Forests are Finland’s most significant renewable natural resource and an important part of our national wealth. Most of Finnish forests are owned by family forest owners.
Private forest owners, ordinary families own 60 per cent of forest land and 70 per cent of the annual growth of wood stock. Family forest owners sell the forest industry 80 per cent of the Finnish timber it needs.
The state-owned forests managed by Metsähallitus cover a quarter of the forest land, while forest companies own just fewer than ten per cent of the forest land. The rest, approximately five per cent, is owned by municipalities, parishes and jointly owned forests.
The holding structure is changing and forest owners are ageing
There are approximately 350,000 family forest holdings owning at least two hectares of forest land. These holdings have more than 600,000 owners because part of them are jointly owned by spouses and part are undistributed estates owned by heirs or co-owned by consortiums. The average age of forest owners is 60 years.
The average size of family forest holdings is 30 hectares. The size structure is, however, changing: The number of small woodlots with less than 10 hectares and large holdings over 100 hectares is increasing. The fragmentation is usually caused by distribution of inheritance, while the enlargement is caused by transactions of forest holdings.
Preparation of policy, supply of timber and needs for services
Forest owners have been studied for approximately forty years in the Natural Resources Institute Finland (earlier in the Finnish Forest Research Institute). The research has produced valuable information on the structure of forest ownership and on the timber sales and forest management behaviour of family forest owners.
Changes in the structure of forest ownership and in the objectives of forest owners may predict changes in forest usage, information and labour service needs and supply of timber that the actors in the forest sector must prepare themselves for. The research information on forest owners is required for developing and targeting both the forest policy measures and the services for forest owners. An extensive study of Finnish forest owners, Forest owner 2020, is currently in progress.
Picture on the top of the page: Erkki Oksanen, Luke.