Finnish Parliament considers proposal for new forest act that aims to increase use of forest resources, reduce forest owners' obligations; forests minister expects legislation to be enacted in early 2014

Wendy Lisney

Wendy Lisney

Jun 14, 2013 – Finnish Forest Association

HELSINKI , June 13, 2013 (press release) – Proposal for new Forest Act was sent to the Finnish Parliament

The most important aim of the proposal is to increase the freedom of choice forest owners, says Mr. Jari Koskinen, the minister of forestry affairs in Finland.

Compared to the present Forest Act, there are less forestry obligations for the forest owner in the proposal. It is obligatory to create a new forest stand after a regeneration felling in the proposal as it is in the present act, too.

The new proposal is written in such a way that it adapts not only to even aged forestry, but to uneven aged, so called continuous cover silviculture, as well.

The proposal defines thinnings and small-scale clearcuts according to the amount of trees left standing after the felling. If the amount is too small, the felling is considered as regeneration felling. This, in turn, brings in the obligation to create a new forest stand.

There has been a lot of discussion in Finland about the proposal’s definition of new and stable forest stand. It says that the plants must be 40 centimetres high on average within 10–25 years from the felling, depending on the latitude.

Valuable habitat protection is in change
Valuable habitats of commercial forests are defined very carefully in the present Forest Act. Such is the case with the proposal as well. It is not allowed to change the typical features of these habitats. This means in practice that they are protected.

The proposal defines that these habitats should be ”small-scale”, which the present act does not. There has been criticism that this will diminish the habitats in time.

According to Mr. Jari Koskinen, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland, this fear is without grounds.”The basic idea is that the present conditions do not change. But the addition is necessary for the legal safety of the forest owner and forestry worker. Wordings of legal texts must be clear and accurate in order to know what is and what is not allowed in the forest,” says Koskinen.

The addition also makes the Forest Act more coherent with the Constitution.

Single tree fellings will be allowed on the habitats
The proposal also allows to make single tree fellings on the valuable habitats. This has created some criticism.

The argument here is that the nature changes, whatever we do. ”For example, say we want to safeguard the typical features of a small waterway. What can we do if its surroundings grow so much that the features actually change? In this case, safeguarding the typical features means single tree fellings,” says Koskinen.

But it still is forbidden to change the typical features. Within this framework, it is allowed to prepare the soil with manual hoes or plant or seed natural tree species or transport timber on the habitat.

The current definitions of valuable habitats have been in the Forest Act since 1997. ”We have gained some experience of them and the changes have been made on the basis of these experinces,” says Koskinen.

Competition in forest services is increasing
Koskinen is satisfied with the proposal. ”It is widely accepted in the society. We asked opinions from the society about the proposal and we got 50 of them. Most of them are positive,” says Koskinen.

”The best thing is that the proposal is created for today’s conditions. It gives the forest owner more freedom, and responsibility. These two have to walk hand in hand,” says Koskinen.

One aim of the proposal is to make it possible to increase the use of forest resources. ”We have a great deal of good resources without use in our forests. Frankly, we cannot afford this, looking at our economic situation,” says Koskinen.

One question is whether forest owners have enough skills to carry out this responsibility. Koskinen’s refers to the forest services that every forest owner is able to purchase.

There are many reasons to believe that competition in this field is increasing as well. It is also obvious that this, in turn, improves the quality of available services.

The present Forest Act says that it is not allowed to make regeneration felling until the forest is mature for it. This demand does not exist in the proposal.

According to Koskinen, this also is done to give the forest owner more alternatives. He does not believe that this leads to loggings of too young forests.

”I believe that this point would not change the forestry activities very much,” says Koskinen. Already now the most important reason for loggings, for example, is the forestry plan.

The aim is that the new Forest Act will be adopted in the Parliament during this year and that it will be in power from the beginning of 2014.

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