Saami/Metsähallitus Forest Conflict, Inari, Finland


The northernmost part of Finland is the home of the indigenous Saami people. The land on which the Saami people live and carry out traditional reindeer herding practices is mainly owned by the Finnish state. One of the main industries in Finland is forestry and paper production (according to a report from Greenpeace: 'Only about 0,5% of the world's forests are in Finland, but the country produces a fourth of world's printing papers, relying on domestic wood for 75% of the production' (1, p. 4)), an industry that impacts the Saami people as extensive logging takes place in areas used by the Saami as reindeer pastures, interfering with pasture cycles and making pasture land more and more scattered. Despite extensive national and international legislation around the rights of Saami people, the Finnish state, with state-owned forest enterprise Metsähallitus, fails to include Saami rights in forestry practices. (1) In 2002 the Saami people of Finland together with international EJO Greenpeace started a cooperative effort to protect an area of 107,000 ha of old-growth forest in northern Finland. (2) The old-growth forest is not only crucial to Saami reindeer practices but is also highly biodiverse, with many red listed species, and contains slow-growing pine trees that are several hundred years old. (3, 4) An eight year long process began during which large protests in several European countries (Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland) took place, a lawsuit against Metsähallitus by Saami people from Nellim was filed (settled temporarily in 2005 by the UN Human Rights Committee through a logging moratorium) and a response from industry key player StoraEnso (Finnish/Swedish paper company) was seen through a company decision to stop buying wood from disputed areas. (1, 5) In 2010, Greenpeace and the Saami people could victoriously announce that the Finnish state had agreed to protect approximately 80,000 ha of productive forest land, consisting mostly of unlogged old-growth forest, that would be set aside from forestry either permanently or for the next 20 years. (4, 3, 2)

Basic Data
NameSaami/Metsähallitus Forest Conflict, Inari, Finland
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific CommoditiesLand

Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsOne of the main industries in Finland is forestry and paper production (according to a report from Greenpeace: 'Only about 0,5% of the world's forests are in Finland, but the country produces a fourth of world's printing papers, relying on domestic wood for 75% of the production' (1, p. 4) In 2002, Greenpeace together with Saami people mapped an area of 107,000 ha of forest that they claimed should be excluded from logging plans. In the end, approximately 80,000 ha of this land was set aside by the Finnish state.

Project Area (in hectares)80
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2002
Company Names or State EnterprisesMetsähallitus
Stora Enso from Sweden
Relevant government actorsMetsähallitus
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGreenpeace (
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Authors concerned with where the paper for their publications were sourced from visited the forests; several hundred scientists all over Finland signing a document saying that the old-growth forests need protection.
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseInstitutional changes
Land demarcation
Negotiated alternative solution
Project cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The Saami people together with Greenpeace were, after an eight year long struggle with extensive campaigning, successful in the attempt to protect a large area of highly biodiverse old-growth forest crucial to the survival of Saami people practices and livelihood.
Sources and Materials

Reindeer Husbandry Act
[click to view]

ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (Finland has not ratified the convention)
[click to view]


[click to view]

(2) Gáldu, 2010, Campaign for Northern Forests by Indigenous Sami Ended Successfully in Finland,
[click to view]

(5)Backman, Hanna, 2008, The last remaining ancient forests in Europe are being logged by Finnish state-owned enterprise Metsähallitus. Behind the logging are two of the largest forestry companies in the world., Ethical Consumer, Issue 112, May/June 2008,
[click to view]

forest rights of Sámi reindeer herders,
[click to view]

(3)Walsh, Dave, 2010, Finnish Forest Rescued!,
[click to view]

(4)Greenpeace, 2010, 80,000 Hectares of Finnish Forest Protected in Landmark deal,
[click to view]

(1) Greenpeace, 2008, OUT OF CONTROL –

Greenpeace, 2005, Lapland: State of Conflict

How the Finnish government is abusing the

Meta Information
ContributorLinda Dubec
Last update08/04/2014