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, Finnish forests were used so heavily that the authorities were concerned about deforestation. As a result, the Finnish forest legislation was based on the order “the forest must not be destroyed”. 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 current Forest Act (1093/1996) entered into force as amended in 2014. 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. The follow-up project assessed the success of safeguarding forest biodiversity. The climate impacts of the Forest Act were assessed in 2023.
Satu Rantala, Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Natural Resources Department, Unit for Forests and Bioenergy Telephone:0295162045
Vilppu Talvitie, yksikön päällikkö, hallitusneuvos
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Natural Resources Department, Unit for Legal Affairs Telephone:0295162417