Sanginjoki forest deal signed – Finns should collectively protect forests to stop biodiversity loss

Kone Foundation has today, on 1 March 2021, purchased the Sanginjoki multipurpose forest area from the City of Oulu. The area will be donated to the Finnish State for nature conservation purposes. It is the Foundation’s wish that a national park be established in the area. In addition, the Foundation hopes that the State will protect another area of similar size in accordance with the principle of the Nature Gift to Finland campaign, as set out in the Government Programme, which would double the size of the protected forest area.

“At Kone Foundation, we pay attention to sustainability in every sense of the word; we want to act responsibly with respect to humans, other species and the environment. Humans are part of the Earth’s ecosystem, and our personal and cultural well-being is dependent on the diversity of life on Earth. Protecting the Sanginjoki forest area is a single act towards preserving the diversity of nature in Finland, which is backed by the tireless efforts of local activists, who share these values,” says Ulla Tuomarla, Executive Director at Kone Foundation.


Protected areas are the most effective way to protect the diversity of life

In Finland, both the forests themselves and the species living in the forests are threatened. On estimate, more than 70 per cent of forest types are endangered. The threatened forest types include coniferous swamps, groves and old taigas. Of all the species living in Finnish forests, as many as 833 are endangered, which corresponds to 9 percent of all species living in Finnish forests. The number has increased in recent decades and it will continue to grow if we keep treating forests the way we are treating them now.

Nature reserves are the surest way to preserve biodiversity. The objective of the EU Biodiversity Strategy is to increase the size of the protected areas so that it will cover at least 30 per cent of EU’s areas on land and at sea by 2030. One third of the protected areas should be strictly protected.

In connection with the UN Biodiversity Convention in 2019, Finland’s protected areas were calculated to cover 13.8 per cent of the country’s land areas and inland waters. Marine protected areas cover around 11 per cent of Finland’s total sea area, so their protection needs to be urgently stepped up to meet the 30 % goal.

Approximately 13 per cent of Finnish forests are protected. Strictly protected forest areas cover 10 per cent of low-productive forest land and scrubland and 6 per cent of productive forest land. Most of the protected forest areas are located in Northern Finland: only 3 per cent of forest land in Southern Finland is strictly protected.

“All Finns need to contribute to protecting Finland’s forests. We will not achieve the 30 per cent target set for protected areas without the joint efforts of private forest owners, community owners, private citizens and the State,” says Researcher Ari-Pekka Auvinen, participant of the Sanginjoki forest conservation movement.

Around 60 per cent of Finland’s forests are owned by private forest owners. According to the Natural Resources Institute Finland, the number of forest owners in Finland who own at least two hectares of forest is around 632,000. Auvinen encourages every forest owner to consider what they could do to contribute to the objective of preserving the diversity of nature.

“I carried out my uncle’s will by protecting a third of the forestry estate he left to me, free of charge. Most of the current forest owners in Finland are like me: I live in a city, I inherited the forest and my livelihood is not dependent on the money I make from selling wood. I valued the forest most for its spiritual, non-material legacy,” says Auvinen.

“There are several ways to protect forests. The State pays a fair compensation for trees that meet the criteria set in the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland METSO to promote voluntary forest protection. Forest areas can also be sold or donated, for example, to a nature conservation foundation, which will handle the establishment of the forest as a protected area on behalf of the private owner. Another way is to let the forest be and, instead of logging, emphasise its value for natural products, recreation and the enhancement of carbon stocks. A functioning market may emerge for these in the future,” says Auvinen.

Well, most Finns are not forest owners. Private citizens can have an impact by donating money for purchasing forests that will be protected. The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation, which is active throughout Finland, uses the donated funds to purchase forests and take the necessary measures to protect them permanently under the Nature Conservation Act.

The success of the Sanginjoki movement encourages everyone to protect forests

The conservation of the Sanginjoki forest area was forwarded by a movement for 17 years. The most important means of influencing for the people of Oulu who participated in the movement was to raise awareness of the significance of the area in various ways; for example, there was a nature café in the old forest ranger’s house for several years, and the Oulu City Library, which is also a regional library, hosted an extensive exhibition on the value of forests.

“I encourage all Finns to actively participate in nature conservation at the grassroots level. The Sanginjoki forest has become a beloved place for me and many other people in Oulu. Through joint efforts, I have had the opportunity to contribute to its conservation. The establishment of Sanginjoki as a protected forest area shows that perseverance can pay handsomely in the end,” says Ari-Pekka Auvinen.

The forest deal between Kone Foundation and the City of Oulu concerns the Sanginjoki multipurpose forest, the as yet unprotected part of the outer forest totalling approximately 1,440 hectares. The Sanginjoki outer forest consists of a total of some 2,600 hectares of forest to the east of the city of Oulu, less than 20 kilometres from the city centre. The forest types in the area range from pines growing in dry areas covered in lichen to spruces growing in large coniferous swamps, which are characteristic for the area. The outer forest serves as a habitat for many endangered and rare species. Over the years, it has become an important recreational destination for the people of Oulu. The Oulu region already has two protected forest areas: the 1,227-hectare Isokangas and the adjoining 41-hectare Kuovisuo, which is owned by the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation.

Kone Foundation is an independent non-profit organisation. In 2020, EUR 40 million was awarded in grants, prizes and donations to support scientific research and the arts. In 2017, Kone Foundation established the 130-hectare Kulla Nature Reserve on Kimito Island.