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Saami/Metsähallitus Forest Conflict, Inari, Finland

Background

Inari is one of the most tourist’s destiny in Finland, and lies in the northernmost part of the country near the Arctic Circle. It is a land of indigenous Saami people with a traditional reindeer herding as their cultural identity for livelihood [1]. The forest is of great importance for sustainable socio-economic development of Saami people and maintaining the biodiversity. Accepting the fact that the tree’s annual growth rate in this region is minimum and may takes many decades to reach its maturity, protecting their forest land against industrialized harvesting was priority concern during early 2000s.

One of the major Finnish state-owned forestry company Metsähallitus, was unable to address Saami’s rights in forestry practices which resulted in the biomass and land use conflicts. The conflict highlighted on the massive deforestation, over exploitation of timber and non-timber products, which has a root connections with local indigenous people [2,4].

Evaluation of the conflict

In 2002, the Saami people together with environmental EJO Greenpeace started protesting campaigns to safeguard about 107,000 ha of forest land in northern Finland [2]. Researchers, scientists, Medias, national and international NGOs including the UN Human Rights Committee was very actively involved to support the conflict victims. Furthermore, Finnish/Swedish paper company Stora Enso also responded, by not buying the wood from the conflict areas [2].

Figure: Saami reindeer herder and Greenpeace activist demarcating the forest. Photo © Greenpeace/Patrik Rastenberger

The protests occurred in several European countries (Finland, Germany, Netherland, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland) followed by street demonstrations, death threats and violence including several arrests. The situation continued for longer period because of the poor government actions and the company did not want to back off as they have invested heavily for the project [2,3].

Finally, after 8 years of struggle in various processes, the conflict ended with the negotiations between the Saami people and the company Metsähallitus, as a deal to protect 80% of their forest land [2,4]. The pressure from all-around compelled the company negotiate its activities in the favor of the local people. Afterall, the conflict was necessary in order to protect the culture and livelihood of indigenous people, and the old forest diversity of northernmost Finland.

Keywords

 Inari, Saami, Metsähallitus, conflict, Greenpeace activist, reindeer herding.

References

  1. Inari, Finland (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inari,_Finland)

  2. DaveWalsh,16 December,2010 (Source:https://www.greenpeace.org/archiveinternational/en/news/Blogs/makin-gwaves/finnish-forest-rescued/blog/31474/)

  3. Out of control (source: https://secured-static.greenpeace.org/france/PageFiles/266591/outofcontrol.pdf)

  4. The last Yoik in Sami orests? (Source:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehLFBkGh_B4)