Greenpeace takes to Sami reindeer forests
Inari, Lapland/Amsterdam 02 March 2004: Greenpeace today announced that it would be stepping up its campaign to protect remaining ancient forests in Finland by establishing a Forest Rescue Station in the last Sámi reindeer forests of Arctic Lapland. This follows the Finnish government's decision to start new logging operations in important winter grazing pine forests, in defiance of urgent recommendations issued by the UN Human Rights Committee (1).
The Forest Rescue Station will act as a forward operating base from which to monitor logging operations and assist the Sámi reindeer herding cooperatives in mapping and demarcating important areas of forests. Activists will be living in a combination of insulated modular containers and traditional Sámi tents.
"In the face of international human rights scrutiny, the Finnish government has chosen to take the business as usual approach," said Matti Liimatainen Greenpeace forest campaigner. "As long as the government continues to log the last Sámi reindeer forests, Greenpeace will be active in these areas until they recognise their importance and stop their destruction."
In northern Lapland, many Sámi indigenous peoples still practice traditional reindeer herding, relying on remaining old-growth forests to provide vital food for their reindeer during the cold winter months. The Sámi reindeer herders have been fighting alone for their livelihood and have been calling on the government to protect important areas of reindeer forests from industrial logging. The Finnish government has always prioritised other forms of land uses other than reindeer herding. The reindeer forests have been reduced piece by piece the government's own logging company, Metsähallitus, which carries out most of the logging in Lapland.
About 70 percent of the wood logged by Metsähallitus in Sámi areas is sold for pulp and paper production (2). The Finnish paper giant, StoraEnso buys most of the wood originating from destruction of reindeer grazing forests, which finally ends up being sold to the European consumer as magazines, copy paper, and envelopes.
"Sadly we are fast approaching the point of no return. Metsähallitus are on the verge of logging some of the last tracts of old-growth forest containing horsetail lichen, vital for winter grazing of reindeer," said Liimatainen . "What's insane is that Sámi's reindeer herding livelihood is being pulped to make cheap magazines, copy paper, envelopes and even disposable tissue paper."
A coalition of reindeer herding cooperatives have recently sent a letter to the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture calling on the Finnish government to agree to a moratorium in the important reindeer forests that have been mapped (3). Greenpeace and other Finnish environmental groups are supporting these demands and have written to the government urging them to take immediate action.
Notes to Editor:
1. UN Human Rights Committee (November 2004):
"....regrets that it has not received a clear answer
concerning the rights of the Sámi as an indigenous people
(Constitution, sect. 17, subsect. 3), in the light of
article 1 of the Covenant. It reiterates its concern over
the failure to settle the question of Sámi rights to land
ownership and the various public and private uses of land
that affect the Sámi 's traditional means of subsistence -
in particular reindeer breeding - thus endangering their
traditional culture and way of life, and hence their
• "The State party should, in conjunction with the Sámi people, swiftly take decisive action to arrive at an appropriate solution to the land dispute with due regard for the need to preserve the Sámi identity in accordance with article 27 of the Covenant. Meanwhile it is requested to refrain from any action that might adversely prejudice settlement of the issue of Sámi land rights. "
2. Greenpeace tracked pulp logs from two of Metsähallitus's recent logging operations in northern Lapland to StoraEnso's pulp mill Kemijärvi: This mill supplies StoraEnso's Veitsiluoto paper mill, which manufactures envelopes, magazine and copy paper. Kemijärvi also exports pulp to European paper mills, including those that produce copy paper, magazines and disposable tissue paper.
3. The reindeer herding cooperatives from Inari and Nellim sub-group sent the letter to the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture on 16th January 2005. An English translation is available on request.