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Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Robert Dunbar
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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous
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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human
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State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Campaign for Northern Forests by Indigenous Sami Ended Successfully in Finland
​ANAR, Finland -- Sami reindeer herders and Finnish governmental forest enterprise Metsähallitus have agreed on a deal concerning the long-lasting dispute on reindeer grazing forests in northenmost Finland.

Almost 80 per cent of the forests defined as important by reindeer herders and Greenpeace in 2002 have now been set outside of forestry either permanently or for the next 20 years. This is the result of recent negotiations and earlier protection decisions since 2006.

Greenpeace and reindeer herders started their joint campaign for reindeer grazing forests in 2002. Last eight years saw intensive campaigning for these northernmost pine forests in the world, located 300 kilometres North of Arctic Circle in the Homeland of indigenous Sami people.

Protests and demonstrations were held in Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. Customers of the Finnish paper industry around Europe have demanded a solution to the dispute.

Sami reindeer herders launched court cases against logging in Finland and the UN Human Rights Committee ordered the Finnish State to stop logging in some of the disputed areas.

For several years, the Finnish government was unwilling to seek resolution to the conflict.  However, logging in the disputed areas was brought to a halt in 2006 when Finnish paper company StoraEnso responded to the campaign and decided to stop buying wood from the disputed areas.

First decisions setting some of the disputed areas aside were made by Metsähallitus in 2003 and 2006. Thorough negotiations between the reindeer herders and Metsähallitus started in 2009 in the area of Nellim where reindeer herders had started a court case against Metsähallitus. An agreement was reached in 2009, protecting most of the old-growth forests in the area. Negotiations with rest of the reindeer herding co-operatives started in 2010, the results of which were released today.

"Greenpeace, reindeer herders and Sami organisations carried out a historical joint campaign. Industrial logging has now been pushed back from the most important forest areas either forever or partially for the next 20 years. The appreciation of reindeer herding and value of intact old-growth forests will only increase in the future. We do not believe that after 20 years the slow-growing fragile forests in the far North are threatened by industrial logging anymore. We are satisfied with the result", says Greenpeace Nordic forest campaigner Matti Liimatainen.

"Persistent co-operation by Greenpeace, reindeer herders and Saami Council gave a good result in the end. We are happy because the agreement puts an end to a long period of uncertainty, during which reindeer herding always had to give way for industrial logging. However, there are still threats such as mining and construction plans of holiday resorts on the protected shorelines of Inari lake", says chairman of the Hammastunturi reindeer herding co-operative and member of the Saami Council, Mr. Jouni Lukkari.

Areas mapped in 2003 by reindeer herders and Greenpeace consisted of 107,000 hectares of productive forest land. Approximately 80 000 hectares of these have now been permanently protected or set outside of forestry for the next 20 years. Most of these forests are previously unlogged old-growth forests. Thousands of hectares of non-productive forest land and scrub land, mires and fjells attached to these forests increase the size of the protected areas. About 25 000 hectares of productive forest land was left for commercial forestry use. Most of these are previously logged areas.

Source: Greenpeace

Updated 11.12.2010
Published by: Magne Ove Varsi