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Free to roam, but within the rules

Known as "everyman's right", by law and ancient custom people are free to roam public and private lands for recreation or exercise, even to camp, fish, boat and pick nature's bounty. However, there are some rules, and five common mistakes people make when exercising this right.

Antti Kolppo / Yle
Ignorance and indifference are the main reasons for breaking the rules.

The extensive freedom to roam, known in Finnish as "jokamiehenoikeus"  and "allemansrätten" in Swedish (literally "everyman's right") also comes with responsibilities. Chief among these are to not disturb others, to cause no harm to the natural environment, nor to wildlife, domestic animals or crops.

Anne Rautiainen is an expert with Suomen Latu – the Outdoor Association of Finland who travels the country explaining these rights to interested audiences. She says that some people unwittingly abuse their right to roam through ignorance of the law and some because of indifference.

According to Rautiainen, the five most common mistakes could be avoided by learning some simple rules, and by simply caring.

1. Making an open fire without permission

Makkaratikut nuotion ympärillä
Image: Minna Heikura / Yle

"We tend to think that a hike includes a sausage and it needs to be heated up. Making an open fire on private land without the permission of the owner is, however, not allowed," Rautiainen points out.

2. Breaking off branches

Image: Tuomo Häkkinen

"This includes gathering pussy willows and Christmas pine boughs. Living trees may not be cut down or damaged, nor is it allowed to take away even dry or fallen wood."

3. Gathering moss and lichen

Jäkälämattoa Tupavuorella.
Image: Yle

"Womens' magazines publish instructions for making Christmas wreaths and get people excited about collecting what they need without permission. Lichen and moss may not be gathered, even for making wreaths without the landowner's permission. Fallen pinecones and acorns, on the other hand, may be gathered."

4. Collecting chaga mushrooms

Pakurikääpä voidaan irrottaa kokonaan puusta tai siitä voidaan niin sanotusti lypsää palasia, jotka kuivatetaan. Image: Yle / Kati Jurkko

"Chaga mushrooms may not be collected since it harms the living tree. Red Polypores [which grow on tree stumps] may be gathered."

5. Littering

Muovipurkkeja ja muuta roskaa rannalla.
Image: Olli Törönen / Yle

"Not a little litter, nor a lot of litter, not a sweet wrapper, nor a stove should be left behind, not even by the landowner," stresses Anne Rautiainen.

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