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 works have started on protected areas

In 2020 the Helmi works included action plans, surveys and inventories, as well as conservation, restoration and management of habitats.

At the same time, long-term objectives for the Helmi programme until 2030 have been prepared. The Ministry of the Environment has appointed a broad-based steering group and a working group to prepare the objectives and content of the programme until 2030. The groups completed their work in March 2021. Based on the outcome of this work, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture will draw up a decision on the Helmi programme to be submitted to the Government for approval during spring 2021.

Habitats programme Helmi implemented in extensive cooperation

The Helmi programme launched in 2020 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.

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.

Preparation of Helmi programme

The Helmi programme was prepared by a working group that heard key experts in Finland for its work and requested written comments from various groups of specialists. The work was guided by a broad-based steering group composed of the relevant stakeholders. During the drafting process public consultations were organised to further develop the programme text. At the turn of the year comments were invited at the otakantaa.fi service. To support the preparation, several stakeholder events were organised and the draft programme was circulated for comment in April-May 2021.

The working group and steering group on the Helmi programme completed their work on 31 March 2021. After this the Ministry of the Environment, together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, drew up the resolution to the submitted to the Government. The Government Resolution on the Helmi programme was adopted on 27 May 2021.

Work under Helmi programme started in protected areas already in 2020

Work under the Helmi programme in 2020 included 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 covered by mire conservation in protected areas was record high. Of the total package of 3,300 hectares of mires, 1,620 hectares were restored by means of funding from the Helmi programme. This also boosted the conservation of mires on a voluntary basis: additional funding for nature conservation was used to hire more employees to the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, and compensations to landowners were also targeted to mire conservation. The ambitious target to protect more than 5,000 hectares of mires in the first year of the Helmi programme was exceeded as 5,578 hectares in total were protected in 2020. 

Measures to restore aquatic bird habitats were taken in about 20 sites and bird population surveys were conducted in about 90 sites. Restoration sites in forest habitats included forests inhabited by white-backed woodpecker, herb-rich forests and sun-exposed esker forests. Work was done in about 80 nature sites in total. The national inventory of semi-natural grasslands continued and restoration works under the Helmi programme covered about 420 hectares. With respect to small water bodies and shores, the focus was still on planning the works and inventories, but brooks were already restored especially in Kainuu and springs in North Savo. 

The first application for special grants to municipalities (‘Kunta-Helmi’) was also organised in 2020. Work by the municipalities to promote biodiversity in habitats covered by the Helmi programme has now been supported by about EUR 3 million.

Inquiries

Päivi Gummerus-Rautiainen, ympäristöneuvos, ohjelmapäällikkö 
Ministry of the Environment, Department of the Natural Environment 0295250240