30 March 2016. By Tero Mustonen and Hal Rhoades.
Despite fierce opposition from a large part of the Finnish public, all Sámi reindeer herding cooperatives, the Snowchange Cooperative and a large international coalition of groups, this afternoon Finland’s much criticised new Forestry Act passed in the Finnish Parliament.
The Act transfers power over Sub-Arctic and North Boreal areas of Finland region further into the hands of state authorities. It opens up 2.2 million hectares of water systems and 360,000 hectares of land, mostly in the Sámi Home Area, to economic uses such as railway construction, and the potential expansion of mining, forestry and other industries.
In today’s vote 108 of Finland’s 200 MPs voted for the Act, 64 against, and 3 abstained from the vote. The new Act will take effect when signed by President Sauli
Niinistö. This is expected to happen on 15th April, 2016.
Speaking after the vote, Tero Mustonen, a scientist from the Snowchange Cooperative said that the Finnish Parliament’s decision to pass the new Act represents “a dark hour for Finland, for the Arctic and for climate change.”
“The forests this newly passed law will now condemn to clear cuts act as crucial carbon sinks for the world, in addition to being crucial for the Sámi. 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. The Forestry Act in its current form will cause severe negative impacts to Sámi society as we know it,” says Mustonen.
In the wake of the Finnish Parliament’s decision, the Snowchange Cooperative and Sámi groups thanked the international supporters who have acted in solidarity with them and promised to fight on.
“We will be contemplating next steps with the Sámi Council and other Sámi
actors over the coming days to find ways to stop this land grab, one of the largest in European history, against Indigenous peoples and nature”, said Mustonen.