The History of Metsähallitus
In 1542 Gustav Vasa, the King of Sweden, which at that time also included Finland, proclaimed all uninhabited wilderness areas in his kingdom as belonging to God, the King and the Crown, thereby marking the beginning of state land ownership.
By the beginning of the 19th century, Finnish forests were already in full use. Until that time, forests were mainly used for slash-and-burn agriculture and to produce wood tar, an important export product in those days. Tar burning, however, began to dwindle in the beginning of the 19th century, while at the same time the needs of the sawmilling industry increased.
In the mid-19th century wood use was so widespread that officials were concerned about the disappearance of Finland’s forests. In 1851 a strict forest law was passed, and a provisional national board for land surveying and forest management was established to monitor compliance and minister to the state’s lands. The history of the national forest and park service, today’s Metsähallitus, began in 1859 when Czar Alexander II signed a declaration on the founding of a forest management institution. Its area of operations covered state lands that were named crown parks, but monitoring private forestry, at least nominally, was also a part of the forest management institution’s tasks.
The structure and tasks of Metsähallitus have changed over the years, along with many reforms in forest administration. By a 1921 decree Metsähallitus was designated a central agency under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and was given the task of “managing, monitoring and promoting Finnish forestry”. That has remained a basic mission until today, although Metsähallitus’ responsibilities no longer extend to private forestry. Since 1983 Metsähallitus has managed nature conservation tasks under the guidance of the Ministry of the Environment.
Metsähallitus became a state enterprise in 1994, at which time many administrative tasks were completely excluded from Metsähallitus’ realm of activities. Along with the new enterprise, some of Metsähallitus’ business units branched out into their own brands, such as Wild North, which offers tourism and recreation services, and Laatumaa, which specialises in the land plot and forest real estate business. The operations of Wild North were terminated in 2012. Metsähallitus sold the rock material and industrial mineral business of its subsidiary Morenia Oy and the trademark Morenia in 2013.