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Finns are passionate about their forests, and Lanark County residents had an opportunity to gain insight into this relationship thanks to a special visit by the Finnish Ambassador to Canada.

In June 2010 at the Almonte Old Town Hall, Ambassador Risto Piipponen explained how in Finland forests are not just trees. The Community Stewardship Council of Lanark County hosted the event in partnership with Lanark County Tourism, the Town of Carleton Place and the Town of Mississippi Mills.

“Our council is always looking for ways to explore best practices of others and to investigate different levels of resource stewardship while considering what our landscape has to offer,” said Franziska von Rosen, stewardship council chairperson. “We are delighted the Finnish ambassador to Canada agreed to offer insights into his country’s diverse use of forests.”finland-forests

In Finland, more than half of the forests are privately owned and the country has a long-standing custom that provides access for everyone, except to those lands set aside for full protection by the government.

“Societies and countries, because of geography, history and circumstance, tend to view and use their natural resources differently,” adds Paul Egginton, stewardship council member. “Finland's geography and environment is similar to Canada's in many ways, but their relationship to the forests is much more complex.”

Forests are an important element of the Canadian economy and identity, but for Finland they play a broader role in daily life – not just economic, but social and ecological as well. The forest industry (lumber, pulp and paper and the manufacturing that supports it) is the second-largest sector in the national economy. Wood-based fuels account for a fifth of the total energy consumption in Finland and 40 per cent of the heating energy used in private homes. Forests also provide food, such as mushrooms (360 million kilograms annually), berries (40 million kg) and wild game. Most of those harvests are for family consumption.

“Canadians tend to think we utilize our forests fully for recreation and outdoor pursuits, but is this really true? Not if you compare us to Finland,” says Mary Vandenhoff, stewardship council member. “A staggering 97 per cent of Finns spend time in outdoor pursuits, with 75 per cent of this taking place in forests. Two out of three Finns visit forests weekly! “

The Stewardship Council plans to invite other ambassadors to the county to share how their countries manage their natural resources.