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1.The conflict case of Inari forests in Upper Lapland


2. Background information

2.1. Generic Information

In Northern Finland, in the municipality of Inari, the reindeer herders’ cooperatives of Inari expanded the long conflict by appealing to Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in 2002 to stop the cuttings (which were organized by Metsähallitus, state forestry enterprise with public duties ) in areas, which were important to reindeer herding. Reindeer herders had opposed cuttings from late 1980’s in many ways. Greenpeace came along with others to the conflict in 2001, because Metsähallitus did cuttings in the old forests of Inari. The conflict is now over, because Metsähallitus and reindeer herders finished the negotiation process in December 2010 (Liimatainen 2010).

2.2. Conflict type

The conflict was a land use conflict. For instance, the cuttings of old forests have affected to the reindeer herding, because herding pastures in old forests have constituted significant late winter pasture resource (Kumpula 2001). The pressure of reindeer herding and other land-use for instance diminished the volume of lichen in reindeer herding winter pastures according to the research projects in late 1990’s (Colpaert 1998).

2.3. Resources involved

The conflict was involving solid wood and the land use. Reindeer herders cooperatives of Inari  and Greenpeace marked  (as an area not to implement cuttings) 107 000 hectares of forest pastures, which were important to reindeer herding in 2005 (Liimatainen 2010). 

3.Evaluation of the conflict

3.1. Main issues and descriptions

The main problem in Inari conflict was the use of land and forest resources. Many ethical issues make conflict more complicated, like state related actors, which are associated to reindeer herding (Raitio and Rytteri 2005) and the rights of the Sámi people, that are indigenous people of Finnish Lapland, and employment in Inari area (Gritten et al 2009).

3.2. Main stakeholders involved

According to Gritten et al (2009), in Inari’s case, the main stakeholders were:


Reindeer herders and reindeer herders’ cooperatives

Metsähallitus employees and customers

The municipality of Inari

Finnish government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

Sámi parliament

Local people, Sámi and non-Sámi, and their communities

ENGO’s (Greenpeace and Suomen luonnonsuojeluliitto)

Other associations (Ihmisoikeusliitto etc.)


The conflict closed up around reindeer herders and their cooperatives and Metsähallitus, which had for instance case of cuttings in Nellim area in District court of Lappi in 2005-2008 (Liimatainen 2010).

3.3. Analysis of the stakeholders’ values and interests

There’s many complicated interests with respect to Metsähallitus. The Act on Metsähallitus (1378 / 2004) demands lucrativeness in business, while acts regarding to Sámi Council (974/1995) and Reindeer Management  (848/1990) demand consideration of Sámi culture and a sustainable state of reindeer herding pastures: it is not acceptable to use the land in the way that there’s  harm caused to the reindeer husbandry (Gritten et al 2009).

Nowadays Metsähallitus emphasizes sustainable and responsible use of forests and collaboration with reindeer herders’ cooperatives and Sámi parliament on the website. Employing of people (for instance in Northern Lapland) is also important value to Metsähallitus (Metsähallitus 2016). But how was it in the beginning of 21st century? Could there be seen some ideological approach, like environmental possibilism in the conflict in Inari area? Environmental possibilism is near to the cultural determinism that regards cultures as result of human agency, and doesn’t appreciate environment. In environmental possibilism environment can be seen as influencer, but most important thing is the “will of Man” ( Was the sustainable use of forests important value for Metsähallitus at that time- or was it a statist, when the "will of Man" played the main role? Also ENGOs criticized the cuttings of old forests in Inari, which were organized by Metsähallitus (Liimatainen 2010).

The reindeer herders’ main interest is to take care of their livelihood (Gritten et al 2009). In the beginning of 21st century aging of reindeer herders was a problem (Yle 2016). Youngsters may not have been interested in reindeer herding. The reindeer stocks had to be big because of poor profitability, increased costs and price of reindeer meat (Gritten et al 2009; Rktl 2016). The attrition of reindeer pastures in Northern Lapland was a research topic at that time (Kumpula 2001; Colpaert 1998).  For reindeer herders the bond to the familiar places in nature is important value. Reindeer herders regard nature as a place where continuous use of the same areas with personal history include special right to utilise the areas (Raitio 2008).

ENGOs act in the field of environmentalism. According to Greenpeace website, its aim is to protect environment and to advocate peace (Greenpeace 2016).

Like reindeer herders, the Sámi people have bond to familiar, traditional places. The conservation of their own culture, language and tradition is in their interest (Sámi Parliament 2016).

