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Satellite surveillance curbs forestry violations in Finland

The first two years of satellite surveillance saw increases in observed breaches of the Forestry Act, but last year the crimes dropped by around 40 percent.

The Forestry Act aims to promote "economically, ecologically and socially sustainable management and utilisation of forests in order that the forests produce a good output in a sustainable way while their biological diversity is being preserved." Image: Janne Langen / Yle

Satellite surveillance of Finland's forests is increasingly helping to uncover illegal forestry practices, according to the state-funded Forest Centre.

The surveillance detected nearly 180 forestry offences in 2021, while the previous year monitoring helped to uncover almost 300 offences.

The Forest Centre, a state funded group that promotes forestry and related endeavours, began using satellite images in 2019 to ensure that the forestry sector is following the law.

Satellite imagery helps the group detect forest cuts in which timber purchasers or forest owners have neglected to report such activity, which is required by the Forestry Act.

The Act aims to promote "economically, ecologically and socially sustainable management and utilisation of forests in order that the forests produce a good output in a sustainable way while their biological diversity is being preserved."

The surveys are particularly focused on critical areas, such as forests along waterways which are often home to sensitive habitats, according to the organisation. Last year 11 cut sites were found in such areas.

Out of the overall 180 suspected violations observed last year, 66 led to investigations by police. About 80 percent of the suspected crimes were related to foresters not reporting cuts to authorities before they began.

The first two years of satellite surveillance saw increases in observed violations, but last year that development took a turn downward, according to the centre.