Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Media release 22.02.2005

Coexistence of reindeer herding and forest economy is possible, in spite of problems

According to a survey study aimed at northern Laplanders, inhabitants of the Inari, Enontekiö and Utsjoki districts consider tourism to be the most significant source of income for their communal districts. Almost 60 percent of the respondents consider reindeer herding to be important, and approximately half feel the same about forestry.

In Inari forestry is relatively more important than it is in the other two districts; 60 percent of the respondents consider it significant for the local economy in Inari. The importance of nature reserves to the local economy or for keeping Northern Lapland inhabited is considered insignificant; these regions would rather support sustaining the indigenous culture and lifestyle.

Eight out of ten respondents do not wish to forbid any lines of business in Northern Lapland . The respondents mainly have a positive attitude to forestry, as long as the work is performed by forest workers. Representatives of the reindeer herding economy have no shared opinion about the use of forests or tourism but, more than the rest of the local population, they are concerned about detrimental effects of forestry and tourism on reindeer herding.

Northern Laplanders are most critical about conservation and forestry, but only one tenth of the respondents would like to forbid these lines of business. No difference was observed between the districts, but when occupational groups were compared, representatives of the reindeer herding economy clearly had the most critical attitudes towards forestry: approximately one third of them would like to set a total ban on forestry, and more than one tenth would forbid also tourism and conservation.

About one tenth consider accommodation of reindeer herding and forestry positive and one tenth find it negative. People in Enontekiö are somewhat more skeptical about accepting coexistence of both than people in Utsjoki or Inari. The positive attitude towards the blend is significant, because approximately 60% of representatives of the reindeer herding economy feel that the harm caused by forestry on reindeer herding is significant or extremely significant, while 20-30% of other occupational groups consider forestry to be harmful. It should be noted that approximately half of the reindeer herders feel that tourism is causing the same amount of harm to the reindeer herding economy.

More than half of the respondents in Northern Lapland are satisfied with the present distribution of land use. About a quarter feel that too much land is used for reindeer herding, one third think that too much land is used for conservation, and less than one fifth consider that too much land is used for forest economy. One fifth of the respondents in the Inari region consider the share of land used for forest economy to be too much. Inhabitants of Enontekiö had the strongest opinion that too much land is left for conservation and wilderness.

About 40 percent of the representatives of the reindeer herding economy find that the share of land used for forest economy is excessive, whereas in other occupational groups only 5-20 percent rated it as excessive. More than half of the reindeer herders find the land areas devoted for reindeer herding to be insufficient, while less than one fifth of other respondents consider that there are not enough reindeer herding pastures. Reindeer herders have the most positive attitudes towards conservation, while representatives of forestry as well as construction and industrial workers, etc. show the most negative attitudes.

The study showed that people would like to retain decision making first and foremost in the hands of the local population. The most opposition is raised against supranational decision making by the EU and Greenpeace.

Representatives of different lines of business have different views about distribution of decision making. Within the reindeer herding economy, 40 percent would give no decision making rights to forestry interest groups, and 75 percent would assign significant decision making to herding areas. By contrast, only a quarter of forestry representatives would allow significant decision making to herding areas. At a general level, coexistence of the forest and reindeer herding economies is considered possible irrespective of the occupational group, as long as the right to make decisions can be retained in local hands, as much as possible.

The survey study aimed at northern Laplanders is part of the pilot initiative called Sustainable use of forests in Northern Lapland, which was started at the beginning of 2004 and is scheduled to end in April 2005.

The aim of the study was to clarify the attitudes of the population in Northern Lapland regarding the meaning and profitability of the lines of business based on forest nature and their impact on the prospects of reindeer herding. The main emphasis of the study was on interrelationships between reindeer herding and forestry. The study was realized as a mail questionnaire sent to 2220 randomly selected adult residents of Northern Lapland . The response rate was 36 percent. The coverage of the opinions and attitudes will later be supplemented by a nonresponse analysis.

The agenda and abstracts of the presentations given at a results seminar held at Saariselkä on February 22, 2005: (in Finnish)

Additional information:

For additional information, please contact:

  • Senior researcher Ville Hallikainen, Finnish Forest Research Institute, Rovaniemi Research Station,
    Phone +358 10 211 4469, email: ville.hallikainen @

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