The long-lasting dispute was finally resolved today, when the Finnish Government's forest enterprise Metsahallitus agreed to a deal that will preserve almost 80% of 107,000 hectares of reindeer grazing forests, mostly old growth, either permanently, or for the next 20 years.
"Greenpeace, reindeer herders and Saami organisations carried out a historical joint campaign, and industrial logging has now been pushed out of the most important forest areas in Finland," said Matti Liimatainen Greenpeace Nordic forest campaigner. "Reindeer herding is an important employer in the Saami's homeland. Protecting the forests not only helps the Saami protect their livelihood, but also prevents the loss of biodiversity and animals, insects and fungi that have disappeared with other European forest ecosystems."
"We are very satisfied with the result," added Liimatainen.
Due to their capacity as carbon storehouses and sinks, intact Boreal forests play a critically important role in mitigating global climate change. Greenpeace and the Saami started the joint campaign for reindeer grazing forests in 2002, and the last eight years have seen intensive campaigning for the northernmost pine forests in the world. Protests and demonstrations have been held in Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, leading customers of the Finnish paper industry around Europe to demand a solution to the dispute.
Saami reindeer herders also launched court cases against logging in Finland, resulting in the UN Human Rights Committee ordering the Finnish State to stop logging in some of the disputed areas.
Logging in the disputed areas was halted in 2006 when the Finnish paper company StoraEnso decided to stop buying wood from disputed areas in response to the campaign. Today's announcement solidifies this initial step with permanent or long-term protection of these important forests.
"We are happy as the agreement puts an end to a long period of uncertainty, during which reindeer herding always had to give way for industrial logging," said Jouni Lukkari, chairman of the Hammastunturi reindeer herding co-operative and member of the Saami Council. "However, there are still threats to the forest including mining and holiday resort construction plans on the protected shorelines of Inari lake."