Delay in implementing the mire protection programme is a major factor requiring changes in the structure of funding for nature protection through the Ministry of the Environment. The intention is to proceed with mire protection through the Metso programme.
Funding through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for the Metso action plan for the protection of forest biodiversity was at its highest in 2011, at EUR 10.8 million. Last year, the funding decreased to EUR 6.5 million, remaining on this level for this year. In addition to this, a sum of EUR 135,000 for nature management that could not be used last year is transferred to this year.
Funding through the Ministry of the Environment has decreased by EUR 5 million for this year. However, this funding increased each year up to 2014, reaching EUR 33.7 million.
It was initially planned that the Ministry of the Environment’s funding for the Metso programme should have been EUR 27 million for this year, ten million less for the next year, and only EUR 12.8 million in 2017. On the other hand, the plan was to increase all other funding for nature protection from EUR 22 million in 2015 to 26 million in 2017.
However, in 2014 the Government decided to delay the implementation of the mire protection programme, with the result that there is less need to increase funding for nature protection according to the plan. ”This funding is just used to implement the outstanding parts of existing nature protection programmes and protection through municipal land use planning,” says Ms. Päivi Gummerus-Rautiainen, Senior Inspector at the Ministry of the Environment.
Implementing the existing protection programmes is important because the protected areas defined in them have been banned from use since the Government decided to establish these programmes, perhaps decades ago, and implementing them means, among other things, that the landowner is entitled to receive compensation for restrictions in land use.
As regards mire protection, it will be carried on through the Metso programme. This is why the allocation of funding between the different protection instruments has not been decided yet. ”The Metso programme could be used to protect some forested mire habitats,” says Gummerus-Rautiainen.
Shortage of money favours most valuable protection sites
As far as the Ministry of the Environment is concerned, the Metso Programme has proceeded according to plan. In contrast to statements during the early stages of the programme, the ministry now speaks about an overall target concerning the number of hectares protected.
This overall target is, according to the ministry, 96,000 hectares. At the start of the programme this figure was considered only a possible result of the programme.
Of this area, slightly over 50 percent is now protected. The Ministry of the Environment targets the protection of 5,700 hectares during 2015.
As funding decreases, the need to find the most valuable protection sites becomes more important. As a result, the criteria for Metso protection sites are to be updated this year. The goal is to have them in use next year, or maybe even at the end of this year.
Difficulties are caused by staff cutbacks at the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, which have the practical responsibility for nature protection measures in Finland. This increases the need for cooperation between the centres and for purchasing services from commercial operators – which, on the other hand, will shrink the money used for actual protection even more.
Forest protection statistics will be reorganized
Staff cutbacks at the Forest Centre also create difficulties for implementing the Metso programme. However, much of the Forest Centre work with the programme consists of cooperation projects with stakeholders from other sectors of society. The projects deal with, for example, game management, landscape maintenance, nature tourism, forest health and communication.
A significant project is the reorganization of the statistics on forest protection in Finland. The objective is to establish statistics based on up-to-date GIS information. For the time being, areas protected under the Metso programme, for example, are not always visible in the statistics.
The plan is that the new Natural Resources Institute Finland, which continues the work of the former Finnish Forest Research Institute since January 2015, could collect the protection data needed for the new statistics already this year.
All in all, according to decisions currently in force, the Metso Programme will be continued until 2025. As regards funding the programme, decisions only stretch up to 2018.