Listen to the spruce
More than one in six Finns own forest. Owners can now offer biologically valuable forest sites for protection. The compensation is based on the market value of the growing stock.Most of Finland’s forests are privately owned. Traditionally, forest holdings were an important part of farming, an additional source of income in a country with a short growing season. Over the generations, holdings have been split up and recombined, and today recent data show that there are 443,000 forest holdings of two hectares or more. As it is often the case that both husband and wife are owners, there are estimated to be 920,000 forest owners in Finland — more than one in six Finns.
New trends in protection
When it comes to forest protection Finland is among the very best in Europe. Strictly protected forests account for 4.6 per cent of all forests in Finland, the highest figure among all countries in Europe.
When the METSO Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland
was being studied and tested (2002-2007), flexible instruments were developed for the voluntary protection of valuable forest areas. In the current programme period, extending until 2016, these instruments will be taken into use on a broad front.
METSO offers new choices for example for city dwellers who have inherited forest holdings and who value the natural and recreation values of
forests more than their fi nancial potential. And if the forest holding is of
any substantial size, then protection and forestry are not mutually exclusive: the owner can exercise both.
As the point is not to protect as much forest as possible but to protect nature values, forestry can in any case go on in forests which are best suited for wood production. According to the evaluations underlying the METSO programme and the new National Forest Programme, expanding biodiversity protection in southern Finland is not inconsistent with harvesting more wood from Finland’s forests for the industry’s use.
The forest road back to nature
Kaarina Davis is not your average forest owner. When she heard that the forest she inherited from her grandparents — heathland forest with plenty of decaying wood, which had not seen an axe in decades — was eligible for a protection agreement under the METSO programme, she jumped at the chance.
The five-hectare holding in Hämeenkyrö near Tampere became the start of a new life for Davis. Having gone through a burnout as a nurse, she chose to make a new start as a nature entrepreneur. She grows her own food and sells organic produce. Four of the five hectares in her forest holding are now protected; the remaining hectare is a birch coppice that keeps her in firewood.
Kaarina Davis is concerned that Finns no longer know how to simply enjoy the peace and quiet of the forest and the natural environment. The only way you can get people to go into the forest is to organize a ski-doo safari or some other kind of artificial experience.
“If you come here for the forest itself, you can find yourself wondering how the birds can all start singing at once as if by agreement and then just as suddenly all fall silent. There must be an explanation for that.”
By Risto Pitkänen
Photo Seppo Samuli