Helmi habitats programme aims to strengthen biodiversity

Helmi habitats programme, led by the Ministry of the Environment, aims to strengthen Finland’s biodiversity and safeguard the vital ecosystem services that nature provides for us. At the same time, the programme is working to curb climate change and promote adaptation to it.

Through the programme, Finland is taking effective action on behalf of biodiversity:

  • We are protecting and restoring mires.
  • We are restoring aquatic bird habitats, wetlands and coastal areas.
  • We are managing semi-natural grasslands.
  • We are restoring forest habitats, such as herb-rich forests and sun-exposed esker forests.
  • We are managing and restoring coastal and aquatic environments, such as sandy beaches.

More information about the works in each theme:

The Helmi programme is a key tool for halting biodiversity loss in Finland. The programme's actions will provide help to hundreds of endangered species and most of the endangered habitats in our country. The Helmi programme is based on voluntary action by landowners.

Helmi programme is successfully working towards its goals

The Government Resolution on the Helmi programme was adopted on 27 May 2021. Work under the Helmi programme started already in 2020 including action plans, surveys and inventories, as well as conservation, restoration and management of habitats. Management and restoration measures by the Natural Heritage Services of Metsähallitus and Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment started in protected areas. In the first year of the programme, the work began by recruiting more staff, inventorying the nature sites and planning the measures to be taken.

The total area of mires protected within the Helmi programme, between 2020-2022, is 17 000 ha. All conservation measures are on a voluntary basis. During the same time period 10 000 ha of degraded mire habitats have been restored. 

Measures to restore aquatic bird habitats have started or finished in about 40 sites within the conservation network and 44 new wetlands or wetland restorations have been finished outside conservation areas. Restoration sites in forest habitats included forests inhabited by white-backed woodpecker, herb-rich forests and sun-exposed esker forests. Work has been done in about 500 nature sites in total.  Restoration of semi-natural grasslands under the Helmi programme has covered about 2000 hectares so far. With respect to small water bodies and shores, 40 springs, 67 km of small streams and 13 other coastal small water bodies has been restored. 

The application rounds for special grants to municipalities and NGOs (‘Kunta-Helmi’) has been organised in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Work by the municipalities and NGOs to promote biodiversity in habitats covered by the Helmi programme has now been supported by about EUR 10 million to 105 different projects.

One objective of Helmi programme is to target restoration and management actions to specific areas and sites (Helmi Clusters) to maximise their impact on biodiversity and promote holistic planning. The first five Helmi Clusters were established in spring 2023. Aim is to establish altogether 30-50 Helmi Clusters across the country by the end of 2030.

Habitats programme Helmi implemented in extensive cooperation

The Helmi programme is a joint programme of the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, implemented together by the administrative branches of both ministries and municipal authorities and organisations. Actions are carried out both within and outside protected areas. The participation of landowners is voluntary.

The main objective of the Helmi programme is to take a comprehensive view of habitats and the necessary restoration and management measures in collaboration between numerous stakeholders. Restoration and management actions are targeted to specific areas and sites to maximise their impact on biodiversity.

13 regional Helmi groups have been established during the year 2023. The groups consists of organisations under administrative branches of both ministries, municipal authorities, landowners and regional NGOs.

The SOTKA project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is part of the Helmi programme. In this project, wetlands and a network of resting areas are built, mires and catchments are restored and small carnivores are captured.


Maaret Väänänen
Project manager 
Ministry of the Environment, Department of the Natural Environment, Nature Conservation and Management
[email protected]

Protecting and restoring mires

The protection and restoration of mires strengthens the biodiversity of mire areas, helps to curb climate change and improves the status of our waters.

Mires are one of our most degraded habitat types, and many species that depend on them are on the decline. They are home to 120 endangered species, including the willow grouse and the ruff, plants such as the marsh helleborine and saxifrange, and butterflies such as Nola karelica and the woodland brown.

