Forest ownership

Finnish forests are owned by Finns.

Private individuals and families own around 60 percent of forests in Finland. There are some 632,000 individual family forest owners in Finland, if all those who own forest holdings jointly and forest holdings larger than two hectares are included. This means that nearly 14 percent of Finns are forest owners.

The forests owned by families and individuals pass from one generation to the next through inheritance; this is why Finns generally use the term ‘family forestry’. The state owns 26 percent of the Finnish forests, private industries, such as forest industry companies nine and other bodies five percent of the productive forest land (classification of Finnish commercial forests, see here).

The state forests are mainly situated in the north of Finland, and 45 percent of them are under strict protection. State lands are managed by Metsähallitus.

There is no typical forest owner

A couple of decades ago, the typical Finnish family forest owner was a male farmer living in the country and with little formal education. Today it is no longer possible to define a typical forest owner. The factor with the greatest impact on the structure of the forest owner group is the ageing of the population, which means that the largest group among forest owners consists of pensioners.

The rapid urbanization of forest ownership is a subject of intensive speculation in Finland. Although the phenomenon is real, some 55 percent of forest owners still live in sparsely populated areas and only one fourth of them live in cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants. Roughly 40 percent of the forest owners still live on their holdings.

About on in fourth of the persons responsible for taking care of the forest holdings is a woman. The share of women among forest onwers increases slowly. The development can be totally explained by the fact that women live longer than men.

Finnish forest holdings are small

Typically, Finnish forest holdings are small. The number of holdings above two hectares is about 347,000. The average size of these holdings is 30.1 hectares. Only five percent of forest holdings have more than one hundred hectares of forest. The share of the largest, as well as the smallest forest holdings is increasing.

A forest holding often has several owners, which is why the number of forest owners is twice that of forest holdings. 12 percent of forest holdings are owned by the heirs to undistributed estates. Other types of collectives own 14 percent.

About half of the forest holdings have been acquired through inheritance. A private forest holding changes owners every 23 years, on an average.

The share of privately owned productive forestry land is larger than other owners’, since the forests owned by the state and partly also by the industry are mainly situated on lands of low productivity in east and north Finland. This is why the share of felling on private lands is clearly higher than their share of forest area, 80 percent.

You can find more information on forest ownership from the union of family forest owners, the MTK as well as from Metsähallitus.

Sources: Finnish Forest Research Institute, 2012, state-owned forestry company Metsähallitus, 2011.

Updated on the 8th of January, 2016.

Graphs related to forest ownership in