Permits related to nature conservation
© Jouko Lehmuskallio
Finland's Nature Conservation Act includes legislation that prohibits certain activities in protected areas and in relation to protected species, in order to preserve biodiversity. In protected areas, activities that would change the natural environment are generally prohibited. A blanket prohibition also covers activities that alter the state of protected biotopes or lead to the deterioration or destruction of occurrences of species under special protection. Protected species in general are also covered by various prohibitions. Many species are also covered by legislation derived from the CITES Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.
In certain circumstances, however, exceptions to these prohibitions may be granted by the authorities (usually the regional environment centre) on the basis of formal applications submitted in writing.
Exceptions to prohibitions
Permits granting exceptions to prohibitions covering protected areas
State-owned protected areas established through acts or decrees include strict nature reserves, national parks and other nature reserves. Nature reserves may also be designated on private land. Many protected areas are also within the Natura 2000 network.
Exceptional permits may be granted for hunting or trapping wild animals the collection of plants for research purposes, fishing, geological research or mineral prospecting. Exceptional permits may be required merely to enter some strictly protected areas. Exceptions are only granted where such activities do not endanger the objectives of the protected area concerned.
Permits for activities that alter protected biotopes
Biotopes protected under Finland's Nature Conservation Act include natural broad-leaved woodlands, hazel groves, common alder woods, natural sandy shores, seashore meadows, treeless or naturally sparsely wooded sand dunes, juniper meadows, pollarded meadows, and large trees or groups of large trees dominating open landscapes. Any activities that would endanger these features' natural characteristics are prohibited. Such prohibitions automatically come into force as soon as the regional environment centre delimits the designated biotope.
Permits are only needed for activities that endanger the natural characteristics of such biotopes. If such prohibitions result in significant losses to the landowner or tenant, full compensation may be obtained from the State.
Permits for activities affecting the occurrences of species under special protection
The Nature Conservation Act prohibits activities that would lead to the deterioration or destruction of important occurrences of species in need of special protection - which are threatened species under the evident threat of disappearance. Such prohibitions automatically come into force as soon as the regional environment centre delimits the designated occurrence of the species concerned.
Exceptional permits may be granted for such activities as long as the conservation status of the species remains favourable. The breeding or resting sites of certain species are very strictly protected in practice, and exceptions are rarely granted. If such prohibitions result in significant losses to the landowner or tenant, full compensation may be obtained from the State.
Permits granting exceptions related to protected species
All of Finland's wild mammals and birds are protected, except certain game species and a few other unprotected species. Prohibitions cover the deliberate killing, hunting, trapping, capture or disturbance of these protected species, including their nests and eggs. Designated and marked trees where large birds of prey or other protected birds nest are also automatically protected. Protected plant species may not be picked, damaged or otherwise harmed.
These protective prohibitions do not however prevent farming, forestry, construction, or the use of buildings and equipment in the areas concerned, as long as damage or disturbance to protected species can be duly avoided without excessive expense. Exceptional permits may be granted in relation to the prohibitions covering protected species, as long as the conservation status of the species remains favourable.
Permits for the possession of dead animals of protected species
Individuals of protected species found dead may not be taken into the finder's possession. They may, however, be collected and delivered to natural history museums, or suitable scientific or educational institutes. This is often done in practice, particularly in cases involving very rare species. Such specimens may be given to other parties under special authorisation.
Permits for the possession, transportation and exchange of certain animal and plant species and all wild bird species found in Finland are only granted under strictly defined conditions.
Permits for exceptions to the prohibition on activities affecting the occurrences of breeding or resting sites of species listed in Annex IV(a) of the EU Habitats Directive
Activities that would harm or destroy the breeding and resting sites of strictly protected species such as bears, lynxes, flying squirrels and Saimaa ringed seals are forbidden. This prohibition covers all such sites, even if they have not been specifically designated.
Exceptions to this prohibition are only granted under strictly defined conditions.
Permits related to threatened species and the EU internal market
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna (CITES) controls trade in about 30,000 endangered plant and animal species, and specimens and products derived from them. CITES was drafted in 1973, and has subsequently been signed by more than 160 countries, including Finland in 1976.
Current EU legislation on international trade in endangered plants and animals is even stricter than CITES. Imports of specimens and products derived from certain species covered by the CITES Convention are prohibited throughout the EU.
All imports, exports, or re-exports of specimens and products derived from endangered plant or animals to or from EU countries are controlled through import, export and re-export permits and certificates, which are duly inspected by customs officials. EU certificates are required for certain types of specimens (e.g. bearskins and stuffed birds of prey) and for the sale or transfer of live specimens within the EU.
Official certificates must be used whenever specimens used in scientific research are exchanged between registered research institutes.