About half of all mire habitats in Finland are endangered. The main reason for the threatened status of mires is forest drainage: more than half of the mire areas in Finland have been drained for forest cultivation. In practice, drainage of new mire areas has already ceased, but mires are continuing to dry out.

In their natural state, mires bind and store significant amounts of carbon. Restoration of ditched mires restores their natural aquatic environment and vegetation, making them efficient carbon sinks. Restoration also reduces the flow of eutrophying nutrients from mires into waterways and mitigates flooding.

The Helmi programme aims to protect some 60,000 hectares of mire by the end of 2030. Protection is voluntary, and landowners receive compensation for it. The employees at the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment negotiate on the protection of land with the landowners. The negotiations will begin with sites of particular value for biodiversity that have already been identified.

The programme aims to restore 30,000 hectares of ditched mires located in protected areas by the end of 2030. At the same time, the programme will restore the ditched areas that surround protected areas, in cooperation with landowners, either by blocking the ditches or by returning the waters to unditched mires.

Parks & Wildlife Finland, run by the state-owned forest enterprise Metsähallitus, is working to restore the mires located in and around protected areas. The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment are launching water restoration projects in cooperation with the Finnish Forest Centre.


Markku Mikkola-Roos
+358 400 148685
[email protected]

Managing semi-natural grasslands

Semi-natural grasslands and wooded pastures are a highly endangered part of our nature. Changes in farming practices have reduced the surface area of grassland habitats, leaving them abandoned. Meadows need continuous management to prevent overgrowth.

The management of semi-natural grasslands helps the many endangered species that live there. Semi-natural grasslands are home to a particularly large number of endangered plant and insect species, such as moonwort, dwarf gentian, the clouded Apollo butterfly and the marsh fritillary, along with Aphodius sphacelatus, a dung beetle that depends on natural pastures for survival. The management of meadows and fields also helps to safeguard food production, as they are important habitats for pollinator insects.

The Helmi programme aims to rehabilitate 18,000 hectares of semi-natural grasslands biotopes by the end of 2030. Finland currently has around 30,000 hectares of semi-natural grasslands managed by grazing and other means.


Hanna-Leena Keskinen
Ministry of the Environment, Department of the Natural Environment, Nature Conservation and Management
[email protected]

Management of woodland habitats

In the management of woodland habitats the aim is to enhance habitats where natural values have degraded as the area has become overgrown with trees and shrubs or because of human action. Such habitats include herb-rich forests, sun-exposed esker habitats and habitats of certain species.
At first measures are targeted to sites covered by a contract, decision or plan symbol concerning the protection of the area concerned. The habitat restoration programme Helmi aims to find new means to secure the natural and ecological values of different kinds of sites in cooperation with landowners.
Practical measures to manage woodland habitats may include removal of spruces in herb-rich forests or hardwood-dominated woodlands and improving the habitats of different species in nature conservation areas.

Restoration of aquatic and shore habitats

The key aim in the restoration of aquatic and shore habitats is to enhance the biodiversity of small water bodies and shore environments which may have degraded as a result of land use changes and water construction. Small water bodies mean creeks, brooks and trickles, ponds and springs, and lagoons shaped by land uplift along the coast (flads and glo-lakes). Urgent measures are needed for many brooks and springs, and we already have a lot of experience on methods to restore these. Whole catchments areas are taken into account in the planning of all measures and especially in their implementation schedules. Measures to restore aquatic and shore habitats can also be combined with other conservation themes, including those concerned with mires, bird waters and semi-natural grasslands.

For many shore habitats, more and better baseline data is needed for the planning and targeting of measures. This is why in the first stage the focus is on further studies and data collection. Many of the necessary measures also involve elements that are related to land use planning and legislation. Fortunately, shore habitats already benefit from actions taken in other types of sites covered by the themes of the Helmi habitat restoration programme. In targeting restoration measures priority would first be given to well-inventoried sandy shores and dunes.


Päivi Gummerus-Rautiainen, Senior Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Department of the Natural Environment, Nature Conservation and Management 0295250240