An unprecedented land grab will threaten the last old growth forests of Finnish Lapland and the homeland of the indigenous Sámi Peoples, as the new Forestry Act has been approved today by the Finnish Parliament. The new Forestry Act opens the Sámi areas in Upper Lapland, including large tracts of boreal old growth forests, to a range of economic activity.
The new Act will affect 2.2 million hectares of water systems and 360,000 hectares of land, mostly in the Sub-Arctic and North Boreal areas of Finland, the Sámi’s Home Area. This area constitutes the last large intact forest landscape of Europe. The Act transfer power over this region further into the hands of state authorities, opening up the Sámi Home Area and sub-Arctic ecosystems to railway construction, and with that, potential expansion of mining, forestry and other infrastructure projects.
The new Forestry Act no longer requires Metsähallitus, the Finnish state-run enterprise which already controls 90% of the Sámi Home Area, to liase with the Sámi Parliament and the Skolt Sámi Village Council on issues of land management and their potential impacts on indigenous people’s lives. And of course, the Act has been written and voted without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the Sámi People, as required by UN conventions.
Tero Mustonen, a scientist from the Snowchange Cooperative, and one of the Lead Authors of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA), adds: “Arctic peoples have thrived in a harsh environment for millennia, in no small part because they have acquired a great depth of knowledge about the land and waters of their homelands and the species that live there, which provide food, clothing and meaning to Arctic cultures. This traditional ecological knowledge is increasingly recognized as an important source of information for, among other things, understanding Arctic biodiversity and developing effective strategies to conserve that biodiversity, including indigenous ways of life.”