Two-thirds of Finland is covered by forest; one quarter of Finlands
land area is state-owned. These areas are managed by The National Board
of Forestry (Metsähallitus, today The Forest and Park Service). The
National Board of Forestry was created in 1851 to control Finland's state-owned
forests. It was made permanent in May 1859, and Finland was divided into
inspectorates, which were further subdivided into management districts.
The areas were (and are) situated in eastern and northern part of Finland.
The state-owned lands and waters covered and cover about twelve million
hectares. The management district was headed by a forest officer, who was
responsible for its supervision and management. The management districts
were divided into wardens' districts, and each warden's district was controlled
by a forest warden.
Problems emerged due to illegal settlement in the forests of Northern Finland, and the central government tried to gain control over this region and to ensure that the settlers would not recklessly fell the forests. Persons settling in the state forests and paying land rent were called crown forest crofters.
The local rural population was accustomed to exploiting the state-owned forests freely prior to the introduction of this system of forest administration. In their capacity as representatives of the state, the new officials, i. e. the forest officers, therefore often found themselves in a difficult position because the local people failed to understand a number of new policies. They wondered, for instance, why the government would not allow them to graze their animals (cows, reindeers) freely in the forests or to collect timber for personal use without official permission.
The traditional, rural livelihoods - tar-burning, slash-and-burn cultivation, livestock rearing in the state forests, and the illegal use of state-owned timber - even led to legal proceedings in many cases. This article will look particularly at the prohibited pilfering of timber in the Tornionjoki valley.