3.4. Evaluation of the intensity of the conflict

Actually, the conflict between reindeer herders and Metsähallitus lasted for decades. According to Greenpeace (2010), reindeer herders’ cooperatives of Muotkatunturi started to litigate against Metsähallitus in 1993. Most of the time the conflict has been seen as disagreement. ENGOs organized public protests against the cuttings of Upper Lapland, for instance in Geneve at United Nations’ seminar of human rights and in Netherlands, in embassy of Finland in 2005. Several suits have been happened. Media was joined to the conflict, locally, on national and even on international level. ENGOs informed the international stakeholders of Stora Enso (wood processing company, a customer of Metsähallitus) concerning the actions of Metsähallitus (Liimatainen 2010, Gritten et al 2009).


3.5. Evaluation of the possible causes of the conflict

The conflict was solved in 2010. As a result of the negotiation process between reindeer herders and Metsähallitus, the main part of forests in Inari, in which the cuttings were planned to carry out, were going to be protected for 20 years. Lot of those forests were old forests, in which has not been cutting activity at all. Almost 80 percent of important reindeer herding forest pastures, which were specified and marked by reindeer herders and Greenpeace in 2003, were limited out of the cutting areas (Liimatainen 2010).

A positive effect could be seen in the website of Metsähallitus, in which the collaboration and negotiation between Metsähallitus and reindeer herders cooperatives is emphasized, when the cuttings in forests of Lapland are planned. Also collaboration with Sámi parliament is mentioned (Metsähallitus 2016). So, as a result, some government actions and practises could be seen to take place after the conflict.

3.6. Main elements that may preclude conflict resolution

The main elements that might have precluded the resolution of the conflict were the lack of self-reflection of each stakeholder and lack of improved understanding of other stakeholders’ values, principles and interests - thus lack of increasing of mutual understanding (Arevalo et al 2014, Gritten et al 2009). In resolution of the conflict like this (long disagreement between stakeholders with intractable outlooks) it can’t be assumed that all opinions are taken into account. The conclusion is to have a fragmented consensus (Hallikainen et al 2006).


3.7. Main elements that may encourage conflict escalation

The main elements in the potential conflict escalation, along with lack of self-reflection and lack of understanding of other stakeholders’ values, principles and interests, were extreme media driven aspects, which aggravate the intractable outlooks of the stakeholders. Generally, if the stakeholders are not interested in stepping back and cooling down with their fundamental perceptions, and if they are not interested in true resolution of the conflict for instance with problem solving tool like ethical analysis, then there’s chance for escalation of the conflict (Gritten et al 2009). In this case, the conflict between reindeer herders and Metsähallitus was resolved eventually after negotiation process. The consensus was fragmented, Metsähallitus couldn’t implement all the cuttings which were planned, but still: answer was found.


4. References

Arevalo, J, Ochieng, R., Mola-Yudego, B. and Gritten, D., 2014. Understanding bioenergy conflicts: Case of a jatropha project in Kenya’s Tana Delta. Land Use Policy 41, 138-148.

Colpaert, A., 1998. Satellite data and environmental GIS, from remotely sensed data to geographical information. Acta Universitatis Ouluensis, Oulu.

Gritten, D., Saastamoinen, O. and Sajama, S., 2009. Ethical analysis: A structured approach to facilitate the resolution of forest conflicts. Forest Policy and Economics 11, 555-560.

Hallikainen, V., Jokinen, M., Parviainen, M., Pernu, L., Puoskari, J., Rovanperä, S.and Seppä, J., 2006. Inarilaisten käsityksiä metsätaloudesta ja muusta luonnonkäytöstä. Metsätieteen aikakauskirja 4/2006, 453–474.

Kumpula, J., 2001. Productivity of the semi-domesticated reindeer (Ragnifer t. tarandus l.) stock and carrying capacity of pastures in Finland during 1960 - 1990's. Acta Universitatis Ouluensis, Oulu.

Raitio, K., 2008. “You can't please everyone” — Conflict management practices, frames and institutions in Finnish state forests. Joensuun yliopiston yhteiskuntatieteellisiä julkaisuja nro 86.

Raitio, K., Rytteri, T., 2005. Metsähallituksen ja valtio-omistajan vastuu Ylä-Lapin porotalouden ja metsätalouden välisessä kiistassa. Metsätieteen aikakauskirja 2 (2005), 117–137.



Greenpeace. Available:  (6.2.2016)

Environmental possibilism. Available: (6.2.2016)

Liimatainen, M. 2010. The short history of Inari forest conflict. Available:  In Finnish. (6.2.2016)

Metsähallitus. Available: (6.2.2016)

Riista- ja kalatalouden tutkimuslaitos. Available: (6.2.2016)

Sámi Parliament. Sámi in Finland.  Available: (6.2.2016)

Yle News 4.1.2016. Poronhoito kiinnostaa edelleen nuoria. Available: (6.2.2016)