Plan (NRP) in Upper Lapland. The aimof this project was once again to harmonise the needs of reindeer herding and forestry.However, by January 2005 the revision of the NRP had not yet started. The Inari reindeerherding co-operatives published their preconditions for participation in updating the NRP(see Box 3) and sent them to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The preconditionsinclude, once again, the demand for a temporary logging moratorium on areas underdiscussion until decisions regarding their further protection have been made.Greenpeace, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Finland and FANC collectivelyexpressed their support for these pre-conditions in a letter to the Minister ofAgriculture and Forestry on 16 February 2005.At the end of February 2005, while the reindeer herders and NGOs were waiting fora reply to their letters, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry announced that thenew NRP for Upper Lapland had already begun earlier that month. Simultaneously,Metsähallitus had started logging in one of the reindeer herding areas, had opened a roadinto another and was still logging in the third area. At the time of publishing this report,a response has still not been received from Metsähallitus concerning a moratorium onlogging while this process is underway.We are fast approaching the point of no return. Metsähallitus is logging some of the lasttracts of old-growth forest abundant in horsetail lichen outside of protected areas (seeBox 2). Approximately seventy percent of the old-growth forests logged by Metsähallitusare sold for pulp and paper production.7 Forests hundreds of years old, which support amyriad of wildlife and sustain the Sámi culture are being rapidly converted into magazines,copy paper and envelopes.

Num. pages: 13