Land use planning in state-owned areas

The state-owned land and water areas managed by Metsähallitus comprise roughly one third of Finland’s surface area. The state’s land and water areas are the focus of many types of needs and wishes regarding their use. Metsähallitus has the important task of coordinating these needs and wishes through a painstaking, multi-stage planning process.

Land use planning in Finland is a cooperative effort

All land use is carefully planned in Finland. The land use planning process has three levels: it starts from national land use objectives set by the ministries and progresses to generalised regional land use plans and local master plans, with local detailed plans as the final level.

Land use planning in Metsähallitus is directed by the land use objectives set by the Government, regional land use plans prepared by the regional councils, and local master plans produced by cities and municipalities. Metsähallitus participates in the preparation of regional land use plans and local master plans through its statements and proposals with the aim of reconciling its own planning objectives with these plans.

The local detailed plans and detailed shore plans for state-owned lands are prepared by Metsähallitus in cooperation with municipalities and cities. A detailed local plan contains more specific stipulations than a regional land use plan or a local master plan; for example, it determines the sites on which building is allowed and the permitted building volumes.

Metsähallitus also participates in maritime spatial planning concerning state-owned public sea areas. The eight coastal regions in Finland work together to develop three maritime spatial plans, while the Åland Islands produce their own plan separately.

Metsähallitus has a unique system of natural resource planning

The most extensive type of land use planning on state-owned lands comprises natural resource planning. This creative planning method used by Metsähallitus, which ensures broad-based participation, is unique on the European scale. 

The resources offered by the land and water areas, the objectives of the state owner, and regional goals are coordinated in the natural resource plans. They are strategies used to generate benefits from and find uses for state-owned lands as diversely as possible. For example, the natural resource plans contain felling plans for commercial forestry.

The natural resource plans are prepared in cooperation with stakeholders. This cooperation has many advantages: working together, the stakeholders can in some cases come up with completely new possibilities of using state-owned land and water areas. The collaborative planning process helps the stakeholders understand the need to do things together. Metsähallitus has an enabling role up to a certain point, after which some other actor can take over. The cooperation also promotes stakeholder commitment to the natural resource plan.

The natural resource plans cover a five-year period. Their implementation is monitored through regular measurements and reporting.

Landscape ecological planning

Landscape ecological planning, the main purpose of which is to foster biodiversity, has close links with natural resources planning. The ecological network on state-owned lands comprises nature reserves and the most valuable nature and special sites in multiple-use forests, as well as the ecological corridors connecting them, which allow plant and animal species to spread. Forestry activities in these areas are restricted, or they are excluded from commercial forestry use.

Another aim of landscape ecological planning is to safeguard the possibilities for multiple use of forests and opportunities for pursuing natural sources of livelihood. Consequently, the plans also account for game habitats, landscape values and cultural sites. In Northern Finland, the needs of reindeer husbandry and nature tourism are a high priority. Possibilities for recreational uses of nature are addressed especially in important tourism areas.

Detailed plans for special areas

In addition to natural resource plans, more specific management and use plans are prepared for individual special areas, including national parks, hiking areas and Natura sites. These plans covering 10 to 15-year periods are produced if this is required by the law, but also otherwise if necessary.

The management and use plans help reconcile objectives related to conservation, recreational activities and other uses. These plans are also produced in cooperation with stakeholders.

Action plans for work sites represent the most detailed form of land use planning. The action plans include all information about the site the party carrying out the work needs, ensuring that the operator recognises and safeguards the site’s important natural and other special values. Examples of action plans include a felling plan for a stand, a restoration plan for a mire or some other area, and a management plan for an ancient monument.

All planning on state-owned lands relies on Metsähallitus’ accurate geographic information system, Uljas. Uljas contains extensive information about current land use on state-owned land, real estate, ecological sites, trees, recreational structures and trails, roads and various special values on state land, such as the occurrence of endangered species, natural and cultural heritage sites, scenic areas and game habitats.