Reindeer Herders and Metsähallitus Reach Agreement, Finland

August 29, 2009 • Philip BurgessBlog

(Source – Metsähallitus / NRK Sami Radio) Metsähallitus and three Sámi reindeer herders from Nellim in Finnish Lapland have settled their disagreement, formerly under review in various courts of law and the UN Human Rights Committee. An agreement between Metsähallitus and Kalevi, Eero and Veijo Paadar specifies which state-owned lands in Nellim are to be available for Metsähallitus’s forestry operations and which lands are to be excluded from forestry operations for the next 20 years. The agreement also terminates all lawsuits between the parties. The Reindeer Blog has been following this story in the past.

The agreement furthermore terminates the process underway at the UN Human Rights Committee, as the Paadars will withdraw their petition to the committee.

The lawsuits, initiated in 2005, were based on the Paadars’ view that Metsähallitus’s actions within reindeer pastures were significantly weakening the profitability of reindeer herding dependent on free grazing in the Nellim area. According to the Paadars’ claim, continued logging would put an end to communal reindeer herding in Nellim. On these grounds, the Paadars demanded a court decision to prohibit logging in specified winter pastures in the Nellim area. The key issue at stake in the disagreement was the availability of sufficient winter pasture. Metsähallitus deemed the claims unfounded.

The Lappi District Court dismissed the Paadars’ motion more than a year ago, after which the Paadars took their case to the Rovaniemi Court of Appeal.

As the parties have now settled their disagreement and the court of appeal confirms this agreement, the dispute will be terminated in all courts of law.

According to the agreement, Metsähallitus will, for a 20-year period, refrain from logging operations in forests where no previous forestry operations have been carried out. Timber felling and other forest management operations may continue as normal in forests which have undergone previous forestry operations, as specified in greater detail in the agreement.

The agreement applies to standard forestry operations. Cutting of timber and land use referred to in the Skolt Sámi Act is not restricted, nor activities such as fishing, hunting or off-road traffic.

Both parties view the agreement as a significant result. “We are very pleased that this agreement was reached, making it possible to continue traditional reindeer herding in Nellim. Herding reindeer is a way of life for us, and we can now happily return to that,” comments Kalevi Paadar.

“This agreement allows Metsähallitus to work freely without disturbance and guarantees continued forestry operations also in the Nellim area, aside from the specified restrictions. This is a good compromise,” says Forestry Manager Pertti Heikkuri of Metsähallitus.

For further information, contact
Juha Mäkinen, Director of Communications, Metsähallitus, mobile: +358 40 570 9307
Pertti Heikkuri, Forestry Manager, Metsähallitus Upper Lapland, mobile: +358 400 296 613
Kirsi-Marja Korhonen, Regional Director, Metsähallitus, mobile: +358 400 300861

On behalf of the Paadars:
Johanna Ojala, attorney, mobile: +358 400 879711

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