Ensuring a viable Sámi culture

Metsähallitus has operations in the Sámi Homeland, which comprises the municipalities of Enontekiö, Inari and Utsjoki as well as the Lapland reindeer herding cooperative in the municipality of Sodankylä. Metsähallitus works to ensure that the care, use and protection of the natural resources under its management are in accordance with the prerequisites for the Sámi culture in the area.

Metsähallitus works to safeguard the right of the Sámi people to maintain and develop their own language and culture through agreements and negotiating procedures and by supporting Sámi-language communications and cultural projects.

Under the new act on Metsähallitus, consultative committees have been established in the municipalities of the Sámi Homeland. They deal with the sustainable use and management of state-owned land and water areas and their natural resources. As laid down in section 9 of the Act on the Sámi Parliament, Metsähallitus consults the Sámi Parliament on all far-reaching and important measures which may directly and in a specific way affect the status of the Sámi as an indigenous people.

Important events in the Sámi Homeland in 2017

  • A special area plan was prepared for the Juutua-Tuulispää recreational forest in cooperation with local users and the Akwé: Kon working group appointed by the Sámi Parliament.
  • Leasing of land for a water bottling plant at Sulaoja was considered by Metsähallitus. After reviewing the opinions requested on the matter and holding a public hearing at Karigasniemi in the municipality of Utsjoki, Metsähallitus decided not to lease out the site. At the end of 2017, the operator submitted a new permit application for the bottling plant at a different site. The review of the opinions requested for this application is still pending.
  • The new Fishing Act had an impact on the fishing opportunities of local residents in Northern Lapland and it increased the workload of Metsähallitus in the region.
  • In accordance with the management plan for the water bodies in the Skolt area, Metsähallitus launched a review of the targeted state for local fishing in the Näätämöjoki river.
  • The management plan and the new regulations for the Urho Kekkonen National Park were approved.
  • A local-level working group was established to seek solutions aimed at securing the coexistence of nature values and reindeer grazing at Malla.
  • The planning for the extension and the new exhibition at the Northern Lapland Nature Centre Siida, which also houses the Sámi Museum, was started during the year.
  • Renovations were carried out at Suomujoki and Oskarinkoski Skolt homestead in the Urho Kekkonen National Park. The sites are protected and included in the state-owned real property with cultural history value.
  • Service infrastructure in the gold history area and protected buildings at Kultala on the shores of Morgamoja river were renovated as part of the Lemmenjoki gold route project.
  • Growth in tourism boosted the demand for plots managed by Metsähallitus Property Development.
  • The land use plan for Rahajärvi in Inari was approved and all seven plots in the area were sold or leased out.


Support for the use of Sámi language

Sámi speakers have the right to use their mother tongue at official Metsähallitus meetings where interpretation into the Northern Sámi is provided if necessary. Metsähallitus also provides support for its employees studying the Sámi language. A growing proportion of Metsähallitus communications material, signposts, permits and agreements is also available in the Sámi languages. There are descriptions of national parks and other hiking destinations maintained by Metsähallitus at the Nationalparks.fi (Lundui.fi) website in Northern Sámi, Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi. Metsähallitus also maintains the Sámi-language Sámi meahcit ja luondu Facebook page for which the material is produced by Sámi-speaking employees of Metsähallitus. Most of the content is in Northern Sámi and Inari Sámi.

Akwé: Kon guidelines provide a basis for participation

Metsähallitus has started using the voluntary Akwé: Kon procedure as the first land use authority in the world. The procedure is based on Article 8(j) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which concerns the respect for the knowledge and practices of indigenous communities.

In Finland, the Sámi Parliament and Metsähallitus have jointly prepared a model for applying the Akwé: Kon principles. The voluntary Akwé: Kon guidelines are used in all management plans for nature reserves and wilderness areas in the Sámi Homeland. The purpose of the procedure is to safeguard the participation of Sámi communities in projects and plans. In 2017, Metsähallitus and the Sámi Parliament launched a process to update the guidelines.

Forestry in the Sámi Homeland

About 90 per cent (2.56 million hectares) of the area of the Sámi Homeland is managed by Metsähallitus and nature reserves and wilderness areas managed by Parks & Wildlife Finland account for 69 per cent of this total. A total of 20 per cent of the land is managed by Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd and 10 per cent of its land is in commercial use and the rest is excluded from it. A traditional livelihood area managed by Metsähallitus Property Development accounts for 11 per cent of the Sámi Homeland.

The forest management methods applied in the Sámi Homeland have been jointly determined with the Sámi Parliament and the Skolt Village Meetings. Only intermediate, selective and seed tree felling are used and no clear cuttings are carried out. Differently structured forest management models maintaining forest cover are extensively used (selection felling and planting in small clearings).

The most important reindeer grazing areas and the annual cycle of reindeer husbandry are taken into consideration in the planning. Measures aimed at ensuring the coexistence of forestry and reindeer husbandry have been jointly agreed between Metsähallitus, the Sámi Parliament, Skolt Village Meetings, and the reindeer herding cooperatives in the Sámi Homeland. It has also been agreed with the reindeer herding cooperatives in the Inari area that the most important grazing areas will be excluded from forestry measures for 20 years.

All timber harvesting, land development, road construction and hiking trail plans are sent to the chairmen of the local reindeer herding cooperatives for review so that the cooperatives can have a say in the planning process. No fellings have been carried out in the Sámi Homeland if the chairmen of the local reindeer herding cooperatives have been against them and no agreement has been reached in the negotiations on the matter.

Photo: Kaisa Sirén