Inari is located in northernmost Lapland and it is the biggest commune in Finland. The forests of Inari have had a shorter and much less intensive use history compared with other forests in Southern Finland. Vast areas in Inari are very low productive pine and subalpine birch forests with scrublands where there has never been much pressure from the commercial forestry.
The ancient pine forests of Inari are seen as a national heritage in Finland. The old-growth forests of Inari are indeed the essential resource for almost all the livelihoods there. Tourism and reindeer herding; the two big employers in Inari are directly dependent on the old forests. The most productive lowland forests have been more intensively commercially logged since the 1920’s. Since the 1950’s also large-scale clear-cuts took place in Southern Inari north from Urho Kekkonen NP. Huge area in SE Inari is practically a one huge young pine plantation after large clear-cuts done mostly in the 60′s and 70′s.
Nowadays forestry in Inari is mainly based on smaller-scale selective loggings and more labour-intensive work without harvesters. However, all the logging operations in the remaining old-growth forests are severely harming the other livelihoods and the fragile northern nature. In many areas all the new loggings directly weaken the possibilities for reindeer husbandry. Changes in the nature by forestry have also caused unnecessary tensions and conflicts between the people in Inari.
The ancient trees, very often more than 400 years of age have mainly been used for very basic products: pulp, bio-energy and railway sleepers. With wiser use of the unique, extra hard and durable old pine material it would be well possible to make more profit and create more jobs without destroying the forests.
There are several large, famous protected areas in Inari; Urho Kekkonen and Lemmenjoki National Parks, Hammastunturi, Vätsäri and Muotkatunturi Wilderness areas being the biggest. These are beautiful and important areas but they consist however mostly of scrubland and bare subalpine hills together with low-productive forests. The most productive forest lands in Inari are in fact very poorly protected (and to large extent already exploited).
This map shows many of the unprotected High Conservation Value Forest areas in Inari. If you click on the red pins you get a link to an album with pictures from the area. Download the whole NordicForests.org Map for Google Earth here .
Based on studies made by Metsähallitus and Finnish environmental NGOs there are about 35.000 hectares of state-owned unprotected old-growth forests in Inari (of which around 10 000 hectares are already voluntary set-asides at the moment). Many of these areas are situated next to present protected areas and some are scattered around the municipality in smaller patches. Protecting these areas would benefit all in Inari and make a big difference in Finnish biodiversity protection work. Scandinavian countries have also a big international responsibility to preserve this type of very slowly growing dry old-growth pine forests.
The current Natural Resource Plan (NRP) in Inari has lowered the logging volumes substantially. Therfore protecting all the remaining old-growth forests would be most possible! It still would be possible to have “normal” forestry in the vast secondary forests and fragmented areas in Inari. Most of old-growth forests in Inari are owned by the Finnish State and managed by the State forest company Metsähallitus (some thousands of hectares are owned by Inari Forest Common and other private owners). Metsähallitus has been reluctant to make new protection decisions because of the aggressive resistance of some of the forestry people in Inari. There are now better possibilities than ever to make the right decision and protect what is left.
In 2005 three Sámi reindeer herders in Nellim area, southeast from lake Inari made a lawsuit to UN Human Rights Committee against Metsähallitus. They claimed the loggings were making it impossible for them to continue free grazing reindeer herding in the area.
As a result of the legal process and the international attention to the situation a temporary agreement of halting the old-growth forest loggings in Nellim was made in 2009. According to the agreement with Metsähallitus and the Paadar brothers, who raised the lawsuit, most of the old-growth forests in Nellim area will not be logged now in 20 years. The future of the forests is not clear yet but at least the agreement gives the forests a bit more time and hopefully a permanent protection programme will be carried out during the 20 years.
Photo galleries of unprotected forests in Inari: picasaweb.google.com/inariforests
All the Finland’s 4 large Intact Forest Landscapes are situated at least partly in Inari. All of them have unprotected parts and are in danger of getting smaller because of the loggings. intactforests.org
Greenpeace Finland’s webpages about Inari and the actions in 2005: weblog.greenpeace.org/forestrescue
A documentary film about the situation in Inari by Hannu Hyvönen: elonmerkki.net