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Perceiving sustainable forest spaces: governance aspects of private and company owned forests in North-Karelia, Finland

Keywords: forest governance , sustainable spaces , ownership positionality , certification

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Abstract:

The integration of improved environmental or sustainable aspects in forest management is often affiliated with the rise of market-driven governance systems, such as forest certification. In terms of forest resource peripheries, like North-Karelia, Finland, these are often attributed to environmental business and consumer demands from the green Central European markets. While acknowledging these aspects related to the supply chains of wood-based products, this study evaluates the actual perceptions about environmental forest governance and its spaces in the resource peripheries themselves. It displays the perceived changes and practices in forestry by comparing private and corporate ownership and their governance networks. This is accomplished by a qualitative, interview based case study of North Karelian and Finnish forestry actors. Transnational forest governance is hereby treated as a relational space, with forest certification systems as possible technologies used to achieve improved, sustainable forest management. Utilizing the North-Karelian forestry sector, the varying positionalities of actors and institutions within such a relational space shape the knowledge networks, perceptions and decision-making. The study evaluates how these local-global positionalities of actors and individuals shapes their understanding, and guide the direction of sustainable forest management in Finland while it (re-)produces opposing regimes of practice. With the discourse on forest certification being twofold, a more complex picture emerges if aspects of even- versus uneven-aged forest management in Finland are integrated. Shaped by the actor’s positionalities and related knowledge networks, perceptions regarding the quality of forest management practices and technologies used to achieve sustainability differ and thereby shape governance processes. The green markets are not perceived as the main driving force and a strong governmental influence, particularly related to private ownership aspects, is noted in the Finnish case. Forest certification systems, and other political technologies for sustainable forest management, are embedded in or strongly restricted by these aspects.

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