Collaborative forestry planning methods that ensure the local population and stakeholders a possibility to influence their living surroundings and the land use.
Lapland has a high proportion of state-owned forests: 60% of forest area is state-owned, compared to state ownership of 26% of forests in Finland in general. Lapland also has a wide range of interest groups and livelihoods operating in forestry areas, which results in a need to combine different interests and needs as well as to reconcile and negotiate. A special emphasis is put on enabling the traditional uses of natural resources, such as reindeer husbandry and the needs and rights of the Sámi people. Tourism brings about the need of new route networks and landscape planning in forestry.
The objective is to combine all these needs and use forestry practices that work best for everyone as well as improve the social acceptance of forestry practices. Metsähallitus, the organisation responsible for managing state-owned forests, uses collaborative forestry planning methods that ensure the local inhabitants and stakeholders have a possibility to influence their living surroundings and the land use. These collaborative methods include cooperation groups, thematic workshops, negotiations and newer types of collaborative planning, such as online map questionnaires to increase public participation. The collaborative method chosen depends on the area in question, the logging volumes and methods etc. In larger scale planning, outside professional facilitation is used in forming and managing a regional cooperation group which consists of representatives of local communities.
Collaborative planning is a policy implemented by the entire Metsähallitus organisation.
Evidence of success
Public participation has increased, major forest disputes and conflicts have been primarily resolved and the process of planning forestry activities has been successful in combining different needs. The local communities feel they can influence their surroundings, which has increased the social acceptance of loggings. Around 50% of the region's energy production is based on sidestreams of forestry.
Larger disputes have occurred even in the 2010s over certain areas where loggings have been done, and other difficulties with negotiating with locals have also been present throughout the years despite the collaborative approach. Some areas are more sensitive than others, and mistakes have happened.
Potential for learning or transfer
If not loggings and other forestry activities, many areas face the issue of affecting the surroundings and livelihoods of local communities in some way. In this sense, the practice of always planning activities in collaboration with the interest groups that are affected is universal and can be transferred to multiple fields and situations. Taking into account the opinions and needs of local communities and stakeholders is vital to achieve social acceptance, and without social acceptance, operating in the area in question might prove very difficult.
Starting a collaborative planning method requires a lot of resources, but having social acceptance and a good connection to local stakeholders is extremely important. If there aren’t enough resources for more pervasive collaboration, such as cooperation groups and workshops, online questionnaires might be a good start to a collaborative approach.
These methods could be used to improve social acceptance for other RES sources as well.