21st March 2016
The State Forest Agency “Metsähallitus” About to Seize Total Control of Sámi Indigenous Key Old Growth Forests For Economic Uses If New Law Passes in Finland: Moratorium Is Needed At Once
An unprecedented land grab threatens the last old growth forests of
Finnish Lapland and the Sámi home area if the new Forestry Act legislation
passes in the Finnish Parliament next week. Both Indigenous Sámi leaders
and Arctic scientists are concerned about the proposed new reforms. All of
the Sámi reindeer herding cooperatives oppose this law. 130,000 people
have petitioned the parliament to stop this Forestry Act in its current
This crisis happens in a context where the previous government failed to
ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now the
current government in Finland is moving fast to completely wreck the
existing rights of the only Indigenous people of EU. Sámi areas, including
large tracts of north boreal old growth forests will be opened to a range
of economic uses. Territory being affected includes hundreds of thousands
of hectares of the Sub-Arctic and North Boreal areas of Finland. It
constitutes the last preserved wilderness of Europe. Future new threats
include for example construction of railroads and other large-scale
infrastructure projects in addition to forestry impacts.
The new imminent Forestry Act no longer requires Metsähallitus, the
state-run enterprise which controls these areas, to clarify to the Sámi
Parliament and the Skolt Sámi Village Council what impact the land
management shakeup would have on indigenous peoples lives. Preparation of
this Act has not reflected Free, Prior and Informed Consent – FPIC.
There is an urgent need to ensure that Metsähallitus does not undermine
present or future opportunities to practice and foster Sámi culture. The
new Act needs to include clauses that provide a protective zone and
mechanisms to the Sámi. These are missing from the existing legal
proposal. In Sámi home area 90 percent of the land is owned by the state
President of the Finnish Section of the Saami Council1, Jouni Lukkari says that:
Sámi reindeer herding and the Sámi way of life are in danger of
disappearing if the new Forestry Act legislation passes in the Finnish Parliament. In this case we will have few opportunities to influence the decision making over our lands. Rather, our territories will be controlled by market economy values.
Tero Mustonen, scientist from the Snowchange Cooperative , and one of the
Lead Authors of the governmental Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) of
the Arctic Council, quotes the report on Indigenous knowledge:
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.
Furthermore, Mustonen says that:
In this period of rapid climate change in the Arctic it is imperative that these northern ecosystems are preserved intact they are central to the Indigenous peoples survival and a source of their knowledge in this new reality. Forestry Act in its current form would cause severe, negative impacts to the Sámi society as we know it.
Therefore there is an urgent need to stop the current form of Forestry Act
from proceeding further. However, should the Act to proceed in the Finnish
Parliament next week, the Sámi demand a full moratorium on all state
forestry and infrastructure actions inside the Sámi Home Area until such a
time that the Indigenous rights of the area can be jointly agreed on. A
land use and occupancy mapping of the Sámi Land Use in accordance with
international standards should be enacted to document the historical and
contemporary land and water rights of the Sámi.
For further information, please contact…
On the Sámi statements, President of the Finnish Section of the Saami Council, Jouni Lukkari at email@example.com
On the scientific implications of the Forestry Act in the Sámi Home Area Ph D Tero Mustonen at firstname.lastname@example.org