Generations of sustainable forest management

The next generation is taking over the forests of Vanha-Pälsilä farm with the help of Metsä Group’s Forest Management Specialists.
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  • Sustainability, 2020

The Vanha-Pälsilä farm, located on the shore of Poikkijärvi in Kuhmoinen, Central Finland, is a perfect example of sustainable forestry and love for nature. The old forest farmer Matti Eerola has success fully transformed an underproductive forest and field estate into a thriving one: the volume of trees has doubled in forty years.

He has been happy to hand over the well-managed estate to the hands of the next generation. His children, Simo and Hanna Eerola, took charge of the estate two years ago.

“The story of Eerola’s forests is quite something. The estate is a great example of how you can improve a forest’s growth considerably with sustainable management,” says Metsä Group’s Forest Specialist Pekka Seppälä, who has worked with the Eerola family since 2006.

The volume of trees growing on a hectare of land in the estate’s most heavily forested area has almost doubled compared to what it was when Eerola bought the estate.

Enough wood for future generations

For a Finnish forest estate, Vanha-Pälsilä is sizeable. Matti Eerola started off with slightly more than 100 hectares of fields, forest and pasture, but gradually increased the amount of forest hec-tares, which now total 240.

We set off to take a look at his forests together with Eerola himself and the estate’s current owner Hanna Eerola. We are joined by Seppälä and Silviculture Manager Teppo Oijala from Metsä Group.

Eerola’s hands gently twirl a seedling planted a month ago. Its growth has gotten off to a good start. When managed well, these seedlings will be sturdy logs in 60–80 years’ time. This makes the intergenerational nature of forestry visible.

The stand we are in, named Terrimäki, went through a regeneration felling last autumn, which yielded 640 cubic metres of wood from an area of two hectares. After the regeneration felling, the area was planted with spruce seedlings, whose growth will be monitored closely for the next few years.

Ensuring continuity is important for both forest owners and forestry. In Finland, the Forest Act – which requires a forest to be replanted with a new seedling stand after a regeneration felling – ensures that there is enough wood for future generations. Each felled tree is replaced with four to five new seedlings.

What is remarkable is that, felling excluded, all forest management work at the Vanha-Pälsilä farm has been carried out unaided by the Eerola family.

Forest management in the father's footprints

As an active forest owner, Hanna Eerola is a rare exception, given that the average age of forest owners in Finland is over 60. Even so, for Hanna, it felt natural to take over responsibility for the forest estate together with her brother.

“There’s no single right answer in forest management. I like the fact that I can investigate various views and use them in finding my own way of managing a forest,” she says.

The generational change with her father has gone well. While the know-how on forest management gathered by the previous generation is valuable, there is also a lot to learn, since forest management tends to develop continuously.

“Dad has done a great job, and a huge one at that. While I wouldn’t even dream of learning everything at once, I do want see my own hand in how my forest is managed.”