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Finland to add 2 new sites to national park network

The environment ministry has proposed areas in Lapland and Kanta-Häme to become Finland's next national parks.

Evon retkeilyalue
Hiking area in Evo, file photo. Image: Berislav Jurišić / Yle

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has proposed that Finland establish two new national parks, according to a ministry statement issued by Minister Krista Mikkonen (Green) on Tuesday.

The minister said that based on the examination of a range of proposals, the ministry has proposed areas in Sallatunturi (in eastern Lapland) and a forested area in Evo (in the Kanta-Häme region) as Finland's next national parks.

The move is part of a broader government plan to expand the country's national park system.

In her statement, Mikkonen said that the government would immediately begin preparations for the Sallatunturi park proposal which can then be handed over to parliament next spring.

Sallan ja Evon kansallispuistohankkeet
Map of Finland featuring the areas of Salla in Lapland and Evo in Kanta-Häme. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

The effort towards making the Evo nature site a national park will be started by a regional working group. The group will establish the basis for further preparations, the minister stated, adding that the coronavirus crisis has shown the importance of natural resources and parks to the country.

"This year Finns found their way into nature with newfound enthusiasm. Nature has given us peace of mind during that extraordinary period and the number of visitors to national parks at the beginning of the year increased by up to 20 percent," Mikkonen said in the statement.

The minister noted that the aim of national parks is to protect and to strengthen natural diversity.

If the effort goes ahead as planned, the Sallatunturi National Park - featuring around 10,000 hectares of diverse ecology along the country's northeastern border - will become part of the EU's Natura 2000 nature protection network.

Sallatunturi's landscape includes mountain fells and ridges as well as the 250-metre-deep Aatsinginhauta gorge. The area also features forests of old trees at high altitudes, creating conditions which cause snow to collect on tree branches.

Salla's municipal director Erkki Parkkinen said that the area has good conditions to draw international tourists.

"The Sallatunturi reserve with its beautiful mountains and highlands, inviting old forests and refreshing streams makes up an untouched wilderness area that is also easily accessible by public transport. Making the area a national park will consolidate the value that it deserves and will also increase the welfare and vitality of local residents as well as tourism in Salla," Parkkinen said.

Evo's old boreal forests

The ministry said that Evo's forest area of around 8,000 hectares, is exceptionally extensive and uniform and also includes old boreal forest. The forests are habitats to endangered species that thrive on rotten or burnt wood. However, the region features more than forested areas, including ridges, many small lakes and ponds, bogs and streams.

After receiving initiatives and suggestions, the government has started work on creating national parks in three other parts of the country, including the Punkaharju-Haarikko area in the east, Porkkala in Kirkkonummi, and Korouoma canyon in Posio, southern Lapland.

Finland currently maintains 40 national parks across the country, covering more than one million hectares.

The efforts to establish the forests of Evo as a national park are not supported by everyone, however as local hunting clubs have voiced concern about how such an arrangement would affect game management in the area.

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