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Finnish forestry.

The forest has always been part of the fabric of Finnish society. Vitally important to the country's economy, the forest in all its aspects is ingrained in the country's culture, part of the daily pleasures of its people, and a source of myth and legend. Finnish children grow up playing in the forests, and the possibility of rambling through them is open to everyone, even though they are generally privately owned.

Almost 80 per cent of Finland's land surface is covered with forests and two-thirds of them are owned by ordinary Finnish families These smallholdings are generally no more than 30 hectares, yet they produce the bulk of the country's annual growth.

Finland today has more forests than ever before. During the nineteenth century, the forests in the southern part of the country were destroyed without thought for their renewal, but with admirable foresight the government of 1886 passed a law prohibiting wasteful use of forest lands. This early realisation that Finland's prosperity might depend on the vitality of its forests encouraged the more imaginative landowners to manage their forests, in general with the encouragement of the industry, For almost a century, the Finns have tried to ensure that whenever timber is cut, new growth takes its place.

Rather than clear-cutting on a large scale, the prevailing practice of the industry for some time has been to thin selectively or cut on a small scale, with the legal obligation of replanting the cleared land. There is still some limited ploughing of forest land and spraying of the undergrowth with herbicides, causing damage to the landscape and environment, but it is hoped that by 1996 these practices will have been stopped.

The vague impression abroad that Finnish forests consist of acres of monocultur is erroneous. Finland is situated in the northern coniferous forest belt and it forestry is based on species of trees natural to the climate -- pine, spruce an birch -- which shelter a rich interdependent diversity of flora and fauna. Now the ecological, as well as the economic, perspective is receiving attention. An environmental programme, drafted by various groups representing environmental, nature conservation and forestry interests, was published earlier this year. If it receives official approval, its guidelines will provide a basis for Finland' approach to the forest environment. It emphasises the tending of key biotopes (grove forests, spruce-hardwood mires, stream banks, shore stands), as well as developing environmentally compatible silvicultural practices, protecting biodiversity, and encouraging broad-leaved species and mixed stands. The programme calls for the protection of endangered species, and for forests older than 120 years.

The ecosystem is a hardy one, renewing itself quickly after natural disruptions but, dependent as they are on forestry as a source of industrial prosperity, th Finns are very much alive to threats posed by modern horrors: air pollutants fo instance, drifting in from countries far outside its borders, effluent discharges into waterways, emissions generated through processes of production and irresponsible disposal of waste.

The main forest industries include ply-and particle-wood, sawnwood, and fibreboard; pulps, paper and paperboard; and exports represent 15 per cent of forest exports throughout the world. As raw materials, Finnish spruce and pine make excellent windows, doors, and other components of the building and construction industries. The Metsa-Serla Building Materials Group includes Rantasalmi Log Houses, a company that manufactures a wide range of vernacular log houses and cottages; while Serla and Linda, two other members, manufacture kitchens.

About half the power used during production in Finnish mills is obtained from wood-based fuels: from bark, chippings and other residues. Recycling is on the increase. The Finnish pulp and paper industry now allocates about 15 per cent o its investments annually to environmental protection.

Thanks to improved technology, the large quantities of water needed during the production have been reduced, and the water is purified before being released back into the waterways. Sulphur emissions from pulp and paper production has been curbed. Chlorine, traditionally used as the main bleaching chemical in paper manufacture, has been gradually phased out.
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Title Annotation:Products Survey
Author:McGuire, Penny
Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Sep 1, 1994
Previous Article:Good wood.
Next Article:Green states.

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