The Finnish committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) awarded volunteer environmentalist Juha Salonen and his team the Biodiversity Award for 2017-2018.
A network of volunteers has been working to revitalise and maintain the Longinoja brook in Malmi, Helsinki for more than 15 years. The stream is home to a population of endangered sea trout (Salmo trutta).
The Biodiversity Award is handed out via a public competition overseen by the national committee. This time the competition attracted 21 high-level proposals.
Minister of the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen handed over the accolade at the seventh biennial award ceremony in Helsinki on Monday, praising the efforts by the conservationists.
"Thanks to active restoration work, the brook has now revived, and large numbers of threatened sea trout come again to spawn in the Longinoja brook," Tiilikainen said. "This kind of hands-on work is important in the conservation of species. The volunteer work has opened the eyes of many city dwellers to the importance of urban nature areas."
The award last went to the Wolf Ambassadors of the Finnish Nature League for dispelling the fear of wolves among children and youngsters by disseminating science-based information, according to the Environment Ministry website.
The IUCN is the oldest and largest environmental network in the world. Finland's IUCN organisations include the Ministry of the Environment, the Finnish Association of Nature Conservation, WWF Finland, the Finnish Society for Nature and Environment (Natur och Miljö), BirdLife Finland, the Finnish Wildlife Agency and the Helsinki Zoo.
Unique work creates friendships
Project coordinator and award recipient Juha Salonen said he and his team of 112 volunteers greatly appreciate the acknowledgement.
"I was pretty speechless when I heard the news," he said. "It's amazing that such an esteemed panel chose us as this year's winner."
Salonen emphasised that the greatest award for him is a renewed interest in the natural environment and the human connections created through the restoration work.
"Our brook troop is very active and very close. Awards are great, but it's most important to do lasting work to take care of nature. We want to do something unique together," Salonen said.