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State of Finland's Forests 2012: Criterion 6 Socio-economic functions

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Maintenance of cultural and spiritual values (B.12)

Forests play an important part in the construction of the Finnish identity. The settlement of Finland and the emergence of Finnish culture were based on forests. The identification of the cultural heritage36 and landscape values of forests and their preservation are therefore important for future generations. By taking cultural values into account it is possible to ensure that the traditional ways of using and tending forests are passed on to future generations. Forest culture can also be used in commercial operations and leisure activities.


One of Finland’s National landscapes at Punkaharju. The 200 hundred years old seven kilometres long road on the narrow ridge, has been created from gravel deposits along the edge of the continental ice sheetand is separating two lakes.

International conventions and commitments

The sustainable management of natural resources and the preservation of cultural and landscape values are also included in the aims of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD 1992), the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS 1995), and the European Landscape Convention (2000).

The Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe in Vienna in 2003 recognised social and cultural dimensions of forests in the separate resolution. The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is an international convention adopted by UNESCO in 1972.



National legislation and programmes

Cultural heritage, landscapes and the associated values are extensively taken into account in Finnish legislation.

Local planning based on the Land Use and Building Act can be used to issue instructions for planning, protection and construction that take cultural, historical and landscape values into account. In land use planning, the cultural impacts of the plan must be assessed. According to the Land Use and Building Act, actions altering the landscape may not be taken without a permit. A landscape work permit may be required in master plans instead of the Forest Use Declaration set down in the Forest Act. Trees in areas covered by a detailed land use plan may not be felled without a permit.

According to the Forest Act, forests must be managed in an economically, ecologically and socially sustainable way. The act provides for the opportunity to manage forests in a way which takes into account the special characteristics of sites in terms of landscape, multiple use and research.

Under the Antiquities Act, antiquities are automatically protected. Prehistoric and historic relics must be taken into account in all land use. This requirement is also incorporated in forest certification. The National Board of Antiquities has, together with organisations in the forest sector, produced guidelines for forest management in areas containing antiquities.

The Nature Conservation Act allows the establishment of landscape conservation areas for the conservation and management of the natural or cultural beauty of the area, its historical characteristics or other special values.

Other statutes linked to cultural and landscape values of forests are: the Act on Wilderness Reserves, the Land Extraction Act, the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure, the Act on the Assessment of the Impacts of the Authorities’ Plans, Programmes and Policies on the Environment, the Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry, and decrees on agricultural support systems.

The objectives of Finland’s National Forest Programme 2015 include strengthening the aspects of forests that promote human wellbeing and culture. Cultural and landscape functions of forests are also covered in the Natural Resources Strategy of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, in agricultural policy programmes and sectoral programmes for agriculture, as well as in various regional and local development and environmental programmes.

In addition to forestry and regional policy programmes, the main strategic instruments governing the management of forest landscapes and land use changes are the Government Resolution on national land use guidelines (VAT 2000) and the Government Resolution on nationally valuable landscape areas and development of landscape management (1995). Metsähallitus has drawn up a cultural heritage strategy for its Natural Heritage Services for the period 2007–2015.


Other steering instruments

The management and use plans for national parks, wilderness areas and nature conservation areas promote not only nature conservation but also the management of landscapes and cultural heritage in these areas. Many nationally valuable landscape conservation areas are also covered by management and use plans. Regional management plans are prepared also for heritage landscapes, i.e., traditional biotopes. Regional and municipal programmes on the cultural environment basically govern the planning, protection and management of the built environment and landscape, but they can also include aims that involve forests.

Agricultural and forest areas of special environmental value are designated as such in land use plans. Scenically valuable fields should not be afforested or allowed to grow over. Nationally and regionally valuable cultural landscape areas and sites are also marked in land use plans. Only recommendations on forest management may be given in the plans.

Forests near settlements, cultivated areas and shorelines are taken into account in management plans if the forest owner so wishes. The Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry can be applied to finance joint nature management plans which take landscape values into consideration and extend to the area of several holdings. Under the Rural Development Programme, farmers are eligible for special support to offset the cost of managing wooded heritage landscapes or loss of income caused by such management. Management recommendations for forest landscapes are issued in the Forest Landscape Management manual published by Tapio and Metsäteho Oy.

Metsähallitus is conducting an inventory of the cultural heritage sites in State forests in 2010–2015. This ongoing inventory is the most extensive inventory of cultural heritage sites in Finland, and it is one of the targets of Finland’s National Forest Programme 2015.




36 Cultural heritage consists of the immaterial and material heritage created by human activity. Material cultural heritage can be movable (e.g. books and objects) or fixed.

  Updated: 10.12.2012 /MLier |  Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Metla, unless otherwise stated | Copyright Metla | Feedback