Forest Act

The purpose of the Forest Act is to promote the economically, ecologically and socially sustainable management and use of forests. The Forest Act sets the minimum requirements for the management and use of forests. Based on this, the forest owners can make detailed decisions on the treatment of forests according to their own objectives. Minimum requirements are set regarding e.g. wood harvesting, forest regeneration and preserving the biodiversity of forests.

Besides the Forest Act, provisions on the use of forests are laid down in the Government Decree on the Sustainable Management and Use of Forests and the Forest Damages Prevention Act. Environmental legislation, including the Nature Conservation Act, has impacts on the forestry sector as well.

Development of forest legislation

In the mid-19th century, the use of forests was so intensive that the authorities were worried about too much forests being destroyed. This led to a piece of advice that became the foundation of the Finnish forest legislation “forests shall not be obliterated”. The first Finnish Forest Act that contained all provisions concerning forests was adopted in 1886. The purpose of the Act was to promote the natural regeneration of forests, because at that time forest regeneration after clear felling was felt to be uncertain. Since then, the Forest Act and forest legislation have been developed in accordance with the needs of society.

The present Forest Act (1093/1996) entered into force in 1997. The most recent amendment to the content of the Act entered into force in the beginning of 2015. The reformed Forest Act increased the forest owners’ freedom of choice and responsibility in the use and management of forests considerably. The aim was to improve the profitability of forestry, make a positive impact on forest biodiversity in extensive areas, and motivate forest owners to good forest management in line with their own objectives. More efficient forestry measures than before are now accepted, together with less intensive methods, to make it possible to reconcile the benefits derived from forests with the other, diverse objectives of forest ownership.

An assessment of the impacts of the amendments to the Forest Act was completed in 2020, commissioned by the Natural Resources Institute Finland and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. According to the assessment, the objectives of the legislative amendment had been reached in many respects. For certain issues the impacts could not be observed or assessed after such a short period of time. Further analyses will be needed, in particular, on how successful the reformed Forest Act has been in terms of preserving biodiversity. 

Related topics

Forest legislation

Further information

Satu Rantala, Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Natural Resources Department, Unit for Forests and Bioenergy 0295162045  

Vilppu Talvitie, yksikön päällikkö, hallitusneuvos 
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Natural Resources Department, Unit for Legal Affairs 0295162417