Temporary halt to logging of Finnish ancient forests

Long-term moratorium urgently needed

Feature story - 14 July, 2003
Metsahällitus, the Finnish state-owned forestry enterprise that is logging Finnish old growth forests, has agreed not to log in any of 476 areas of forest currently in dispute until urgent talks take place with environmental groups in Finland on 13 August. The disputed areas are outlined in detailed maps presented to Metsahällitus by Finnish environmental groups.

Tengmalm owl in the last old growth forests of Finland.

Earlier this year, after initial talks, a compromise agreement was reached for just two of the 476 disputed areas - Malahvia and Jamasvaara. This agreement came after a Greenpeace cyberaction in which over 3,000 people sent letters to Stora Enso, UPM-Kymmene and M-Real asking them not to buy pulp and timber from this forest destruction. These companies are the three main customers of old growth logs from Metsahällitus. More>

But while the talks between Metsahällitus and Finnish environmental groups went on, the logging continued in other parts of Finland's old growth forest.

So in May, 12 Greenpeace activists from nine countries took to inflatables in the Baltic Sea, intercepting and boarding the ship, the Finn Hawk, on its way to the port of Lübeck in Germany. The freighter was loaded with paper products from Stora Enso and M-Real and was destined for the German market. More>

Greenpeace campaigners across Europe also decided to contact many of the companies buying paper from Stora Enso, UPM-Kymmene and M-Real to get them to express their concerns about the destruction of Europe's last ancient forests. It appears that the Finnish companies and Metsahällitus are starting to listen to them!

Driving the destruction

The European market's hunger for paper is turning Finland's last ancient forests into magazines, envelopes, copy paper and packaging material.

Paper is big business in Finland - Finland is responsible for one quarter of the world's printing and writing paper exports and one sixth of its paper board exports. Germany is the largest importer of Finnish paper products.

Long-term moratorium urgently needed

While the temporary halt to logging is a significant development, unfortunately it does not mean that the destruction of Finland's ancient forests is over. A long-term moratorium is urgently needed to save Finland's last unprotected old growth forests.

It is not clear whether the temporary halt to logging operations will continue after the meeting on 13 August, until a final agreement is reached about the disputed old-growth areas. These critical areas are the habitats of threatened and vulnerable species and the traditional livelihoods of the indigenous Sami and Finnish people who herd reindeer in these forests. Only five percent of Finland's forests are considered old growth forests of which remarkably only half of this is protected from industrial logging.

Greenpeace continues to campaign to save Finland's last unprotected old growth forests and the rest of the world's last ancient forests.