Q & A, Best Practices for Sustainable Forest Management in Finland
1. What are the Best Practices for Sustainable Forest Management?
The Best Practices offer alternatives for forest management and information on their effects. The Best Practices support decision-making.
The Best Practices encourage forest owners to use their forests in versatile ways. The information the Best Practices offer help forest owners to pursue overall sustainability in their forests or put emphasis on their chosen goals, like economic results, biodiversity, recreation or mitigation of climate change.
The Best Practices for forest management are offered as a service by the Finnish ministry of agriculture and forestry to Finnish forest owners and professionals and are part of the national forest strategy(external link) implementation. The aim of the Best Practices for forest management is, like that of the forest strategy, overall sustainability and increased well-being derived from forests.
2. Who are the Best Practices aimed at?
The information and tools in the Best Practices for Forest Management have been made for the use of forest owners and professionals who provide services to them. The point of view taken when drafting the Best Practices is that of a forest owner and his/her various aims.
In Finland forests are owned mainly by private citizens, but in addition, also communities, parishes, communal forests, funds and companies own forests. The Best Practices are made for all forest owners regardless of the form of ownership. Metsähallitus is a Finnish state-owned enterprise that produces environmental services for a diverse customer base; ranging from private individuals to major companies. It manages state-owned forests and also uses the Best Practices as part of its own guidelines.
Forest professionals use the Best Practices in the services they offer forest owners and as work guidelines. The Best Practices form the basis for knowledge-based forest training.
3. What are the Best Practices for Sustainable Forest Management needed for?
The Best Practices provide information on how to achieve the kind of forest one aims at. Forest laws and voluntary forest certificates define the context, but do not provide information on how a forest owners can achieve his/her own goals. This is the task of the Best Practices.
4. Is it compulsory to adhere to the Best Practices?
The best Practices are not compulsory. Adherence to them is entirely voluntary. The alternatives ensure that each forest owner can find suitable methods for him/herself.
Despite being voluntary, the Best Practices are widely adhered to in Finnish forestry.
5. How are the Best Practices used?
There are three levels of Best Practices offered: Management of a forest estate, choosing the correct methods, and practical implementation.
The management of a forest estate/property entity presents the fundamentals and optional action models of sustainable forestry. These help the forest owner choose the main aims and emphases of his/her forest use and to plan the management of the estate.
The Best Practices of Forest Management help choose the actions suited to different forest areas according to the forest owner’s aims. The Best Practices are offered to suit the implementation of the chosen actions
The task of forest professionals is to evaluate the aims and the current status, possibilities and risks connected to the forest together with the forest owner and offer suggestions for measures. Together with the suggestions it is important to provide information of benefits and disadvantages, that are provided in the Best Practices. Together with quality information gathered of the forest the Best Practices provide a strong basis for service offering. Professionals providing advice regard the Best Practices as the basis they can always lean on.
Forest workers make hundreds of individual decisions regarding forests, trees and soil during one single working day. The Best Practices provide practical advice, like thinning models, that make the work run smoothly. The Best practices are often incorporated into forestry systems that guide forestry work.
Digital services are becoming more common in supporting forest owners’ decision-making as well as customer service. The information provided by the Best Practices can be transferred on-line into digital forestry systems via an interface service. The information in the Best Practices is openly available and free of charge.
6. Who define the Best Practices and who are the acceptors?
The Best Practices for Sustainable Forest Management are defined in cooperation with a wide selection of forest, environmental and climate researchers, experts and users of the information. The work is carried out in open dialogue based on the best available research data and practical experiences. Tapio(external link) acts as coordinator in the Best Practice preparation work and upkeep.
The management team of the Best Practices acts as a strategic councellor for the Best Practices. The team engages in active dialogue on sustainable use of forests and forestry and decides on principles and policy definitions that the Best Practices are based on and maintained. It also defines topics that the Best Practices especially focus on and update.
The steering group of the Best Practices guides the definition of the Best Practices and comments on their contents. The steering group signs off the Best Practices based on the principles made by the management team.
Project and expert teams are widely used. The Tapio project team provides a status report on the updates and necessary arguments to the Best Practices annually.
When the Best Practices are updated, Tapio assembles a team of researchers and experts. This team composes the necessary research information and adds the relevant practical experiences to each topic. Also, the users of the Best Practices influence the Best Practices by providing information on special features of their regions and the needs to use the Best Practices.
