Cultural Heritage Sites
There are many important heritage sites managed by Metsähallitus ranging from national landscapes at Aavasaksa and Aulanko to logging cabins and the grounds of small estates. Cultural sites which have stood for hundreds of years are in danger of disappearing, if they are not used and cared for.
Ancient SitesAncient sites which have remained intact in the terrain are valuable messages from prehistoric times or monuments reminding us of historical events: places of worship, hunting traps, tar pits and ruins, boarder boulders and fortresses.
There are ca. 3,000 ancient sites and several ship wreck remains in areas managed by Metsähallitus. Next to sites, there are signs of change which began in prehistoric times: patches where forest has been cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture or pastures for cattle and travel and hunting trails. These ancient parts of the landscape are also being conserved.
Ancient sites and artefacts are protected by the Antiquities Act, which states that they are not to be destroyed or disturbed. When conserving and restoring forests and landscapes this must be taken into account. As part of each area’s management plan the exact location of ancient artefacts is determined and the management of the sites is planned in cooperation with the National Board of Antiquities.
There are 300 valuable old buildings maintained by Metsähallitus ranging from the Sámi reindeer round-up site at Sallivaara to the Kirjakkala manor in Teijo. Most of the buildings are forest ranger homes and old crofts, loggers’ cabins and open wilderness huts, fisherman’s cabins and meadow barns. They have remained intact in the terrain and are reminders of old types of livelihoods, building skills and people’s attitudes towards the environment they lived in.
Metsähallitus surveyed its old buildings in 1994 and the most valuable of these buildings were protected by law by the Ministry of the Environment. There are 132 buildings protected by law which are managed by Metsähallitus and another 92 which are protected in accordance to an agreement between Metsähallitus and National Board of Antiquities.
As the management of state-owned lands has been consolidated, Metsähallitus has acquired other old buildings. These buildings will be evaluated together with the National Board of Antiquities to determine their need for protection. A suitable new use for each building is the best way to protect it.
Protecting buildings entails care, maintenance and restoration while still preserving the cultural and historical value of the building. Metsähallitus restores protected sites under the supervision of the National Board of Antiquities and works with locals to find a suitable use for each building. Old forest crofts are now heritage farms, managing the landscape and preserving traditional landscapes, or they are nature information huts for visitors in national parks. Logger’s cabins and open wilderness huts have been restored to accommodate visitors.
Many of the protected buildings are located in areas established for nature protection and they are managed by Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland.
Traditional agricultural landscapes are in even greater danger, as farming becomes more technological and as people move to towns. There are only 40,000 hectares of meadows, pastures and slash-and-burn forests left in Finland and they are spread in small patches. Without continuous care they would disappear altogether. We want to preserve traditional landscapes, however, as they are Finland’s most diverse biotopes as concerns flora and fauna. They are a part of our history reaching back decades and even centuries.
Metsähallitus manages 2,600 hectares of traditional landscapes on state-owned lands. For the most part they are located in the Ostrobothnia-Kainuu area and in Southern Finland. The most important traditional landscapes to preserve are river bank flood meadows in the north, slash-and-burn agriculture sites in the east and clearings, fields and rare wooded meadows.
Metsähallitus manages and restores traditional landscapes, according to management plans under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment, and built cultural environments and ancient sites in cooperation with the National Board of Antiquities. Before an area or site is managed and restored a natural and historical evaluation is carried out. Meadows have been mowed open, saplings cleared and buildings and fences fixed up with the guidance of experts.
Metsähallitus is in charge of this work. Metsähallitus rents horses, cattle and sheep, needed for landscaping, from local farmers. Many volunteers have also had a chance to help restore cultural landscapes and preserve the species in them. Volunteers are needed as government funding is limited.
Heritage farms, which are managed by Metsähallitus, combine the preservation of nature and heritage. Old vegetation species are conserved, old buildings maintained and old skills of the hand practised.