Metsähallitus,Parks & Wildlife Finland, has yet again received extensive funding from the EU for three new long-term LIFE nature conservation projects. The projects will be implemented in cooperation with an extensive partner network. The total budget of the projects is more than EUR 20 million, of which the EU funding covers more than 65%.
With the help of the EU's nature conservation funding, Metsähallitus and its partners have been able to more than double their self-financing portion several years in a row: including the projects that will start in 2018, Metsähallitus has been involved in a total of 53 LIFE projects between 1995 and 2018. The combined budget of these projects has been EUR 123 million, of which EUR 65 million has been EU funding. The number of projects is one of the highest in the EU.
The currently approved projects will resolve challenges pertaining to the conservation of Siberian flying squirrels, as well as restore habitats of endangered beetles and important natural environments in coastal areas and the archipelago.
Participants of the Flying Squirrel LIFE Project include a varied group of actors from Finland and Estonia who will resolve land use challenges which are linked to the conservation of the Siberian flying squirrel. In this project, actors from the forest sector, forest owners (including the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, the Finnish Forest Centre and Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd), nature conservation activists and land use planners will create practical procedures for taking into account Siberian flying squirrels when managing forests in the wilderness, as well as forests and parks in urban areas.
Key Siberian flying squirrel cities, such as Espoo, Jyväskylä and Kuopio, are involved in the project. As the project is realised in cooperation with Estonian partners, it covers the entire natural range of the Siberian flying squirrel in the EU. The budget is EUR 8.9 million.
The Beetles LIFE Project focuses on restoration of current and future habitats of eight endangered beetle species that are protected by the EU, such as Cucujus cinnaberinus, Pytho kolwensis and Phryganophilus ruficollis. The project will burn forests, secure the existence of European aspen and restore woodlands. The project consists of 26 sites, most of which are located in Eastern Finland and Kainuu. Some of the sites are located in Häme, Central Finland and Lapland. The budget is EUR 2.7 million.
The Restoring Baltic Coastal Habitat Networks LIFE Project (CoastNet LIFE) involves the restoration of important habitats in the Finnish coastal areas and archipelago, such as sunlit habitats, coastal meadows, groves and pasturage, at eight conservation area concentrations ranging from the Gulf of Finland to the Bothnian Bay. The project will subdue Rosa rugosa, which has spread into the outer archipelago, to improve habitats of the Apollo butterfly, for example. The project also involves a great deal of voluntary work. The budget is EUR 8.8 million.
LIFE projects provide funding for nature conservation and create jobs in the provinces
Funds have been allocated for the nature conservation work done by Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland unit in the state budget, but the EU LIFE projects have allowed multiplication of the self-financing. For example, in 2017 the self-funding share of Metsähallitus for its five LIFE projects was EUR 0.5 million and the EU funding amounted to EUR 1.5 million. Self-funding is necessary to obtain project funding, however.
The LIFE projects also have major direct and indirect employment impacts. For example, EUR 10 million has been budgeted for salaries in the three projects that are currently starting. This means 220 person-years for the project partners. Almost seven million euros will be used to purchase a variety of services. The projects will employ or benefit biologists, foresters, forestry engineers, entrepreneurs with forest machines and other contractors, as well as a variety of service providers.
"The LIFE projects are a win for regional employment and activity in the area," rejoices Mikko Tiira, a development manager at Metsähallitus. "Another important issue are the projects' extensive partner networks that allow the projects to develop multisectoral solutions for a variety of nature conservation and social challenges."