STOP land grabbing threath in the last old growth forests of Finnish Lapland and the Sámi home area

21st March, 20162016-03-21 10_52_08-[Fwd_ Urgent letter from the Saami leadership] - emma.courtine@gmail.com - Gmail

To Whom It May Concern:

The State Forest Agency “Metsähallitus” About to Seize
Total Control of
Sámi Indigenous Key Old Growth Forests For Economic Uses If New Law Passes
in Finland: Moratorium Is Needed At
Once

An unprecendented land grab threathens the last old growth forests of
Finnish Lapland and the Sámi home area if the new Forestry Act legislation
passes in the Finnish Parliament next week. Both Indigenous Sámi leaders
and Arctic scientists are concerned about the proposed new reforms. All of
the Sámi reindeer herding cooperatives oppose this law. 130,000 people
have petitioned the parliament to stop this Forestry Act in its current
form.

This crisis happens in a context where the previous government failed to
ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now the
current government in Finland is moving fast to completely wreck the
existing rights of the only Indigenous people of EU. Sámi areas, including
large tracts of north boreal old growth forests will be opened to a range
of economic uses. Territory being affected includes hundreds of thousands
of hectares of the Sub-Arctic and North Boreal areas of Finland. It
constitutes the last preserved wilderness of Europe. Future new threats
include for example construction of railroads and other large-scale
infrastructure projects in addition to forestry impacts.

The new imminent Forestry Act no longer requires Metsähallitus, the
state-run enterprise which controls these areas, to clarify to the Sámi
Parliament and the Skolt Sámi Village Council what impact the land
management shakeup would have on indigenous people’s lives. Preparation of
this Act has not reflected Free, Prior and Informed Consent – FPIC.

There is an urgent need to ensure that Metsähallitus does not undermine
present or future opportunities to practice and foster Sámi culture. The
new Act needs to include clauses that provide a protective zone and
mechanisms to the Sámi. These are missing from the existing legal
proposal. In Sámi home area 90 percent of the land is owned by the state
via Metsähallitus.

President of the Finnish Section of the Saami Council , Jouni Lukkari says
that: ”Sámi reindeer herding and the Sámi way of life are in danger of
disappearing if the new Forestry Act legislation passes in the Finnish
Parliament. In this case we will have few opportunities to influence the
decision making over our lands. Rather, our territories will be controlled
by market economy values.”

Tero Mustonen, scientist from the Snowchange Cooperative , and one of the
Lead Authors of the governmental Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA) of
the Arctic Council, quotes the report on Indigenous knowledge: “Arctic
peoples have thrived in a harsh environment for millennia, in no small
part because they have acquired a great depth of knowledge about the land
and waters of their homelands and the species that live there, which
provide food, clothing and meaning to Arctic cultures. This traditional
ecological knowledge is increasingly recognized as an important source of
information for, among other things, understanding Arctic biodiversity and
developing effective strategies to conserve that biodiversity, including
indigenous ways of life.”

Furthermore, Mustonen says that: “In this period of rapid climate change
in the Arctic it is imperative that these northern ecosystems are
preserved intact – they are central to the Indigenous peoples’ survival
and a source of their knowledge in this new reality. Forestry Act in its
current form would cause severe, negative impacts to the Sámi society as
we know it.”

Therefore there is an urgent need to stop the current form of Forestry Act
from proceeding further. However, should the Act to proceed in the Finnish
Parliament next week, the Sámi demand a full moratorium on all state
forestry and infrastructure actions inside the Sámi Home Area until such a
time that the Indigenous rights of the area can be jointly agreed on. A
land use and occupancy mapping of the Sámi Land Use in accordance with
international standards should be enacted to document the historical and
contemporary land and water rights of the Sámi.

For further information, please contact on the Sámi statements President
of the Finnish Section of the Saami Council, Jouni Lukkari at
jouni.lukkari@gmail.com and on the scientific implications of the Forestry
Act in the Sámi Home Area Ph D Tero Mustonen at tero@snowchange.org

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