Sami Indigenous people in Finland are facing an unprecedented assault on their rights and territory as a new Forestry Act threatens to level swathes of the last boreal forest in Europe, home to the native group and unique biodiversity, Global Research reported Sunday.
“We will have few opportunities to influence the decision making over our lands,” President of the Finnish Section of the Saami Council, Jouni Lukkari, said in a recent statement about the act, adding that it threatens to decimate traditional reindeer herding and the Sami way of life. “Rather, our territories will be controlled by market economy values.”
The Forestry Act passed easily this week in the Finnish parliament, despite the fact that the Sami have insisted that the law must be stopped.
Now, the new legislation is expected to come into effect on April 15 after being signed by President Sauli Niinisto. The Sami Council is now assessing what their next steps will be to try to stop what is being called one of the largest land grabs in Europe’s history.
The Forestry Act threatens over 5.4 million acres of water systems and nearly 900,000 acres of forest in Europe’s only pristine forests, while opening the door to further exploitation.
The Sami previously announced that if the law went forward, the group would demand a moratorium on all state forestry within their territory until an appropriate agreement could be reached.
Honoring Indigenous Resistance
Finland has received criticism for never ratifying the International Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, known as ILO 169, that stipulates the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent of all corporate and development projects on their land.
According to the U.N. Information Center for Western Europe, the Sami in Finland have had the right to self-government over culture and language in their traditional territories.
The group has long feared loss of its traditional cultural and ecological practices and way of life, such as reindeer herding. Their local knowledge is considered crucial to understanding Arctic biodiversity and conservation.