Northern and Eastern Finland are special areas for Metsähallitus

The greatest share of Metsähallitus’ lands is located in Northern and Eastern Finland. As a major landowner and employer, Metsähallitus has a particularly responsible role in these areas.

A reindeer is standing on the slope of a snowy fell in a misty winter landscape.
Photo: Markus Sirkka

Forestry, reindeer husbandry and nature tourism are all important industries that largely share the same areas in Northern Finland. Metsähallitus operates on the principle that forestry, tourism and reindeer herding can coexist, once a joint agreement has been reached on reconciling these industries.

In the Sámi Homeland in Northern Lapland, all Metsähallitus activities must be reconciled with the Sámi culture, ensuring that practising it will not be adversely affected.

All Metsähallitus activities are coordinated with reindeer husbandry

Reindeer herding is a traditional livelihood in Northern Finland and protected under the Reindeer Husbandry Act. The reindeer graze freely in the reindeer herding area, which includes not only the region of Lapland but also parts of Northern Ostrobothnia and Kainuu. Under the Reindeer Husbandry Act, when planning measures concerning state land that will have a substantial effect on the practice of reindeer herding, the state authorities must consult the representatives of the reindeer herding co-operative in question.

In the reindeer herding area, the reindeer graze freely in Metsähallitus’ multiple-use forests. As part of our reindeer friendly forest management practices, we strive to ensure that any work in beard moss forests vital for the reindeer is carried out in late winter. Felling in grazing areas can also be postponed if necessary. In good lichen areas, timber harvesting is avoided in summer, and the lightest possible soil preparation methods are used.

In order to coordinate forestry, reindeer husbandry and other land use, Metsähallitus and the Reindeer Herders’ Association have negotiated an extensive agreement which defines the cooperation methods and special measures and restrictions needed to facilitate reindeer husbandry on state-owned land. The agreement applies to the state-owned lands in the reindeer herding area, with the exception of Northern Lapland, where specific agreements are in place.

Each reindeer herding cooperative is always provided with an opportunity to influence in advance all plans for felling operations, soil preparation, construction of new roads, tourist trails and land sales. Maps, including explanations, are sent to the reindeer herding cooperative manager in advance, who then has three weeks to approve the plan, submit a proposal for change, or request negotiations.

The agreement also contains policies on peat extraction and wind power areas, hunting, reindeer feeding, reindeer fence agreements and the use of carrion.

The coordination of forestry and reindeer husbandry is enabled by a geographic information system which keeps track of reindeer fences, key reindeer herd movements, winter and summer pastures and lichen pastures.

When preparing management plans for protected and wilderness areas, Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland discusses the plan policies with the reindeer herding cooperatives.

The vast forest areas of Northern Finland are also used by hunters. Hunters in the reindeer herding area must always ensure that hunting does not harm the reindeer. We promote dialogue between hunters and reindeer owners by providing hunters with up-to-date information on reindeer herding work on many channels.

We develop tourism areas responsibly

State-owned land and water areas offer tourists and hikers an inexhaustible range of destinations. Particularly in Lapland, the tourism industry is rapidly growing and becoming more international.

Tourism and hiking are an extremely important field of activity for Metsähallitus, which our versatile organisation approaches from several different angles. On the one hand, we are responsible for the tourism infrastructure in national parks and other protected areas as well as the state-owned hiking areas, whereas on the other, we enable hunting and fishing in the state’s land and water areas. We also zone, sell and rent sites on state land for the use of tourism companies and private individuals. Hiking and tourism additionally influence forestry operations.

Metsähallitus is responsible for the most important aspect of Finland’s country brand: nature. We also ensure that state-owned lands and waters are managed and used in a way that will allow future generations to enjoy them, too.

Our goal is to reconcile growing tourism with other industries by working together with municipalities, the tourism industry, reindeer husbandry and other actors in the region.

We develop the services of tourism areas on state-owned land with the aim of generating well-being for both individuals and companies: health and well-being for local residents and tourists, good operating conditions for entrepreneurs, and economic welfare for the entire region. Managing this in a sustainable and responsible manner is particularly important for us, and we thus regularly monitor the sustainability of tourism.

Our cooperation with tourism entrepreneurs is based on contracts.

We promote the equality of the Sámi people

When managing, using and protecting the natural resources under our stewardship, we safeguard the prerequisites for practising the Sámi culture. We secure the Sámi people’s right to maintain and develop their language and culture through agreements and negotiation procedures and by supporting Sámi-language communications and cultural projects.  

