Finland pilots landscape forestry plan in Muonio, Finnish Lapland, to resolve logging dispute; parties including state-owned forestry company Metsähallitus sign land-use agreement allowing commercial operations on 8,700 acres with conditions

HELSINKI , April 1, 2014 (press release) – Disputes on the state-owned forests are resolved in the municipality of Muonio in Finnish Lapland. In the future, the disputed area will be used to pilot landscape forestry.

All the parties in the dispute over loggings in northern Muonio are signatories to the new agreement: the state-owned forestry company Metsähallitus, Muonio municipality, local tourism and other enterprises, forest conservationists, reindeer herders, village associations and the Regional Council of Lapland as the body responsible for regional land use planning. The agreement was negotiated in connection with work on the regional land use plan and is unanimous.

According to the agreement, a total of 8,700 hectares in the northern part of Muonio will remain in commercial use. However, only special loggings will be permitted, which will maintain a continuous forest cover. They may be carried out only during wintertime.

In practice, the logging methods permitted in the area are methods that were introduced in Finland’s new Forest Act; that is, selective loggings and small-scale clearcuts, which uphold a continuous forest cover.

In addition to this, the area of protected forests will be increased by 2,030 hectares in the north-eastern corner of the area.

The agreement will remain in force until 2040

The dispute was already resolved once, in February 2007. The settlement was preceded by somewhat odd claims in the media, for example. Among other things, unfounded claims of planned clearcuttings of several thousands of hectares were made. In actual fact, very small loggings had been planned, and no clearcuttings at all.

A part of the area under dispute was totally excluded from logging for ten years in 2007, including the Mustavaara area where the dispute first flared up. The tourism enterprises committed to compensate Metsähallitus for the logging ban, but the size of the compensation was never revealed.

The forestry practices allowed in the rest of the disputed area were to be settled in connection with normal regional land use planning. New regional plan was introduced in 2012 and there was an obligation to create a new land use plan for the area in the plan.

The land use plan was to be prepared in cooperation with the municipality and Metsähallitus and it was to cover all land use, land use development and principles of forestry in the area.

The new agreement of last Friday was born in a local subgroup specifying the guidelines of the regional plan. As a result, the existing agreement will be superseded. The new agreement will remain in force until 2040.

Landscape loggings are seen as tourist attraction

On the basis of the new agreement, Metsähallitus is now able to start special loggings in the Mustavaara area, for example. The first loggings will take place already next winter on sites that are commonly agreed.

This pilot area for landscape forestry is the first one of its kind in the whole of Finland. Applying selective loggings, small-scale clearcuts and thinnings will result in diversivied age structure of the forest and large diameter stouts.

Opening of landscapes by logging is possible on special sites. Tourism enterprises are planning to bring tourists to see the loggings sites of this kind.

Economic benefit for all livelihoods in the region has been set as a target. Hiking and other trails needed for tourism will be developed in cooperation with tourism enterprises.

The land use plan will be published in April 2014. A local working group to monitor the implementation of the plan will be set up. Its tasks will include harmonising the different purposes of use of the land, as well as presenting the local opinion on landscape planning in the area.

All forestry activities will be presented for the group beforehand. The group has power to influence all logging and forestry plans in the region.

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