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State of Finland's Forests 2012: Criterion 3 Productive functions

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Tending of young forest is necessary to ensure future wood production. Harvested small-sized trees can be used for wood energy purposes.

Safeguarding wood production (B.4)

The basic requirement of sustainable forest management is to safeguard the continuity and profitability of wood production while taking into account the biological diversity of forests as well as other forest products and services. It is also important to safeguard the health and growth potential of forests as well as the infrastructure required for harvesting and management, such as the network of forest roads and their condition.



Wood production is governed and steered by the Forest Act, the Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry, the Act on Trade in Forest Reproductive Materials, the Forest Insect and Fungi Damage Prevention Act, the Act on the Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure and the Act on the Organisation of Water Management.

The Forest Act stipulates that after regeneration felling, a new economically viable seedling stand must be established in the area within a reasonable period of time. Thinnings must be made in such a way that a sufficient number of trees is left to the harvesting area to guarantee satisfactory growth potential. The Forest Act defines habitats of special importance to forest biodiversity, areas whose natural features must be conserved.

The Act on Trade in Forest Reproductive Materials ensures that the seeds and seedlings used in silviculture are of appropriate origin for the site, of good quality and healthy. The purpose of the Forest Insect and Fungi Damage Prevention Act is to avoid damage to trees growing in forests by insects and fungi; it includes provisions for instance on the storage of timber and on the removal of damaged trees (see also the section Forest health). The Act on the Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure applies to projects that may have a significant adverse impact on the environment, such as first drainage projects with an area of more than 200 hectares. The Act on the Organisation of Water Management aims to protect, improve and restore waterways so as to prevent the deterioration of both surface water and groundwater and to keep them in good condition at the least.


Forest programmes

Forest programmes specify policies to steer wood production and use. The National Forest Programme 2015 (NFP) sets concrete quantitative and qualitative goals for instance for the annual production of roundwood, the use of forest chips and forest management investments. The Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland 2008–2016 (METSO), which is ongoing alongside the National Forest Programme, involves several measures to promote voluntary forest conservation.

A Regional Forest Programme sets out the needs and aims for forest growth, management and use; forest-based business operations; and multiple use and protection of forests for the Forest Centre Area It also sets out the measures and funding to attain the goals.


Financial instruments

Private forest owners are eligible for public funding for some silvicultural and forest improvement measures. The funding is justified by the social benefits gained from supporting the least profitable investments in private forestry, investments which will only yield earnings in the next generations. Silvicultural works covering large areas which are carried out jointly by forest owners are also supported. In addition to silvicultural aims, other factors affecting funding include employment and environmental issues. Public funding for forestry is today based on the Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry. Other measures supported under the Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry include the maintenance of forest biodiversity and the management of forest ecosystems.

A new Act on energy support for low-grade timber was enacted in 2011, replacing the former energy wood harvesting and chipping support in the Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry. This support is available to parties other than private forest owners too, but not to the state-owned forests. Energy support will be granted for harvesting energy wood from seedling stands, young stands or first thinning sites.

Forest owners pay taxes on the basis of their stumpage revenues. Taxation is calculated on the basis of real income and expenses. The difference between earnings and expenses is treated as capital income, and is taxed at the general rate for capital income, 29% (2012).

Forest management plans for an individual private forest holding are prepared according to the forest owner’s preferences and needs by weighing and focusing on timber production, nature values or recreation.

Work performed for the delivery sales of timber by the forest owner or his/her family is regarded taxable earned income insofar as the volume of wood gathered from the forest exceeds 125 m3 per year.


Forest planning

Forest planning is the most important practical tool for implementing sustainable forest management, taking into account harvesting potential, the safeguarding of biological diversity and other goals that forest owners may have for their forests. Baseline information on forests is needed for comparing calculations based on various scenarios in planning. Forest planning is undertaken at many levels: by individual holding, by region, by municipality, by parish, by forests owned by Metsähallitus and the forest industry companies, or for the entire country (see fact box). The completed forest plan is a document usually spanning 10 years in Finland.


Forest planning tools and levels in Finland

Management plans for individual forest holdings help and guide private forest owners in management and use of their forest holdings. The plans are always based on the forest owner’s objectives and the characteristics of the stands in question. Individual forest management plans include data on the current status of the forest, opportunities for harvesting, silvicultural needs and their economic effects, as well as forecasts on the development of growing stock and comprehensive maps. Forest management plans are also available online. Management plans for individual holdings are usually prepared for a period of 10–15 years and they are updated after the silvicultural works have been performed in the forest. The new airborne laser altimetry method has speeded up the collecting of forest data and also helps reduce planning costs because fewer ground surveys are required.

Forests owned by the State and by forest industry companies, and some jointly-owned forests are all covered by planning which corresponds to individual forest management plans, even though in terms of area they may be up to 1,000 times larger than private holdings.

Regional forest management plans are prepared for larger uniform areas which consist of several individual private forest holdings, for example, forests within the area of a village, municipality or other coherent area. Regional management plans for private forests are usually drawn up by the regional districts of the Finnish Forestry Centre. The planning data are used in estimating the forest resources or work goals of the regioanl districts of the Finnish Forestry Centre, a Forest Management Association or a local authority. Information on individual forest owners cannot be read from regional calculations.

There are various expectations regarding the state lands and waters administered by Metsähallitus, which places great demands on planning in these areas. The most extensive planning process for lands, forests and waterways administered by Metsähallitus is the regional natural resources planning process, which is where protection and recreational use and the extent of forestry measures undertaken are decided. Local interest groups participate in natural resources planning. Management and use plans are drawn up for nature reserves, wilderness reserves, outdoor recreation areas and Natura 2000 areas administered by Metsähallitus. Their purpose is to coordinate the aims of nature conservation, recreational use and other use. The geographical information system of Metsähallitus contains all of the above planning data and also data on the terrain, the tree stock and the management measures required for the tree stock.

The National Forest Inventories prepared by the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) provide information on the current state of Finland’s forests, and national and regional trend forecasts for forest resources are derived from them. The forecasts, calculated using MELA software, are based on assessments of the current state of forests and on alternative scenarios on how forest resources, increment of growing stock and potential for wood production may develop, given various options in the management of forests and their protection programmes. Alternative trends in national forest resources have been calculated for instance for the National Forest Programme and for Regional Forest Programmes.


Production of information

In a forest management regime based on private forests, it is important that forest owners have access to sufficient information about methods and practices for safeguarding the welfare of their forests. Forest advisory services and information are important factors in ensuring that the changing group of forest owners have sufficient information about the significance and potential of their forests.

Private forestry organisations and research institutions producing information have in recent years increased their efforts to provide advisory services for private forest owners and to publish information about forest management. Issues which affect the safeguarding of wood production are also key research topics. Recommendations and manuals for practical silviculture have been produced.

Environmental and quality assurance systems are used to improve the quality of silvicultural works and to mitigate negative environmental impacts. Forest industry corporations and Metsähallitus have adopted a certified environmental management system based on the international ISO 14001 standard. The PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) forest certification systems promote sustainable forest management by committing actors in forestry to act in compliance with requirements. Certification criteria include several requirements that promote sustainable wood production.



  Updated: 12.04.2012 /MLier |  Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Metla, unless otherwise stated | Copyright Metla | Feedback