There are many – and many kinds of – forest owners in Finland. Some forest owners live in the countryside and some in towns, some are young and some are old, some of them own a small forest holding and some own a large one.
For some forest owners the key aspect of forest ownership is recreational, for example hunting or picking berries. To others, the forest is mainly a source of economic security. Forest can also be considered as a link to the home region.
It is important that forest owners have easy access to means of and advice on safeguarding biodiversity.
Conserving nature values and protecting them for future generations is important to many forest owners. A forest with high biodiversity values also provides good conditions to relax and observe nature. It is important that forest owners have easy access to means of and advice on safeguarding biodiversity.
At the early stages of the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland METSO in 2009, around two out of every five forest owners had at least heard of METSO, whereas the figure is now about two-thirds. When forest management consultation is provided, it is very important to bring forward the means METSO offers, and nature management options in general.
The METSO programme provides several alternatives to the voluntary protection of nature values. In METSO Programme the forest owner receives compensation for conservation. Surveys show that forest owners are particularly interested in nature management projects and taking nature values into account in forest management practises. Some of them also find fixed-term and permanent conservation methods interesting.
Another indication of general willingness to safeguard nature values is that forest owners offer numerous sites for protection within the METSO programme. It will be important to maintain the interest of forest owners in the voluntary protection of forests, and to be able to respond to such interest.
The objective of METSO Programme is by 2025 to have sites covering about 96 000 hectares to be established as private nature reserves or fixed-term nature reserves, or acquired by the State for conservation. In addition, the objective is to safeguard about 82 000 hectares of valuable forest habitats in commercially managed privately owned forests through fixed-term environmental forestry subsidy agreements and implementation of nature management projects. About half of the hectare target set to METSO Programme has already been reached.
In developing the bioeconomy, it is vital that biodiversity will be maintained and promoted. The resources of the METSO programme have decreased, whereas the need to implement the programme has increased.
Published in Finnish in Maaseudun Tulevaisuus 14 of November.