Snowchange Co-op has been able to register the first community-conserved area (ICCA) in Finland. The Havukkavaara forest located in North Karelia is a south/middle-boreal protected forest with great cultural and historical roots in the region.
The traditional lifeways, some of which persist to this day, have included swidden slash and burn agriculture of the boreal forest, hunting and fishing. Today the economic structure of the village reflects the societal changes of Finnish peripheries, including the service sector. Hunting and fisheries are maintained as a cultural-traditional activity. Notably, the collective moose hunt gathers several hunters together in the autumn, and the village gathers together for the ensuing Moose Feast early November.
Between 2009 and 2013 the ICCA old growth forest spots became nationally conserved. The two families who own these forests continue to be the land owners. The state agency Metsähallitus is responsible for the administration of the protected areas. The families involved maintain a presence and traditional-cultural subsistence land-uses in the area. One of the families is active in the Selkie village council, the decision-making body for the community. The families maintain the traditional trails inside the protected areas, and benefit from the conservation zones through berry and mushroom picking, hunting, and cultural-spiritual health, among other uses. They have been involved in successfully protected the area against mining in Selkie, a land use that is active in the region. The Havukkavaara ICCA has also been under a licence for diamond exploration, but this license is inactive at present. The current land owners have agreed to register them as the first registered ICCA in Finland to stress the importance of the ICCAs and the last remaining boreal forests for the Finnish villages.
Tero Mustonen, president of Snowchange says: “Most of the old-growth forests in Finland are gone, south of the Arctic Circle. This establishment of the first ICCA in Finland is a positive step towards a new era, where the local and in the Arctic zone, Indigenous communities (the Sámi), can protect and highlight those remaining areas that are vital to their culture, history and traditional land uses. Currently no such recognititions exist nationally. Of special relevance is that we wish to make it more visible that these remaining real, old growth forests are the source of our spiritual-cultural well-being. This is a new view in Finland that needs to be recognized at this time. We want this Havukkavaara to be a positive example to all parties of a new style of community-based conservation that includes culture, history and people into the framework and we are very proud to launch this today, with much thanks also to ICCA Consortium and ICCA Registry and all staff and people involved. Forest is the source of our life, now and in the future.”
The current Havukkavaara ICCA is adjacent to a state-owned “Ostola” lot which is due to be established as a strict conservation area towards 2020. This has the potential to increase the ICCA territory in the future.