Finland has among its many riches one of the largest, cleanest and most exuberant natural heritage in the world. Finnish nature is everywhere, this is the most forested country in Europe, about 70% of its land is covered with trees, and at least another 10% of the country is made up of lakes formed during the last ice age.
A fundamental characteristic of Finnish forests is that they are still natural, this means that the species of trees –mostly coniferous- that we enjoy during our trails and excursions are basically the same kind that covered those areas for ages. Finns are so concerned about the need to preserve all that wealth that non-native species have hardly been planted.
Thus, nature is magnificent in Finland and Finnish authorities have always made a great effort both to protect it and to guarantee everybody's right to enjoy it. This is where the importance of the legal concept of Everyman’s right underlies.
According to the definition of the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, Everyman’s right is a legal figure that “gives everyone the chance to enjoy outdoor pursuits, and the freedom of the country’s vast forests and fells, and many lakes and rivers, with few restrictions”.
In Finland anybody can roam and hang around the forests and lakes, ski, cycle, ride, travel the waters, pickup berries or mushrooms, fish with a hook and even camp freely as long as they fulfil the main obligation that accompanies this right: they must leave the environment undisturbed and preserve the Finnish rich natural heritage for future generations to enjoy too.
No matter if the areas chosen for recreation in nature are private property, as most of them are in fact. In Finnish forests fences or other artificial barriers to limit human access simply don´t exist. Therefore, it can be stated that public access to private land in Finland and the other Nordic countries -where this right also exists- is much wider than in most parts of the world. And Finns are particularly proud of that.
This right is applicable to anyone who lives or stays in Finland, no matter the nationality, without the need of obtaining any permission. But still, there are a few restrictions that limit the scope of Everyman’s right and that the Ministry of the Environment advises to be aware of. Those limitations basically consist on respect nature, other people and property.
Restrictions to Everyman’s right:
- There is no public right of way through fields and other cultivated areas during the growing season, to prevent damage, though in winter crossing fields is allowed.
- Birds, reindeers and other animals must not be disturbed, especially during the breeding season.
- It is forbidden to hunt, fish with nets, traps or a reel and lure without the proper permits.
- You may not disturb people's privacy by camping too near their homes or by making too much noise or damage their property.
- It is not allowed to cut down or to damage trees, collect moss, lichen or fallen trees from other people's property.
- Campfires or other open fires may not be lit without permission from the landowner. If there is an obvious risk of a forest fire, open fires must not be lit in or near a forested area, even with the landowner’s permission.
- If you travel with pets, you can´t let them off leash.
- When you leave, you must take with you all the garbage that you generate during your stay.
- You can´t drive motor vehicles off road without the landowner’s permission.
Everyman’s right allows to:
- Walk, ski, cycle or ride a horse freely, except very near homes or in fields and plantations that could suffer damage.
- Camp out overnight in a tent, at a reasonable distance from homes, holiday homes, cottages, tents, mobile homes and house boats, as well as private yards.
- Pick up wild berries, mushrooms and flowers unless they are not protected species.
- Navigate with boats, swim or bathe in the sea or in inland waters, and fish with a rod and line.
- Walk, ski or drive a motor vehicle or fish on frozen lakes, rivers and the sea.
Everyman´s right plays a significant role when it comes to guaranteeing the enjoyment of nature by people, nature-based tourism and the collection of natural products. If you want to learn more about this right, you can download a booklet published by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment that explains it in detail just by clicking HERE.