The project NATNET Life+ implemented perpetual conservation agreements with land owners using easements. Landowners received a tax-free compensation for the profit loss but land ownership stayed unchanged. This pilot action looks into the replicability of the NATNET model to other countries in Scandinavia and the Baltic.
The goal of the NATNET Life+ project was to promote, maintain and preserve biodiversity in South-West Lapland. A specific objective was to increase the coherence of the Natura 2000 network by establishing new conservation areas. Funding of the conservation payments was covered from the national Forest Biodiversity Programme i.e. Metso Programme. The programme aims at activating voluntary-based conservation agreements between forest owners and authorities. An increasing number of forest owners are interested in preserving ecologically valuable forest habitats by offering their forests for permanent protection. Active nature management of the sites can be included in the conservation agreements. Forest owners value the voluntary approach, the independence in decision-making and the chance to retain their property rights in the available conservation schemes. Forest owners get full financial compensation equivalent to the value of timber at the protected site. With permanent protection, the private forest owner’s income from the site is tax free.
Nature management plans were prepared with the aim of taking the diversity values of the area into consideration and providing recommendations to retain and increase these values. The purpose of the plans was to create ecological connections in the project area and to provide an alternative for traditional forest development plans which usually focus on maximal wood production. A nature management plan includes basic information about the forest (habitat type, tree species and other vegetation), information regarding sites that fulfil the METSO criteria, compartment-specific recommendations for the preservation and increase of natural values, and instructions for logging and forest management in accordance with the forest owner’s objectives. Compartment-specific recommendations may include bog restoration, ensuring a sufficient percentage of deciduous trees in connection with early stand management or thinning, leaving areas uncut or performing light selection felling in forest areas with different age structures. In the NATNET Life+ project the nature management plans were free of charge for the land owners.
Pilot action A.10 will test whether the NATNET model can be adapted to other regions or landowner groups. In particular, it will present the model to colleagues in neighbouring countries (Sweden and the Baltic states) and, by explaining and discussing it with them, investigate the potential for applying it in other regions. The action will focus on an analysis of the legal and financial frameworks in these countries and an identification of gaps that impede the replication of the model. The action will organise a seminar on conservation easements where the preliminary findings will be presented and discussed with the relevant stakeholders. The action will also investigate different kinds of compensation options. After analysing the current situation, we will suggest either new options for compensation payments or recommendations for further development of the models that are already in use.
The implementation of a METSO protection programme usually begins with the landowner’s proposal to place an area they own or a part of it under protection. After this, a representative from an ELY Centre preliminarily inspects the natural values of the site with maps and aerial images and, if necessary, on site. With the landowner's consent, a tree stand assessment and a more detailed specification of natural values is carried out. After this, a potential protection method, i.e. selling the area or establishing a private conservation area, is negotiated and agreed. In the NATNET Life+ project, the implementation method was, without exception, the establishment of a permanent nature reserve with the site remaining the property of the landowner. The negotiations also cover the protection regulations and limitations of the conservation area. After the negotiations, the ELY Centre makes the landowner an offer on a conservation compensation. The compensation is mainly based on the value of the tree stand. If the landowner is satisfied with the offer, they will sign a written consent. After the ELY Centre has made a decision on establishing a private conservation area, the case is forwarded to the administrative court. If appeals regarding the case are not received within the prescribed time, the administrative court will concede that the decision is legally valid. After verifying the legality of the decision, the compensation is paid to the landowner tax-exempt in one instalment. The conservation area is recorded in the land register, maps and, if necessary, the terrain.
The NATNET Life+ project was carried out by the Lapland ELY Centre, Metsähallitus, Natural Resources Institute Finland and Finnish Forest Centre. The Forest owners’ association of Länsi-Pohja worked in close cooperation with the project beneficiaries and land owners. Naturally the land owners were in the key role in establishing the conservation areas, and one of the most important part of the project was to distribute information to the forest owners regarding the project and its actions.
NATNET Life+ project was carried out in 2012 – 2017. On national level METSO Programme has been implemented since 2008 and it will continue until 2025. This pilot action will be concluded by the end of 2019.
METSO Programme that uses easements in requiring new conservation areas has been implemented in Finland since 2008. It has not been applied outside of Finland yet.
So far a total of 61,153 hectares in Finland has been protected by METSO conservation agreements. 8,820 hectares of these conservation areas are located in the County of Lapland.
Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Lapland
Hallituskatu 3 b