Up-to-date information on the members of the management team and the steering group of the Best Practices are found here (in Finnish): Metsänhoidon suositusten tekijät(external link).
7. How do you guarantee that the Best Practices offer the best available information?
The Best Practices of Sustainable Forest Management are based on long-term research and use current and reliable information systematically.
New research information is gathered all the time and the Best Practices combine new data with earlier research evidence – a so-called research synthesis is formed. Practical experiences and socially important goals are also taken into consideration.
The forest owner is provided with information on the effects of forestry to the different aspects of sustainability, but he/she then decides which of these he/she wants to emphasize in his/her own forests.
The broad range of people preparing the Best Practices guarantees a thorough and pluralistic discussion during the preparation phase. A dialogue based on a synthesis of studies is encouraged even on difficult issues. Lines of action and options for forest management and forestry that are widely accepted are based on these discussions. Tapio’s role as an independent actor coordinating the Best Practices process is transparent and encourages involvement.
The different sections of the Best Practices are updated whenever new information or practical experiences on forest management and forest handling is received, or when significant changes occur in the operational environment.
Principles for the compilation of the Best Practices as well as a thorough process description are described in more detail in document Metsänhoidon suositukset – Metsien kestävän hoidon ja käytön periaatteet(external link).
8. What does it mean that the Best Practices support overall sustainability in forest management?
The principle of sustainability means that future generations are guaranteed as good or better operating possibilities than the current generations have.
Sustainable forest management takes into consideration the sustainable production and status of all forest environmental eco system services.
The Best Practices support the realization of sustainable and versatile use of forests.
The task of the Best Practices is to provide forest owners with information on how to make choices that affect the different sub-areas of sustainability and how these choices affect the goals he/she has set.
When setting his/her goals the forest owner should take into consideration preconditions, like forest and environmental laws and the restrictions set by voluntary forest certification systems.
The size and structure of the forest property define what kinds of possibilities the owner has of taking care of overall sustainability in his/her forests.
The Best Practices support the owner in setting his/her goals higher than the minimum level defied by restrictions and, also support achieving the goals in practice. The Best Practices help the owner make informed, responsible and sustainably sound decisions in the management of his/her forests. Consolidation of aims may require compromises at estate level.
9. What benefits do the Best Practices provide?
Forests provide well-being to us all. By adhering to the Best Practices Finnish forests can continue to develop as vital, productive and biodiverse forests. Forest that have been managed pluralistically are suited to forestry and recreational use, safeguarding biodiversity, as well as mitigation of climate change.
There are many effective methods of nature and water preservation found in the Best Practices. With good planning and correctly targeted forest management we can increase the well-being benefits derived from forests in a sustainable way.
For a single forest owner the benefits are concrete when he/she receives informed information from top experts on how to achieve his/her goals and what risks and benefits this goal has.
Digitalization of forest data has strengthened the productivity of forest organizations. The Best Practices that have been mutually defined and digitally distributed play a significant part in increasing productivity.
The Best Practices are very widely adhered to because they form the basis of professional training and are incorporated into the data systems guiding a large part of forest work. Forest owners value the Best Practices. For example, MTK’s (Forest Producer’s Central Association) Metsätutka study (Kantar TNS, 2020) asked what the best guidelines to support sustainability of forests are. Nearly 90% of forest owners regarded the advice and Best Practices very or fairly important. Small forest owners prefer counceling and large forest owners trust their own ability to find the data they need within the Best Practices.
10. When did the Best Practice work begin?
The first Best Practices for Forest Management or Forest Management Guidelines were made in 1989. They were deemed necessary because the requirements of forest owners had become more versatile, forest research provided new information constantly, the cost structure of forest management was changing, and there was a general need to provide information to back up guidelines that were provided.
Forest handing instructions have been available for decades before the first Best Practices. The task of forest boards that were providing these before Tapio and the Finnish Forest Centre (Suomen metsäkeskus) was to oversee the adherence to instructions in practice. The transformation from instructions to Best Practices was a significant step towards modern forest owner services and a versatility of forest management options
11. Where can I find up-to-date information on the Best Practices and ways to influence them?
Up-to-date information can be found on Tapio’s website Metsänhoidon suositukset(external link) (in Finnish). The website has information on on-going projects and events, where you can engage in open dialogue to develop the Best Practices.
Latest update June 6, 2022