Monday, January 29, 2007

Everyman's Rights ~ Could we handle that in US?

Everyman's Rights

Finland's forests, lakes and rivers present incomparable surroundings in which to relax and enjoy the fresh air and unspoiled natural environment. Thanks to the concept of ‘Everyman's Rights’, there is far greater freedom to roam freely in Finland than in most other countries. This freedom, however, implies a responsibility on behalf of the visitor; not least the responsibility to remember that nature is very fragile and takes a long time to recover from misuse.

Everyman’s Rights are a concept that has evolved over the centuries, an unwritten code of practice born out of the customs and experience of a sparse population living in a vast, densely forested country. Basically it entitles Finns to go where they please in the countryside - on land or on water - as long as they don't intrude on people's privacy, cause nuisance or damage, or leave litter... and believe it or not, IT WORKS!

Everyman's right in brief

Everyone may:

- walk, ski or cycle freely in the countryside, except in gardens, in the immediate vicinity of people’s homes, and in fields and plantations which could easily be damaged

- stay or set up camp temporarily in the countryside, a reasonable distance from homes (for camp fire you have to have land owner’s permission!)

- pick wild berries, mushrooms and flowers, as long as they are not protected species

- fish with a rod and line

- row, sail or use a motorboat on waterways, with certain restrictions; swim or wash in inland waters and the sea

- walk, ski and fish on frozen lakes, rivers and the sea

What you think, folks, could Americans handle this, or would we abuse it?


willgoy said...

Well, everybody/nation has their downsides.But Finns are very respectful of each others' and visitors' privacy, and that's why the everyman right works so well there. Nobody assumes that people are up to harm or that carrying a knife is a sign of mental unbalance. Of course, it might be that all those so-called military and 'tactical'knives are less popular there,a knife is a superb tool for eating,whittling,dressing or hunting not eviscerating your neighbour! Trust people and you will be trusted too.

Clair in Golden said...

I noticed the difference on my first trip to Finland, and now I tell my Finnish visitors that they will see LOTS of flags flying (Finns fly the national flag just on special days) and LOTS of fences!
I admire their attitude to using the land....alas, we here are selfish and careless (littering the countryside, for instance!)

Runs With Scissors said...

Wow. That's fascinating stuff. Thanks for mentioning it.

I don't EVER see that going over in the US, least not my part (Alaska) Every place in a given area that can be hurt is hurt by four wheelers, snowmachines, beer cans,firearm cartridges, old appliances, litter, abandoned vehicles, etc. The further off the beaten path a person goes, the more the situation improves, but overall, I'm sad to say that we just don't have enough respect of the enviroment or one another.

On the flipside of the matter, most of us land owners are too suspicious to be comfortable letting strangers traipse across property and pitch camp when ever the urge hits them.

For clarification of that law, I noted that a person crossing land isn't supposed to invade privacy- is there some set distance, or other parameters?

Also, if a person has a very nice landmark on thier property, say a nice creek, pond, swimming hole, etc. especially one that they've set up with a picnic table, rope swing for the kids, etc. are they going to have to constantly deal with people wandering back there to use that area?

I'm just curious. Overall, that sounds like a law I wish could work here.

American Finn said...

I think why everyman's rigths actually works in Finland, is that it has been "the rule of the land" forever! People grow up respecting nature and other people's privacy. There is no written law how far from someone's yard you have to stay away... pretty much if you cannot see the house, you're ok :-) I have never heard anyone to go to anyone's yard or private playground. That would be disrespectful. Sometimes you might see people near your summer cottage picking berries or looking for a easy way to get to the lake around your yard and 9 times of 10 (if they see you) those people would turn around and go over they way in the forest to get where ever they are going to not to bother your privacy. I think we get that thinking in our mother's milk! :-) Clair wrote on her post that she warns her Finnish visitors to get use to fences when they come to visit here... and that is so true! Most Finns have no fences around they houses... they block your view!

And what comes to waterfronts... in the country of 188 000 lakes and almost 1000 miles of sea shore, it's not a problem to find one that is not at someone's backyard!

Dave Ippolito said...

That definetly would'nt work here in the U.S. At least not in New York state. People just don't care. I've done a lot of hunting around this state and even at one spot I used to go that was three and one half miles in there was garbage all over. New York has some beautiful mountains with a lot of little lakes and streams for fishing that is on state land. There is also some real nice spots on private land that has been posted for just that reason. The people just don't respect the out doors!
I like this site as it gives you an idea what it's like in other countries.
Also some good info on puukko knives. The pictures of the items are great> nice and clear.

Anonymous said...

Although trespass is not allowed by law in the States, people ignore that, and generally cause havoc, in my experience. Americans have problems with boundaries in general. Heard about Manifest Destiny? Plus Americans look around the world and see something we want, and send our Army out to get it. Our national character has evolved in the direction of scamming and force. There is a vast difference between that, and an actual respect for the commons.

Our land is small, 3 acres, but we are constantly cleaning up after the local enclaves of hippies who come "looking for mushrooms" to get stoned on and homeless people who feel entitled to, for instance, evacuate their bowels wherever they feel like and slash at trees for firewood.

Then there are hunters who think that every animal in the world is theirs to kill, who do not respect "No hunting" signs. (We often have masses of wildlife congregating on our land for safety.) Then there are the local college students, who think that our small woods is open terrain for their knobby-wheeled "mountain" bikes. Plus every yuppie with children and dogs considers our woods their playground and toilet. Plus various recent immigrants who consider all forestland their source for extra cash, with complete disregard for the health of the land.

And so on. And so forth.

The backcountry is often no better. I spent a week hiking in to the Olympic Mountains, and never got away from littering, graffiti, vandalism, and such, even in the most remote areas. Then while there, I couldn't hear myself think because people had battery operated boom boxes.

There is also a cultural assumption among many people in this part of the nation that if you have something they want, even though you built it yourself or bought it with hard-earned money, they should be able to take it. They will tell you about their ideology, they will quote all sorts of things they read...but it rarely includes respect for others' boundaries, or for others as neighbors.

What no one has noted in this comment thread is that the US has 300 million people, Finland has, what five-point-something million. Any nation that is against population control, as the US is, and that bases its entire economy on more more more more is going to be overrun by increasingly desperate and unruly people of all walks of life. Rats in a box. I figure it's just a few more decades before the US is like Somalia.

If we had an area with 188,000 lakes, every one of them (except in Minneapolis) would have the shoreside owned and fenced--by the wealthiest. So there is a glass-gap component to all this. Here in the Puget Sound area, it's hard to find any public overlooks where land meets sea. It's all privatized.

I understand that when Minneapolis was settled, the town's leaders decided that all lakes in the city limits would have their shorelines preserved for public use. This gives the city a wonderfully Scandinavian character, with a good compromise between the commons and American private ownership cultures.

I am a Finnish American, and I would emigrate to Finland in a minute. There is a real difference in national character. We fly no flags except the Finnish one on Dec. 6, and the Sami one at various times, especially Feb. 6 and Aug. 15. We have no fences, except deer netting around the gardens.

This is all a bit disjointed, sorry. I just wanted to give some experiences as examples. Thanks for the chance to post.