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Government green-lights new nature conservation areas in northern, western Finland

PM Juha Sipilä’s cabinet has given the nod to the establishment of new nature conservation areas covering more than 200,000 hectares in eastern Lapland and northern Ostrobothnia.

Kuva Pomokairasta
Pomokaira in northern Lapland Image: Jukka Brusila

On Thursday the Finnish government agreed to adopt two statutes to establish a total of 62 nature conservation areas in eastern Lapland and northern Ostrobothnia. The total area of the designated conservation area in eastern Lapland is over 197,000 hectares, while areas to be protected in northern Ostrobothnia amount to nearly 22,000 hectares.

For the most part, the protected areas include part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network as well as other territory under state protection.

Forests, swamps, waterways, fells

The region to be protected in eastern Lapland comprises forested and swampy areas. The largest single area to be added to the list of conservation sites is a 50,000-hectare expanse in Koitelainen. The area also includes springs and other small waterways, fells and rocky outcroppings, floodplains and woodlands. Additionally, the site features traditional biotopes under active care and use.

Eastern Lapland’s largest wetlands including the Kemihaara, Luiro, Pomokaira and Koitelainen mires, are some of the most valued territory in Lapland and the country as a whole.

Itä-Lapin uudet luonnonsuojelualueet kartalla
Image: Ympäristöministeriö

Important bird nesting and resting sites

The conservation sites to be established in northern Ostrobothnia include forested lands as well as wetlands and avian waters. Nearly 80 percent of the swamp and peat lands in the southern part of northern Ostrobothnia have been drained.

The new wetlands will be a major addition to the region’s protected swamps. Several such sites are important bird nesting and resting areas. Among the areas to fall be designated official conservation areas are eight significant bird watering area that are also part of the global network of protected wetlands, the Ramsar network.

Some of the forested areas earmarked for conservation are already protected under a programme for mature forests, while others have sought protection under the government-led voluntary forestry protection programme METSO. The new government regulation would safeguard them as part of the Natura 2000 area in the southern part of northern Ostrobothnia, where protection is based on conservation legislation.

No limits on hunting

All of the new conservation areas will fall under the remit of the state forest agency, Metsähallitus. The areas to be protected in eastern Lapland belong to the network of free hunting areas and locals’ right to hunt in the area will not be restricted.

Most of the new conservation areas in northern Ostrobothnia are not covered by free hunting rights, but the activity is allowed in exceptional circumstances. According to ministry officials, changes to existing hunting practices should only change when there are special grounds.

However some form of hunting is possible in about 90 percent of the conservation area to be established in northern Ostrobothnia. For example, locals will still be allowed to hunt moose in nearly all of the earmarked regions, either in part or in the entire site.

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