Published 11.6.2024

Protecting state-owned forests – inventory of old-growth and primary forests under way

The Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have published a proposal for criteria to be used in protecting old-growth and primary forests. Based on these criteria, Metsähallitus will inventory state-owned forests this year and next year. It has also been proposed that 31,000 hectares of state-owned land be put directly under protection. Overall, the area of new permanent protection on state-owned land will increase to an estimated 80,000 to 90,000 hectares.

Finland is committed to protecting old-growth and primary forests in the EU Biodiversity Strategy. They are particularly valuable for biodiversity.

“It’s good to see progress being made in the protection of old-growth forests, and the national criteria proposal has been completed after a long period of work. Metsähallitus inventories sites that meet the criteria on state-owned land and they are put under statutory protection,” says Juha S. Niemelä, Director General of Metsähallitus.

Metsähallitus has started conducting field surveys, in which the average age of a majority of the trees as well as the volume of standing and fallen dead wood trees are recorded. In addition, traces of any previous human activity, such as stumps, ditches and vehicle tracks, are being examined visually. Inventories have been started at sites reported by volunteer nature surveyors.

“After completion of the criteria proposal, the inventory data can be compared to the limit values and the guidelines can be further defined. The areas to be inventoried will also become more defined now that we can review our spatial data on the basis of these criteria. The inventory work is expected to take two field periods,” explains Hannu Lehtonen, Director of Forestry Ltd, Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd.

The sites found in the inventory that meet the criteria for old-growth and primary forests will be protected. New nature sites found in the inventory will also be excluded from forestry activities, even if the protection criteria are not met. Nature sites include herb-rich forests, primary forests and decaying heath forests, sunlit areas, riparian forests and other special sites.

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 and stepping stones along which plant and animal species spread. Forestry operations are restricted in these areas, or the areas are fully excluded from commercial forestry use.

In addition to forests protected on the basis of old-growth and primary forest criteria and inventories, a total of more than 31,000 hectares of Metsähallitus land are proposed for direct protection, mainly in Lapland and the Ostrobothnia-Kainuu region. The selection of protected sites has been based on representative old-growth forests, improved ecological connectivity for protected areas and species, and representative habitats. The proposed sites would probably meet a significant proportion of the criteria for old-growth forests, which means that by limiting them to the protection package already now, there will be no need for field inventories. The sites are mainly part of Metsähallitus’ regional ecological network, where they have already been voluntarily excluded from commercial activities. As a result of the protection decision, they will be put under statutory protection.

Further information:

Metsähallitus, Director General Juha S. Niemelä, tel. +358 (0)50 500 3681
Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd, Director of Forest Use and Planning Hannu Lehtonen, tel. +358 (0)40 583 6983

Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry press release (Finnish and Swedish only)

Further information on the inventory of primary and old-growth forests on the Metsähallitus website