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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

Name of conflict:Saami/Metsähallitus Forest Conflict, Inari, Finland
State or province:Inari
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 commodities:Land

Live Animals

Project Details and Actors

Project details

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) 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:80,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2002
Company names or state enterprises:Metsähallitus
Stora Enso from Sweden
Relevant government actors:Metsähallitus
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace (

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous 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 mobilization:Creation 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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Land demarcation
Negotiated alternative solution
Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain: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 & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (Finland has not ratified the convention)

Reindeer Husbandry Act

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

How the Finnish government is abusing the

(3)Walsh, Dave, 2010, Finnish Forest Rescued!,

(1) Greenpeace, 2008, OUT OF CONTROL –

forest rights of Sámi reindeer herders,

(4)Greenpeace, 2010, 80,000 Hectares of Finnish Forest Protected in Landmark deal,

Greenpeace, 2005, Lapland: State of Conflict

(2) Gáldu, 2010, Campaign for Northern Forests by Indigenous Sami Ended Successfully in Finland,


(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,

Meta information

Contributor:Linda Dubec
Last update03/11/2019



Source: The Barents Observer