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Nature reserves and other areas for the protection of nature

Nature reserves are used to preserve the diversity of species and habitat types. They also help to conserve national landscapes, the cultural heritage and recreational and hiking areas.

Nature reserves include

  • national parks,
  • strict nature reserves,
  • other state-owned protected nature reserves and
  • reserves established in privately owned areas.

Pentti Sormunen, Image Bank of the Environmental Administration

The majority of nature reserves are located on state-owned land and are maintained by the state forest enterprise Metsähallitus. About nine per cent of Finland's land area is protected under the Nature Conservation Act and the Wilderness Act.

Most of this protected area is part of the Natura 2000 network, whose purpose is to protect biodiversity.

Other conservation areas

Besides nature reserves, other means exist to protect the natural environment. Under the Wilderness Act, wilderness areas have been established in northern fell and forest areas. At the same time, hiking areas have been established under the Outdoor Recreation Act. The Act on the Protection of Rapids (35/1987) protects some waterways by prohibiting the construction of power stations in them.

It is also possible to establish landscape reserves, under the Nature Conservation Act, to preserve and manage natural or cultural landscapes of outstanding beauty, historical interest or other special value. Under the Land Use and Building Act, national urban parks may be established to safeguard the special values of urban environments.

Additionally, other areas are set aside to support nature conservation objectives, such as Natura 2000 network areas not intended for establishment as nature reserves, areas reserved for various levels of protection in land use plans, the key habitats referred to in the Forest Act and areas independently protected by landowners.

Special natural formations, such as trees, groups of trees or an erratic boulder can be designated a protected natural monument under the Nature Conservation Act.

Establishing nature reserves

According to the Nature Conservation Act, a nature reserve is established through provisions in a law or decree, if the area is located on state-owned land. If it is located on privately owned land the decision is made by a Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. Nature reserves are mainly established on the basis of national nature conservation programmes. A nature conservation programme may allocate sites for the purpose of nature conservation. Such programmes are adopted by the Government. The allocated sites are later turned into nature reserves.

National parks and strict nature reserves are established by law. Other nature reserves on state-owned land are established by government decree, if they are larger than 100 hectares. If they smaller than 100 hectares, they are established by a decree of the Ministry of the Environment.

The general prerequisites for establishing a nature reserve are that:

  • the site hosts an endangered or rare species, population or ecosystem, or one that is becoming scarce;
  • there are breeding sites or resting places of specimens of the species specified in the EU Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora;
  • it is the site of a special or rare natural formation;
  • it is a site of outstanding natural beauty;
  • there is a natural heritage type which is becoming scarce within the area;
  • it is necessary for attaining or maintaining the favourable conservation status of a natural habitat or species.

Management and use of nature reserves

The Nature Conservation Act contains provisions on the use of nature reserves. The act also includes provisions on protection orders concerning nature reserves, and exceptions to them. When other nature reserves are being established, the government may implement certain site-specific exceptions. A special plan must be drafted for the management and use of a national park, according to the Nature Conservation Act. When necessary, a management plan may also be drafted for a strict nature reserve or other nature reserve.

The authority or agency in charge of the nature reserve is responsible for preparing the management and use plan. In the case of state-owned land, the authority in charge is Metsähallitus. The users of the area have the right to express their opinion while the plan is under preparation. The management and use plan for a national park must be ratified by the Ministry of the Environment. The management and use of privately owned nature reserves is planned through cooperation between the landowner, a Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, and Metsähallitus.

Conservation decisions observe local conditions

Nature conservation decisions take the following factors into account: local conditions, the rights of the area's residents, and the safeguarding of livelihoods and jobs, alongside nature conservation. The Ministry of the Environment has commissioned a study on the implementation of the state's obligations concerning nature conservation decisions.


Published 2016-04-22 at 15:46, updated 2016-04-22 at 15:47