Cyberactivists save Finnish forest

Feature story - 5 February, 2003
In just one week, 3000 people sent letters to Finnish companies buying timber and pulp from Finland's last old-growth forests. One of the areas that was scheduled to be logged any day is home to once numerous species that are now endangered or on the verge of becoming endangered. But thanks to your concerned letters this area will not be logged this year.

This logging road in the last Finnish old-growth forests will not be used for logging this year thanks to almost 3000 cyberactivists.

The Finnish state owned forestry enterprise Metsahallitus was planning to start logging the old-growth forests of Malahvia, in the north eastern part of Finland close to the Russian border. Metsahallitus' logging would have involved both clearcutting and selective logging in the area despite clear scientific evidence about the high biological value of the Malahvia forest.

But that forest has been spared, at least for now. A little over 3000 people sent letters to the three biggest Metsahallitus customers, StoraEnso, UPM-Kymmene and M-Real, asking the companies not to buy pulp and timber coming from this forest destruction. After pressure from the companies on the Finnish government, the state owned logging company has agreed they will not log the area this year.

Greenpeace's forest campaigner in Finland, Matti Liimatainen said "It was great to be able to call up the people in the community and finally give them some good news." Local residents of Malahvia had appealed to the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and the logging company not to log the forests in the area. But they watched bulldozers carve two forestry roads into the area in December and expected logging operations would start any day.

This old growth forest of almost 4000 hectares includes unditched bogs, streams, lakes and ponds. Rare and declining animal and plant species that depend on old growth forest conditions are common in this area. The forest is one of Finland's important homes for species like the Siberian Jay and Three-toed Woodpecker which have declined alarmingly since the late 1940s. Some of the species that make their home in the Malahvia forest are already endangered and still more are on the verge of becoming endangered.

Their home is now safe for the coming year, but the Finnish Forestry Service has not agreed to protect the forest permanently.

And this is just one area of the Finnish forests that needs permanent protection. The forest of Malahvia is part of a green belt of old-growth forests totalling some 300,000 hectares in Finland and an inseparable part of one of the most important hot spots of boreal biodiversity in Scandinavia and north-western Russia. Its natural features should be maintained and enhanced rather than further logged and fragmented.

Thank you to everyone who sent letters to the companies, this forest is off the chopping block now only because of your efforts. Watch this space next week for another opportunity to get involved and help save Finland's last old-growth forests.