Almost 90 per cent of protection target set in METSO Programme already reached – more funding needed for environmental subsidies and nature management

News 2022-03-17 at 15:46
Old-growth forest
© Kimmo Syrjänen

Last year Finnish forest owners protected about 4,800 hectares of forests on a permanent basis under the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland METSO. About 300 hectares were protected for a fixed term of 20 years. The objective set in the METSO Programme is to create 96,000 hectares of new protected areas by 2025. By the end of 2021, 88% of the target had been reached as the protected area totalled 84,000 hectares. Last year’s result for environmental forestry subsidy agreements and nature management projects was excellent, 4,500 hectares, which means that 68%, 56,000 hectares, of the target of 82,000 hectares are now covered by these. However, reaching the target will require a clear increase in the level of funding towards the end of the programme period.

“Biodiversity loss continues in Finnish forests, and voluntary protection under the METSO Programme is an important tool for halting it. I am very happy that so many forest owners are active and willing to protect biodiversity and have decided to protect their forests through this programme,” says Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Emma Kari.

The number of ten-year environmental subsidy agreements concluded was also record high. Through these, about 4,400 hectares of forest habitats were protected. Nature management works in private forests were done on 125 hectares.

“It is great to see how well forest owners and actors in the forest sector have embraced the METSO Programme. The growth in the number of environmental subsidy agreements shows that many forest owners see the protection of biodiversity as one of their key objectives. The Finnish Forest Centre has done a good job in preparing the agreements,” says Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä.

Implementation of the METSO Programme in the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment
 

Implementation of the METSO Programme in the Finnish Forest Centre 2008–2021.

Implementation of the METSO Programme in the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and the Finnish Forest Centre 2008–2021.

 

Hundreds of forest owners protected their forests permanently

Both the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and the Finnish Forest Centre exceeded the target set for 2021 in the METSO Programme. In total, more than 450 decisions on permanent protection were made. This means that hundreds of forest owners have ended up protecting their forests as permanent conservation areas under the Nature Conservation Act or sold their forests to the State as nature conservation areas. The average size of the protected sites is just under 11 hectares. The protected area grew the most in Uusimaa, Southwest Finland and South Ostrobothnia. Last year, the average compensation for permanent protection was just under EUR 6,800 per hectare.

In 2021 the compensations paid to landowners for measures to protect biodiversity totalled about EUR 43 million, of which about EUR 33 million concerned permanent protection and EUR 10 million were used for fixed-term environmental subsidy agreements and nature management projects.

Growth in surface area of environmental subsidy agreements continues

The increase in the surface area covered by the ten-year environmental subsidy agreements continued. The area covered by the agreements concluded in 2021 was almost 25% larger than in the previous year. The growth was driven by the improved financial situation and the fact that forest owners offered more sites for this purpose than before. By this increased funding, the Finnish Forest Centre has been able to provide more advice on environmental subsidies, and the number of operators in the forest sector offering assistance in preparing applications for environmental subsidies increased as well. In 2021 applications for environmental subsidies were prepared by 53 organisations and the area covered was about 750 hectares.

The surface area covered by environmental subsidy agreements grew the most in Lapland, North Ostrobothnia, Kainuu and Pirkanmaa. Last year, more than 1,600 ten-year environmental subsidy agreements were concluded and the average size of the sites was just under three hectares. The average compensation for a ten-year agreement was about EUR 2,100 per hectare.

Aim to protect at least 4,000 hectares this year

The aim of the METSO Programme for 2022 is to protect at least 4,000 hectares on a permanent basis. This year and in the following years there will be some decrease in the funding available for protection, but even then the target of the METSO Programme will be achieved in 2025. The main focus will stay on sites located in southern Finland, but valuable forest sites will be protected throughout the country. At the same time, the Ministry of the Environment promotes the protection of old-growth forests in the north with a separate appropriation that can still be used this year in Lapland, North Ostrobothnia and Kainuu.

Reaching target for environmental subsidies requires increased funding

The target set for environmental subsidy agreements is 3,400 hectares and that for nature management is 250 hectares. Nature management projects promote water protection, improving the state of habitats and the emergence of post-fire and burned habitats. The Finnish Forest Centre offers projects to be implemented through public calls for applications. The funds available for these total about EUR 9 million.

With respect to environmental subsidy agreements and nature management projects, achieving the target of the METSO Programme’s requires a clear increase in funding levels for the coming years. Forest owners are very much interested in voluntary protection, which is why additional funding would effectively promote forest protection throughout the country.

Voluntary forest protection under METSO Programme continues until 2030

The Government adopted the Resolution on the Helmi Programme concerning the restoration and management of habitats in May 2021. The decision included the continuation of the METSO Programme after the current programming period in 2026–2030. The objectives for this period will be defined in a broad-based working group. In protecting forest biodiversity, there is collaboration between the METSO Programme and the Helmi Habitats Programme e.g. in the protection and management of herb-rich forest sites that are valuable for biodiversity. The Helmi Habitats Programme also complements the METSO Programme with respect to the objectives for restoration and nature management in commercial forests.

Inquiries:

Esa Pynnönen
Senior Specialist
Ministry of the Environment
tel. +358 295 250 386

esa.pynnonen@gov.fi

Ville Schildt
Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
tel. +358 295 162 190
ville.schildt@gov.fi

An old-growth forest in winter.
© Susanna Anttila

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