Multiple use of forests

Legislation and everyman’s right guarantee multiple use.

Finnish forest legislation is based on the principle of sustainability, which has three equally valued elements: social, ecological and economic sustainability. In Finnish conditions in practise, multiple use means much the same as social sustainability of forestry and there are several ways to make this come true in the forests.

One of the most important is the wide-spread forest ownership in Finland: almost one eighth of the population owns forests. Also the rest of the population have free access into the forests, which is guaranteed by what are called everyman’s rights.

Finnish forest open daily – for everyone

Everyman’s right is established custom, which is also observed by courts of law in their decisions. Everyman’s right belongs literally to everyone – not only Finns, but also all visitors to Finland. Everyman’s rights allow everyone to move in forest and nature on foot, on skis, on bike or on horseback. Camping in nature is also allowed, as is the picking of natural flowers, berries and mushrooms.

These rights are valid in all Finnish forests, excluding certain areas under strict protection. In some of these everyman’s rights are valid to some extent, while in others they do not exist at all.

Everyman’s rights also include some restrictions.No damage or nuisance to the landowner or to nature is allowed. The use of a motor vehicle without permission from the landowner is prohibited. Similarly, making a fire without the landowner’s permission is prohibited. Naturally, the right to gather natural flowers, berries and mushrooms does not apply to protected plants – or to felling residues, for instance. Everyman’s rights, such as the right to camping, are not valid in the grounds or immediate vicinity of residential buildings, and it is not allowed to camp for long times.

Finland differs from many forestry countries in that Finns have strong respect for the sustainable use of forests also for the needs of forest industries. This is partly due to the everyman’s rights; on one hand forestry is practiced almost everywhere in the country, and on the other hand, everyman’s right gives everybody a chance to see the practices and make their own mind on the basis of experience.

And because of wide-spread forest ownership each and every Finn knows someone who either owns forest or works in forest sector.

Recreation in nearby forests

Everyman’s right guarantee that anyone can enter the forests owned by anyone or anybody. And this is exactly what Finns do: three out of four Finns have leisure pursuits related to forests, on the basis of everyman’s rights. Two out of three Finns visit forests weekly for physical exercise.

The average distance from residence to areas with berrying or mushrooming potential is four kilometres. Half of the Finns live only about one kilometre away from good berrying or mushrooming grounds.

There are 37 species of edible wild berries in Finland, 16 of which are picked for food. The annual volume of berries picked is about 40 million kilos, and 75 percent of this is picked for family use. Financially, the most important species are red whortleberry (lingonberry), bilberry and cloudberry.

About 200 of the of mushroom species growing in Finnish forests are edible. 23 mushroom species are approved for commercial use.

Most mushrooms picked for home use

The annual volume of edible mushrooms can reach some 360 million kilos in a good year, and three quarters of this is in such good condition that it could be picked.

However, only 5–9 million kilos of mushrooms are picked annually in general and almost all of this is consumed by households. Of all mushrooms picked, only about 0.5 million kilos are picked for commercial use. During an exceptionally good year of 2003, 13 million kilos of edible mushroom were picked.

The most popular outdoor pursuits of Finns are walking, swimming in natural waters, spending time at the summer cottage, picking berries, biking, fishing, boating, skiing, picking mushrooms and spending time on a beach.

Hunting is a very widespread pursuit in all social groups, because the right to hunt is linked with land ownership. There are 300,000 hunters in Finland, two thirds of whom go out hunting at least once a year. Many of the hunters are women.

Most of the 60 species of game in Finland live in forests. Financially the most important species of game is the elk.

Updated on the 8th of january, 2016.

Graphs related to multiple use of forests in