We strive to ensure the equality of the Sámi people in many ways:

  • We build up our staff members’ knowledge and understanding of the Sámi people’s culture and rights.
  • We work actively together with the Sámi Parliament, the Skolt village meeting and other Sámi actors. 
  • To assess the preconditions for practising the Sámi culture, we use an operating model developed together with the Sámi Parliament, which is based on the Akwé: Kon Guidelines laid out in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. This operating model is followed in land use planning in the Sámi Homeland. Read more about the Akwé: Kon operating model.
  • When a dedicated natural resource plan is drawn up for the Sámi Homeland, representatives of regional and local stakeholders, including the Sámi Parliament, the Skolt village meeting and other Sámi actors are invited to participate in the cooperation group for the plan.
  • When preparing management plans for protected areas, we convene a cooperation group of Sámi stakeholders to support the planning. The special rights of Sámi Homeland residents are addressed in our plans and regulations.
  • To safeguard the Sámi crafts traditions, we grant residents in the Sámi Homeland municipalities the right to collect small amounts of natural materials on state land to be used as craft materials.
  • When we sell or lease land or usage rights outside the zoning areas, we always consult the local reindeer herding cooperatives. Before initiating zoning projects, we negotiate with the Sámi Parliament and with the Skolt village meeting in the Skolt area.
  • We protect the Sámi cultural landscape and building heritage sites under our management in cooperation with Sámi cultural actors.
  • In the Sámi Homeland, we follow similar negotiation procedures with the reindeer herding cooperatives as elsewhere in the reindeer herding area. We offer the cooperatives an opportunity to influence all felling and soil preparation plans and the construction of new roads in advance.
  • We never harvest timber in the Sámi Homeland unless a preliminary agreement on it has been reached with the reindeer herding cooperative.
  • Quota decisions on fishing and hunting in the Sámi Homeland and other current issues are discussed by advisory bodies in individual municipalities and with the Sámi Parliament.
  • We safeguard the Sámi people’s right to maintain and develop their language as set out in the Sámi Language Act. We use the Sámi languages in official invitations, decisions, plans and other key documents concerning the Sámi people. Sámi speakers may use their mother tongue at our official meetings, where interpretation into the Sámi language is arranged if necessary. A growing proportion of Metsähallitus’ communication material is also available in the Sámi languages.

Agreements concerning the Sámi Homeland

An agreement concluded between Metsähallitus and the Sámi Parliament, the Skolt village meeting and the reindeer herding cooperatives of the Sámi Homeland in 2014 contains stipulations on forest management guidelines and operating methods to be followed in the Sámi Homeland as well as on local agreements. The fulfilment of the agreement is monitored at annual cooperation meetings.

In 2009 and 2010, separate agreements were concluded with the reindeer herding cooperatives of Hammastunturi, Muddusjärvi, Muotkatunturi and Paatsjoki as well as the Nellim unit on setting key pasture areas aside from forestry activities for 20 years, or for 10 years in parts of Nellim. The agreements also contain separate instructions for forestry operations as well as procedures for resolving potential disputes.

The Sámi are the only indigenous people in Europe

The area inhabited by the Sámi people is called the Sámi land (Sápmi in Northern Sámi). It comprises the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland and the Kola Peninsula, which belongs to Russia.

There are some 10,000 Sámi people in Finland, around one out of three of whom live in the Sámi Homeland. In Finland, the Sámi Homeland comprises the municipalities of Enontekiö, Inari and Utsjoki as well as the Lappi reindeer herding cooperative in the municipality of Sodankylä. The Sámi Homeland is part of the special area designated for reindeer husbandry. 

The Sámi languages are indigenous European languages. Northern Sámi, Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi are spoken in Finland. All three are endangered languages.

The Sámi and legislation

The Act on Metsähallitus contains provisions on Metsähallitus’ general social obligations.

Under the Act on Metsähallitus, the management, use and protection of natural resources governed by Metsähallitus in the Sami Homeland referred to in the Act on the Sami Parliament shall be adjusted to ensuring the conditions of the Sami people to practice their culture, and in the reindeer herding area referred to in the Reindeer Husbandry Act they shall be adjusted to fulfilling the obligations laid down in the Reindeer Husbandry Act.

Provisions on Metsähallitus’ activities in the Sámi Homeland are also contained in other acts, especially the Wilderness Act and the Sámi Language Act.

The traditional Sámi livelihoods include fishing, gathering, crafts, hunting and reindeer husbandry as well as the modern forms of these activities. They have high social and cultural significance for the Sámi people. While a large proportion of the Sámi people currently have other sources of income, reindeer husbandry also is an important industry in its own right.

As an indigenous people, the Sámi have a right to maintain and develop their language and culture as well as the traditional livelihoods that are part of it. These rights are protected under several international conventions, the Constitution of Finland and other national laws, especially the Wilderness Act.

The Constitution and the Act on the Sámi Parliament contain provisions on the organisation of the Sámi people’s self-government. The self-government tasks are performed by the Sámi Parliament, a representative body elected by the Sámi people. The Skolt Sámi are represented by the Skolt village meeting.