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Successful year for the METSO Programme – Forest owners even more eager to protect biodiversity

Publication date 11.2.2021 11.00 | Published in English on 19.7.2022 at 14.38
News item

Last year Finnish forest owners protected about 5,500 hectares of forest on a permanent basis through the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland METSO. In addition, about 3,500 hectares of forest habitats were protected under 10-year environmental forestry subsidy agreements and nature management work was done on 128 hectares. METSO is a conservation programme based on voluntary action by forest owners through which they can protect their forests and receive compensation for this. Nature management measures are also taken that do not involve any costs to landowners.

The objective set in the METSO Programme is to create 96,000 hectares of new protected areas by 2025. Another aim is to conclude environmental forestry subsidy agreements and undertake nature management work on about 82,000 hectares of commercial forest.

By the end of 2020 the protected area totalled 79,052 hectares, which means that 82% of the target had been reached. Nature management and environmental support for forestry covered 51,486 hectares, which is 63% of the target. The compensations paid to landowners for measures to preserve biodiversity in 2020 totalled EUR 43.4 million. The protected area includes 13,000 hectares of commercial forests owned by Metsähallitus which were designated for nature conservation in 2014.

Increased funding for voluntary conservation

At the end of last year, Parliament allocated more funds for forest conservation. The METSO Programme received EUR 8 million in additional funding for permanent conservation and 2.5 million for environmental support agreements and nature management projects. A special appropriation was allocated to promote the protection of old-growth forests in Lapland, North Ostrobothnia and Kainuu. In 2020 the area included in permanent conservation was 800 hectares larger than in 2019. The increase in the protected area was record high in Uusimaa, Southwest Finland and Southeast Finland.

“It is truly great that so many Finns are interested in protecting their forests and have thus ensured the preservation of habitats for many threatened species. Last year we increased the funding for the METSO Programme, but there is demand for even more. Obviously, in the future even stronger resources should be reserved for forest conservation in all regions of Finland to preserve the biodiversity of forest nature,” Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen says.

Record high number of environmental support agreements

The surface area covered by ten-year environmental support agreements concluded in 2020 was almost 50% higher than in 2019. The growth was due to the increased funding and the special efforts by the Finnish Forest Centre to promote the METSO Programme. The surface area covered by environmental support agreements grew the most in Lapland, South Ostrobothnia, Southwest Finland and Kymenlaakso.

“The METSO Programme has shown that voluntary protection is an attractive way for forest owners to preserve the biodiversity of forest nature. Increased funding and efforts made within the sector are taking us in a good direction, and I hope and trust that this will continue in future,” Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä says.

Efforts to preserve biodiversity continue in the METSO and Helmi Programmes

The aim of the METSO Programme for 2021 is to protect at least 4,500 hectares on a permanent basis. The amount of funding available for protection is EUR 35 million, which will be sufficient to reach the target. The focus is still on sites located in southern Finland. The target set for environmental support agreements is 3,550 hectares and that for nature management projects is 250 hectares. The total amount of funding available for these is EUR 9.3 million. The present levels of funding will be adequate to reach the target for permanent protection by 2025, but in the case of environmental support agreements and nature management projects about 83% of the target will be met. The funding for these should be doubled to reach the target set in the programme.

Besides the METSO Programme, the Helmi Habitats Programme led by the Ministry of the Environment aims to promote the biodiversity of Finnish nature in forests as well as in other types of habitats, including mires, waterfowl habitats, wetlands, semi-natural grasslands, small waters bodies and shores. The Ministry of the Environment communicated on the results of the Helmi Programme in 2020 on 16 February. The Government will decide on the objectives of the Helmi Programme and continuation of the METSO Programme to 2030 in May.

METSO is a joint programme of the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The responsibility for its practical implementation rests with the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) and the Finnish Forest Centre


Esa Pynnönen
Senior Officer
Ministry of the Environment
tel. +358 295 250 386
[email protected]

Ville Schildt
Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
tel. +358 295 162 190
[email protected]