Finland has had forest policy since the 19th century.
Finnish forest policy is based on sustainable forestry and the multiple use of forests. The use of forests is regulated to ensure the welfare of both nature and people and the economic sustainability of the forestry.
Finnish forests are open to everyone by virtue of the so-called everyman’s rights. This means that everyone may freely and without charge ramble in all Finnish forests, regardless of who owns them. No permit from the forest owner is needed to enjoy the everyman’s rights, and no charges are payable. However, the use of everyman’s rights may not cause harm or disturbance to anyone.
The roots of Finnish forest policy go back to the 19th century, which is when general concern over the state of forests was awakened in the country. Finland’s forest resources were dwindling at an alarming rate, due to the selective felling of the stoutest timber and the gathering of firewood. Before this period forest destruction had been caused by the slash-and-burn agriculture and the manufacturing of pit tar.
In 1859, the Government established a forest management authority, subsequently named the Metsähallitus, to restore the state of the forests and to improve their management. In 1886 Forest Act was passed, prohibiting the destruction of forests and striving to safeguard the regeneration of forests after felling.
After Finland’s independence in 1917, a reform with a significant impact on forest policy was passed in the 1920s. Tenant farmers were given the right to buy the land they had held under their tenancy agreements. This was the beginning of Finnish family forestry.
During the 1990s, Finnish forest policy was thoroughly reformed. At that time, the concept of sustainable forestry was redefined, so that the requirement of ecological and social sustainability was given an importance equal to the sustainability of timber production. This redefination was included in all forest legislation.
Almost all Finnish forest legislation was renovated on the first half of 2010s. Most important targets of the renovation were increase of competitiveness of forestry and forest industry, decreasing regulation and increase of competition and recurrence of forest-related structures. All other targets of forest policy, such as maintaining forest biodiversity, remained the same.
Diversified forest planning
Finnish forest policy is continuously developed with the methods of participatory planning, of which you can read more here. Forest policy is translated into practical actions by various means, including forest planning and the activity of forest organisations. The target areas of forest planning range from single farms to regions and the whole country.
Finnish Forest Centre is responsible for the forest planning for regions and individual farms. It is voluntary for a forest owner to get a forestry plan for his or her forest holding. Private enterprises offering forest services and forest management associations can make forestry plans for single holdings, too.
Forest Centre is also enforces the Forest Act and monitores the quality of forestry work carried out. Forest Centre is steered by the highest forest authority in Finland is the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Forest Management Associations are statutory organisations of private forest owners. Their aim is to support the profitability of forestry and the achievement of other forest management goals set by the owners.
The authority in charge of managing the state forests is the Metsähallitus. The management goals of commercial forests are defined by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and those of protected forests by the Ministry for the Environment. Metsähallitus’s Natural Heritage Services manage the tending and use of protected areas owned by the state.
Natural Resources Institute Finland is responsible of a large share of Finnish forest research as well as maintaining forestry statistics. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry sets the goals for the Institute. Forestry research is carried out in several universities and private research institutions as well.
Tapio is a state-owned conpany, which produces expert services for forestry operatives. The forestry guidelines drawn by Tapio are an essential tool for directing silviculture actions in Finland.
Finland is also an active participant in international forest policy, both within the European Union and elsewhere in Europe, as well as globally.
Updated on the 30th of December, 2015.