Finland forest sell-off has risks

This year the government will begin selling off almost 20,000 hectares of forest to raise 25 million euros.

But one regional director from the forestry administration warns that the move risks damaging long-term income, as well as harming local hunting interests.

A regional director in Finland’s forestry administration Metsähallitus has criticised the government’s plan to sell off 20,000 hectares of forest, warning that the move risks killing off a longer term source of income.

This March the coalition took the decision to sell off an exceptionally high amount of state-owned forest within the next two years, to raise 25 million euros for the government.

Finland’s forestry administration is also selling off summer cottages in the move.

”The sales will be focused on southern Finland, where the land value is high, Metsähallitus regional director Markku Vainio told Yle.

Around 2,000 hectares will be sold in North Karelia this year. The transfer of ownership could have repercussions for hunting in the area, as hunting clubs rent the land from the government. It will be up to the new owner of the land to decide whether to continue with the rental agreement.

”Some of the land is licenced for hunting, so of course the sale will reduce the amount of land available for this type of hunting,” Vainio said, adding that the sale will have far-reaching consequences.

”In future the government probably won’t get such good returns from forestry operations, so there’ll be a negative impact to come. It’s not a good idea to kill off a cash cow. The situation is that the state wants income from selling off its assets, but it’s not essential,” he said.

The government has also drafted a law to incorporate the administration’s forestry industry arm as a private company. However, Vainio says the move is facing opposition from some quarters.

“The current model works very well and it has received praise from many quarters. If the situation doesn’t demand it, it does not seem sensible to change. There is a certain pressure, mainly coming from the EU, to portion off state bodies into private companies, but there’s also disagreement about whether this pressure justifies incorporating the industry arm into a separate company,” he said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Fighting to protect bird habitat in North America’s boreal forest, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Investment in forestry returning to pre-crash levels in Finland, Yle News

Russia:  Counting elusive Finnish forest reindeer in Russian Karelia, Yle News

Sweden: Farming, forestry and climate change in Sweden, Radio Sweden


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