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SCALETOOL IntroductionDriversBiodiversityPolicies and managementConnectivity and protected areas

Dealing with social issues by combining scientific and lay knowledge in Finland

Since mid-1970s until mid-1990s in Finland, the key instrument for site selection has been the Nature Conservation Programmes. These programmes are top-down policy efforts, where the state has indicated the location of future protected areas and these plans have been implemented by environmental authorities. In the late 1990s the implementation of Natura 2000 was another top-down procedure. Citizen opposed the ways how nature conservation programs were implemented, with the result that new nature conservation programs have not been adopted since mid-1990s. Instead, in order to reshape practices of nature conservation new institutional arrangements have been made. The most significant new policy instrument is the National Biodiversity Program for Southern Finland ("METSO"). The adoption of this scheme has been a significant policy change in principle, although still in year 2012, the acreage of those protected areas established under top-down schemes exceeds that of the new approach. Still it is likely that the balance will change in near future.

METSO is a voluntary forest conservation program for both state and privately-owned lands. METSO was launched by the Finnish government in 2002, and it was first piloted during the years 2002-2007 and then converted into instrument covering most forest areas in Finland for years 2008-2016 (Government of Finland, 2008). The programme focuses on the conservation of biodiversity of forest habitats all over the country except Northern and Eastern Finland, where the need for new protected areas is not so significant.

The major policy change is that from forced to voluntary conservation. It also has significantly increased the role of various regional and local levels actors in governance process. Under this scheme, the authorities are not allowed to use compulsory purchase for conservation purposes. Instead the programme relies on incentives, including both permanent and temporary contracts for new sites to be protected. Not surprisingly, forest owners consider voluntary conservation more legitimate in comparison to forced conservation. During the implementation process, forest owners' willingness to engage in voluntary conservation has increased (Paloniemi & Varho, 2009).

The policy shift towards voluntary approaches with a number of stakeholders involving in the governance process has significantly increased legitimacy of site-selection procedure. The challenge is to make voluntary approach systematic. This challenge is responded by setting ecological criteria and developing a decision-support tool for prioritization. In circumstances, where conservation budget is the key constraint, this response is adequate. Still the shift towards voluntarism has its price. The size of protected areas is decreasing and their location is not always optimal despite developing decision-support tools. Would the enthusiasm of landowners to offer sites for conservation significantly decrease, picture would become even worse. This stresses no only the importance of incentive structure, but other historical, institutional and political factors affecting motivations of landowners.

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