Increasing forest resources in Europe provide opportunities for the diverse use of forests

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About 90% of Finnish forests are used diversely; wood production, recreation, gathering berries and many other activities take place side by side in them. Everyman’s rights and extensive private forest ownership safeguard the diverse use of forests. Sustainable and diverse use of forests ensures the availability of renewable raw materials to supply industry, the viability of regional economies and the preservation of the biodiversity of the forest environment.

Forests cover over one third of Europe’s land area. Europe differs from other continents in that here forest resources are growing; although almost all forests are in commercial use, forested areas keep on expanding.

Finland is the most forested country in Europe: three quarters of the land area is covered by forests. The production volumes of the forest industry have increased manifold over 50 years, while forest resources have increased by more than a third over the same period. Annual growth in Finnish forests (97 mil. m3) exceeds the drain (70 mil. m3), which means that our country’s forest reserves are growing constantly. Increased growth is the result of sustainable forest management.

Majority of Finnish forests privately owned

Over half of Finnish forests are owned by private citizens. One in five Finnish families owns some forest. A large number of private owners is in itself a safeguard of the diverse use of forests as owners use their forests most suitable to their individual goals.

The State owns about a quarter of Finland’s forests. The use of state forests is planned in cooperation with citizens and other interest groups. The forest industry owns only 9% of Finland’s total forest area.

Diversely used forests a foundation for prosperity

Diverse use of forests takes into consideration economic, ecological and social sustainability. About 90% of Finnish forests are in multiple use. Felling is carried out in only two percent of commercial forests annually, and Finnish forest growth has consistently exceeded drain since the 1970s. Finland’s strict forest legislation steers the use of forests and places an obligation to, for example, regenerate forests.

In Finland, forests are of great significance to both individual citizens and the entire national economy. The forest industry accounts for about a fifth of our nation’s industrial output and a quarter of export income. Use of forests creates prosperity in rural areas and helps maintain infrastructure also in remote regions.

Products made from wood are recyclable, environment-friendly and can be utilised as energy at the end of their life cycle. In addition, wood and wood products can curtail climate change. Growing wood material binds atmospheric carbon dioxide and wood products act as a carbon sink for the entire duration of their service life.

Everyman’s rights a Finnish speciality

Everyman’s rights guarantee all Finnish and EU citizens access to Finland’s forests, in which they may pick berries and collect mushrooms, no matter who owns the land. For Finns, forests are an important place for relaxation and recreation.

Three out of four Finns are involved with a forest-linked hobby and two out of three get outdoor exercise in natural surroundings every week. Hunting is a common pastime in Finland: our country has 300,000 hunters. Every second Finn lives about a kilometre away from locations in which berries and mushrooms grow. The important role forests play in Finnish society is strongly evident also in our arts, such as painting and music.

Finnish forest conservation exemplary

According to the EU-funded COST E4 research project, Finland has the strictest forest conservation definitions and practices in Europe. 7.6% of our forest areas are under strict conservation; this is equal to over half of Belgium’s land area.

Natural management of commercial forests plays a key role in the conservation of forest biodiversity. Legislation, i.e. the Nature Conservation Act and the Forest Act, safeguards the natural values of commercial forests. Voluntary conservation measures by forest owners are also important to the protection of the biodiversity in commercial forests. For example, forest owners voluntarily preserve ecologically valuable natural forest habitats and leave retention trees in cutting areas.