Finland Forests

Background - 7 March, 2007
In the north of Finland, the Finnish government's own logging company Metsähallitus is logging forests that are crucial for the protection of biodiversity. Less than 5 percent of Finland's forests remain as ancient forests.

Logging machinery opening roads into ancient forests in Savukoski, Northern Finland.

In January 2007, Greenpeace tracked wood that had been logged from ancient forests to mills that produce disposable products such as copy paper, magazines and pulp for tissue paper.

Ongoing ancient forest destruction

Logging machines are currently destroying ancient forests in Northern Finland for Finnish pulp and paper industry. Government has started logging even in Intact Forest Landscapes - the most valuable of all ancient forests left in Finland.

Read about IntactForest Landscapes

Read more about logging in Finnish Lapland

Finnish top scientists appeal for ancient forests in 2007

In February 2007, Finland's top researchers from universities, scientific research centres and institutes sent an open letter to the Minister of Forestry asking him to save the remaining ancient forests.

Over 250 researchers have signed the letter, which says: "…present and intended loggings in forested Lapland are unsustainable and in obvious conflict with the biological diversity conservation agreements to which Finland is committed. In a global context the need to preserve what little remains of the EU's undisturbed landscapes should need no discussion. Compared to developing countries striving to protect rainforests alongside severe poverty, Finland stands to pay relatively little for protecting what remains of her old natural forests."

Forests & Reindeer Herding

Reindeer herding, practised by both the indigenous Sámi peoples and non-Sámi Finnish reindeer herders, is in most parts of Northern Finland theoretically protected against other land uses by Finnish legislation. In the area especially reserved for reindeer herding, forestry and other land use should not, according to the law, significantly hinder this traditional livelihood.

However, in reality the forestry practised by Finnish governmental forestry enterprise Metsähallitus is steadily diminishing and damaging the reindeer grazing forests by logging and road construction. Logging destroys the forests reindeer depend on for their food. Logging residues prevent reindeer from accessing ground lichen, and the destruction of old-growth forests means the destruction of tree hanging lichen. These two lichen types are crucial for the survival of reindeer especially in the late winter.

Indigenous culture

Living forests form a central part of Sámi culture. Old growth forests are of crucial importance for reindeer herding and should not be logged for pulp mills under any circumstances. In the Sámi culture we have been taught to respect forests ever since our childhood.

Pekka Aikio, President of the Sámi Parliament, Finland.

These ancient boreal forests are home to tens of thousands of indigenous peoples. The reindeer-herding Sámi live in northern parts of Sweden, Finland and Norway as well as the Murmansk region of Russia. The forests also support the traditional cultures of the Komi and Nenets (or Samoyeds) who inhabit the Arkhangelsk Region and Komi Republic of European Russia.

The Sámi peoples' right to practise their culture and traditional livelihood is also protected through the Finnish Constitution and a number of international agreements. Reindeer herding is the basis of the Sámi culture.

What are we asking for?

Greenpeace, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) and a majority of the reindeer herding co-operatives in the Sámi area have jointly mapped the important reindeer grazing forests. Reindeer herders and environmental organisations demand that the mapped areas must be left outside of harmful industrial logging. The needs of reindeer herders and wishes of the organisations are to a large extent ignored.

The Finnish government ceased logging in reindeer forests in the Sámi area after a successful campaign by Greenpeace which included the Forest Rescue Station in late 2005. However, there is no long-term solution in sight and logging in these areas could start again.

Pulp Fiction - behind the logging

The driving force behind the logging of these economically, culturally and ecologically significant forests is the Finnish pulp and paper industry. 70-75 percent of the wood logged by Metsähallitus in Sámi homeland is sold for pulp and paper production. The Finnish paper giants Stora Enso, M-Real and Botnia, buy most of the wood originating from destruction of reindeer grazing forests, which finally ends up being sold to the European consumer as magazines, copy paper, envelopes and even disposable tissue paper.