The first round of funding, which ended in November 2021, received applications from nearly 40 different projects, eight of which were granted funding. Metsä Group will invest a total of around EUR 350,000 in these projects. “We are looking for regionally impactful projects outside commercial forests that will significantly benefit Finnish nature,” says Tomi Salo, Metsä Group’s SVP, Corporate Affairs.
“In addition to benefiting nature, good projects have efficient and varied funding, and they focus more on carrying out actions than on planning them,” says Salo. “We want our contribution to Finnish nature to be more extensive than the nature management measures adopted in commercial forests.”
The restoration of watercourses helps salmonids
“We are extremely pleased with this funding decision. It is very important for the project’s success,” says Matti Viialainen, managing director of Virtaankosken Voima Oy. He is in charge of the restoration and repair project of the Virtaankoski rapids in the Tainionvirta river in Sysmä. In addition to Virtaankoski, Metsä Group’s funding will be used to restore and repair the rapids in the Hiitolanjoki river in the municipality of Rautjärvi in South Karelia.
“If we get all the permits sorted out this year, we can initiate restoration in Virtaankoski in the late summer or the early autumn of 2023, when the water is lower. If all goes well, trout in Lake Päijänne will be able to swim up to Lake Nuoramoinen and the spawning grounds up there in the autumn of 2023,” says Viialainen.
In the Fish Passage Strategy approved by the Government in 2012, the Tainionvirta river is a principal site on Lake Päijänne and unquestionably the most important site for trout restoration.
“Metsä Group’s contribution is of major importance and will also help us in other funding applications. It’s fair to say that this support secured the project’s implementation,” says Viialainen.
“This support gives us the confidence to move to the implementation stage,” says Hanna Ollikainen, Managing Director of the South Karelian Foundation for Recreation Areas.
The restoration of Kangaskoski, the first of three rapids in the Hiitolanjoki river, was completed in November 2021. Metsä Group's funding ensures the start of restoration work in Lahnasenkoski and Ritakoski.
The critically endangered landlocked salmon that swim upstream from Lake Ladoga to the Finnish side of the border live in the Hiitolanjoki river. “By removing the dams, we can provide better breeding conditions and thus strengthen the fish population,” says Ollikainen. In addition to the Ladoga salmon, Hiitolanjoki is home to trout, which will also benefit from the dams’ removal.
Wetlands increase biodiversity
The nature management project of the Viinikka estate in Urjala, in the southwest of Finland, was also granted funding this time.
“Last year, we acquired 12 hectares of wasteland, which we aim to convert to a diverse pasture and wetland area,” says Tuomas Tasso, owner of Viinikka.
“These are very old pasture areas, and by restoring some of the old fields as wetlands, we can gain a diverse environment that also benefits pollinators.”
Tasso explains that the estate raises Simmental cattle that graze mainly on natural pastureland in the summer. Natural grazing is important for biodiversity, as cattle help keep the pastures open and secure the survival of many wetland species.
It is planned to establish two wetlands in the area, and the work will begin next summer. Part of the funding granted by Metsä Group has been allocated for planning and carrying out controlled burning. A detailed implementation plan will be made in the spring.
“This funding was fantastic. We really needed it. Even though I was partly expecting it, the decision still came as a surprise,” says Tasso.
“I believe green thinking will also gain ground in agriculture, and I’m sure it will become a criterion for funding in the coming years. I’m very pleased to have Metsä Group as a partner in making our goals come true.”
Text: Annamari Heikkinen
This article was originally published in issue 1/2022 of Metsä Group’s Viesti magazine