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New ownership policy decisions concerning Metsähallitus

Press release 2020-05-05 at 15:05

The Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government has made the ownership policy decisions concerning Metsähallitus for 2020–2024. The new policy measures are based on changes in the environment where we operate and objectives set in the Government Programme concerning, in particular, the carbon neutrality target to 2035, halting the loss of biodiversity and sustainable forestry.

The new policy measures aim to coordinate even better the different forms of land use and the objectives relating to sustainable forestry, supply of wood raw material, biodiversity, recreational use and climate policy.

This is the first time a growth target has been set for Metsähallitus concerning carbon sinks and reservoirs that applies to areas administered by both the Business Operations and National Parks Finland. In multi-use forests administered by the Business Operations, the aim is that the measures to be taken during the period concerned will increase the carbon sink by at least 10% by 2035. The measures will also strengthen the sinks already in 2020–2024.

What these changes mean in practice is that the forestry measures by Metsähallitus focus strongly on active nature management, climate sustainability and climate resilience, and recreational use perspectives. These measures will also allow to ensure the raw material supply for the forest bioeconomy and its positive impacts on regional economies and employment in accordance with the regional natural resources plans.

State revenue requirement eased

The new actions that were decided include changes in the treatment of peatlands, increasing forest growth through fertilisation and bred planting material, and a programme on new nature management measures. The measures include nature management of herb-rich forests and sun-exposed esker forest habitats, restoration of mires, increased use of prescribed burning, restoration of brooks and removing barriers to fish migration.

In regeneration felling the percentage of continuous cover forestry is raised from 15% to 25%, with a particular focus on peatland soils and sites that are important for recreational use. The need to ensure the conditions for reindeer herding and Saami culture is also taken into account in the decisions.

These measures will cause some additional costs and reduce the felling volumes, which will be taken into account in setting the performance targets for Metsähallitus. The new target percentage for the return on capital invested is 4.4%, which corresponds to about EUR 114 million in annual revenue to the State at the end of the period covered. This is about EUR 18 million less than in a situation where operations had been continued according to the decisions made earlier.

The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä believes that the decisions will successfully reconcile the different objectives related to the management and use of state-owned forests.

“In Metsähallitus the focus is on all dimensions of sustainability. The decisions that have been made are based on the view that we can do different things in forests at the same time: practise forestry, enhance nature values, hunt and fish, hike and enjoy the natural environment, and sequester carbon. Within the value chain of the forest sector, Metsähallitus bears part of the responsibility for securing the wood raw material supply for the processing and manufacturing industry and for promoting employment and regional economies. Recreational activities based on nature and wildlife and nature tourism are also duly taken into account in the decisions.”

The changes to the performance targets for 2020–2024 mean an additional investment of about EUR 50 million in active forest and nature management and in reconciling the different objectives.

Nature values secured – benefits to recreational use and game and wildlife management

In nature reserves, more efficient action will be taken to halt the endangerment of species and habitats and to improve the status of habitats, including by implementing the extensive restoration and rehabilitation works under the Helmi habitats programme. The nature values of nature reserves and other areas designated for recreational use will be secured. At the same time, the repair backlog in hiking routes and guide services will be reduced.

“Mitigating climate change and halting the decline in biodiversity are among the greatest challenges of our time. I am happy that, with these new decisions, Metsähallitus will work even harder to contribute to finding solutions to the sustainability crisis. Metsähallitus supports the work towards a carbon-neutral Finland by 2035, and a carbon-negative one soon after that, and maintains and enhances biodiversity and recreational use. State-owned lands are managed and used in such a way that they will function as ever-increasing carbon sinks and reservoirs, both in the short and long term,” Minister of the Environment Krista Mikkonen says.

In planning and real estate development concerning the lands administered by Metsähallitus will take account of the comprehensive benefit to society, which also comprises promoting the use of renewable energy and providing even better environments for tourism and other businesses.

In developing tourism and recreational use on state-owned lands, the aim is to ensure the conditions for enhancing wellbeing, encouraging local entrepreneurship, and recreational fisheries and hunting. The aim is also to promote the viability, productivity and diversity of game and fish populations, and fish farming in state-owned water areas.

Inquiries:

Marja Kokkonen, Director General, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 40 5246267, marja.kokkonen(at)mmm.fi

Teppo Säkkinen, Special Adviser to Minister Leppä, tel. +358 50 516 2868, teppo.sakkinen(at)mmm.fi

Juha S. Niemelä, Director General, Metsähallitus, tel. +358 206 39 4201, juha.niemela(at)metsa.fi

Pirkko Isoviita, Senior Forester, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 0295 250 194, pirkko.isoviita(at)ym.fi

Antti Heikkinen, Special Adviser to Minister Mikkonen, tel. +358 50 348 1406, antti.heikkinen(at)ym.fi