Finnish nature is mostly forests, bogs and water areas. The country is sparsely populated and moving around is possible with proper road infrastructure and everyone´s rights. Everyone’s rights have a particular significance for the recreational use of nature, natural means of livelihood, gathering of natural products and nature tourism.
Everyone´s rights are about those duties and possibilities that a person wandering in the nature needs to know about. The landowners should also be aware of everyone´s rights.
Shortly about everyone´s rights
What you CAN do?
- move about on foot, ski and bicycle in nature, such as in forests, natural meadows and water bodies
- stay in and temporarily stay overnight in areas where movement is also permitted
- pick wild berries, mushrooms and unprotected plants
- angle and ice fish
- boat, swim and wash themselves in waters and move about on ice
What you CAN NOT do?
- disturb the use of land by the landowner, move about in yards, cultivated areas or cultivated fields
- cut down or harm growing trees
- take dry or fallen wood
- take moss or lichen
- light an open fire on another’s land
- disturb domestic premises, for example, by camping too close to dwellings or making noise
- drop litter in the environment
- drive a motorised vehicle off-road
- disturb or damage birds’ nests or chicks or other animals
- hunt or fish without the appropriate permits
Staying in and moving about within nature reserves is allowed under everyone’s rights, unless these activities have been separately restricted. Wandering by foot, skiing, riding a bike or a horse is usually permitted in natural areas or natural-related areas if it doesn’t cause any damage or bigger harm. The provisions of the Criminal Code protect domestic and public premises against unauthorized entry and cover those places where people live, reside or work to protect their privacy and peace.
As a rule, movement on a cultivated field without the landowner’s consent is prohibited during the growing season. When it is certain that the passage will not cause harm, movement on the field is possible. Damaging the nests or eggs of birds is prohibited.
Prohibitions based on law and decisions by the authorities can be used to restrict movement in places such as nature reserves, areas of the Defence Forces and border zones. Metsähallitus, Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, and the Defence Forces are the most common authorities issuing restrictions.
Camping and lighting a fire
Camping refers to temporarily staying in a place or staying overnight in a tent or some other kind of shelter. Staying overnight in a vehicle, such as a car or a boat, can also be comparable to camping. As a rule, camping is allowed in areas where movement is allowed under everyman’s rights. The prevalent use of the land, such as a yard being nearby, can nevertheless prevent camping even if movement in the area would otherwise be allowed. Camping in yards, cultivated areas and other areas designated for special use such as public beaches is prohibited. Excavating the soil, fellingtrees or otherwise violating the landowner’s right of possession in connection with camping is not allowed. There are also restrictions on camping in several nature reserves.
Lighting campfires is only allowed with the consent of the landowner. During a fire warning lighting an open campfire is totally forbidden. In that case, proper care should be exercised even when using a portable stove. In recreational areas, open fires are often allowed only in specific allocated locations.
Collecting natural forest products
Under everyman’s rights it is possible to gather wild plants and mushrooms, prospect for minerals, and fish. Picking berries and mushrooms to earn income is allowed In a nature reserve, picking berries and edible mushrooms is generally allowed, with the exception of strict nature reserves. Gathering plants protected under the Nature Conservation Act is prohibited. Unprotected wild flowers, herbs and other similar plants can be picked.
Moss and lichen may not be collected without the landowner’s consent. If cones or nuts are on the ground, they can be collected. Gathering twigs, leaves, needles, birch bark and other types of bark that have fallen down on the ground is allowed.
Littering of any kind is forbidden. Littering also means letting liquid waste to the environment. Litter prohibition is valid in both public and private areas. The person who has littered has the responsibility to clean the littered area.
Moving in water
According to the right of public access, people can move around and stay in water areas both under their own power and in motorised vessels. Moving around on ice is related to water areas. Anchoring in a water area temporarily is allowed under the right of public access laid down in the Water Act. It is possible to moor to a buoy, if it does not cause harm and if mooring has not been forbidden. Landing in a natural harbour is allowed, unless there is a yard or a nature reserve.
Passage on water bodies must not cause unnecessary damage, harm or any other kind of disturbance. The harm caused to the aquatic environment, the owners of the water areas, the shore owners and the other parties using the waterways must be taken into account. Taking water for personal needs from bodies of water and natural springs is allowed.
Any fishing activity or equipment such as fyke net or fish trap should not be disturbed intentionally. Continuous and disturbing driving with a motorised vessel closed to an inhabited beach is forbidden.
Hunting and fishing
Hunting rights are not included in everyone’s rights, but instead they are linked to the ownership of land. The landowner has the right to hunt and make decisions on hunting in his or her own area. In practice, Metsähallitus makes the decisions on hunting rights on state land Hunting may not endanger or harm humans or the property of others. Hunting must not be disturbed intentionally.
There are no restrictions on angling, ice fishing, lure fishing or fishing with a fish trap, a pot, a net or a regular fyke net in restricted areas. A fisherman moves about on shores under everyone’s rights and in water areas under the right of public access laid down in the Water Act. The owner of a water area has the right to make decisions on fishing and crayfishing and engage in these activities in his or her own area. Of the general fishing rights, no licence is needed for angling and ice fishing. All persons of 18–64 years of age engaging in fishing other than angling or ice fishing must paythe state an annual fishery fee and, if necessary, a lure fishing fee for lure fishing.
For more information about everyone´s rights can be found eg. from the booklet made by The Ministry of Environment of Finland in 2015.