Interim review of METSO Programme reveals voluntary conservation to be a success

News 2019-04-16 at 15:54
METSO habitat
© Kimmo Syrjänen

According to an interim review, the sites protected under the METSO Forest Biodiversity Programme have a very high nature value and supplement Finland’s nature conservation area network well. The METSO Programme, which is based on voluntary conservation, is also widely valued by forest owners and other interest groups.

The lack of ability to target conservation measures sufficiently well from an ecological point of view has been considered a problem of voluntary nature conservation. However, analyses based on geospatial data and Zonation analyses reveal that the conservation measures undertaken as part of the METSO Programme have led to the creation of a well-connected network of areas with high ecological value.

The interim review presents some suggestions on how to further develop the METSO Programme. For example, forest protection should focus more strongly on the southernmost parts of Finland, where the conservation network is currently the weakest. The report also proposes targeting the METSO measures at certain ecologically valuable regions in order to create concentrations of high nature value.

“The METSO Programme is an important tool for safeguarding biodiversity in Finland. The results of the interim review on the good ecological quality of METSO areas are very valuable information for us. The Ministry of the Environment is currently working to develop and expand the voluntary conservation, which supplements state conservation measures, to include other habitats in addition to forests,” says Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing Kimmo Tiilikainen.

“The strengths of the METSO Programme are that forest owners and other interest groups have been so enthusiastic in adopting it and that cooperation between the authorities and the forestry sector has flowed so smoothly. The review shows that the implementation practices work well. Now the most important thing is to ensure we have adequate resources to obtain the targets of the METSO Programme,” says Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä.

The METSO Programme, which began in 2008, is currently scheduled to continue until 2025. The interim review, commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, was conducted by the University of Jyväskylä, Pellervo Economic Research (PTT) and Gaia Consulting Oy. The review recommends continuing the METSO Programme’s effective conservation measures even after 2025.

METSO goals for 2018 achieved successfully

In the administrative branch of the Ministry of the Environment, decisions on conservation are made regionally at the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres). ELY Centres achieved their METSO targets for last year, a total of 4,294 hectares were protected as private nature reserves, temporary nature reserves or purchased by the state for conservation. The average size of the sites was around 10 hectares.

METSO Programme in ELY Centres

In the administrative branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the implementing of METSO Programme is executed by the Finnish Forestry Centre with environmental forestry subsidy agreements and nature management projects.

In 2018, altogether 835 environmental forestry subsidy agreements were concluded with the total area of the sites – 2,541 hectares – exceeding the annual target. The average area of the sites was around three hectares. First nature management project using prescribed burning was implemented last year aiming to promote biodiversity according to a new working model, and similar projects are planned for the coming years.

METSO Programme in Finnish Forestry Centre

In 2019 conservation target for the ELY-Centres is 4,500 hectares, and around EUR 25 million in appropriations is available for achieving this. Receiving applications to the METSO Programme from Southern Finland is particularly appreciated. For environmental forestry subsidy agreements the target is 2,600 hectares and for nature management projects 200 hectares. Around EUR 6 million in appropriations is available for this work.

METSO-site in Southern Finland
© Kimmo Syrjänen

The METSO Programme is a joint project of the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of the Agriculture and Forestry based on Government resolution. The voluntary METSO Programme offers compensation to landowners so they can protect their forests, either permanently or under fixed-term agreements. The METSO Programme also includes nature management projects that do not generate expenses for the landowner. In all cases the suitability of a forest area as a METSO site is evaluated in the initial assessment. If the area is suitable for the METSO Programme, negotiations begin with the landowner about conservation measures. The landowner makes the final decision after receiving a compensation offer.