Old-growth forest in Pyhä-Häkki
national park. Photo: Tapio Heikkilä
About 9% of the total area of Finland is protected under the Nature Conservation Act or the Act on the Protection of Wilderness Reserves. As the implementation of the conservation programmes proceeds, the proportion of protected areas will increase to approximately 10%.
In addition, other areas fulfilling protection objectives are included in the Natura 2000 network of protected areas or in land use plans in line with the Land Use and Building Act, or are forests falling within the sphere of various schemes of restricted forest use.
The aim when designating nature reserves is to ensure that representative examples of all natural habitat types found in Finland are preserved. This also helps to maintain the populations of their characteristic animals and plants, and to safeguard threatened species.
Major nature conservation programmes
The Finnish Government has approved seven nature conservation programmes, covering the following areas:
- national parks and strict nature reserves
- bird wetlands
- herb-rich woodland
- old-growth forests
Each programme has its own specific aims, which are used as criteria for the selection of protected areas.
Twelve extensive wilderness reserves have been established in northern Lapland under the Act on the Protection of Wilderness Reserves, while the Act on the Protection of Rapids prohibits the construction of new hydropower facilities along more than 50 stretches of rapids.
Metsähallitus’s landscape ecological planning policies also ensure valuable natural areas and features are preserved on state-owned land, as well as the legally designated protected areas. Many protected areas have also been established on private land. Many smaller-scale natural features such as individual trees or boulders have additionally been designated as natural monuments.
Most of Finland's protected areas also belong to the EU's Natura 2000 network of protected areas.
In July 2006, the Kvarken Archipelago was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.