National parks and strict nature reserves – backbone of the nature conservation network
National parks and strict nature reserves constitute the backbone of the Finnish network of nature conservation areas. In Finland there are 40 national parks with a total surface area of 1,003,300 hectares. The network of national parks covers a broad range of sites in different parts of Finland.
National parks – the most fabulous nature and hiking destinations
The aim of national parks is to preserve the most valuable sites of the Finnish natural environment, their flora and fauna, and different types of habitats and their specific landscape features. To the extent possible, national parks are preserved in their natural state. They are nature conservation areas that are open to the public. Most national parks have good guidance and hiking services and some of them have a nature or visitor centre.
Each national park is established by a special act. State-owned land and water areas may also be designated as national parks. At that time, a minimum area of 1,000 hectares is required. The area should be significant as a natural attraction in general or with respect to raising general awareness of or interest in the natural environment. The number of national parks is the largest in southern Finland but their surface areas are quite small. In northern Finland and Lapland there are just a few national parks, but these wilderness areas are really large in size.
The main purpose of strict nature reserves is to serve nature conservation and scientific research. Efforts are made to keep the natural environment as pristine as possible. The protection regulations are much stricter than those concerning national parks.
Strict nature reserves serve scientific research
Most of the strict nature reserves are closed to the public. A written permit granted for scientific purposes only is required for access to strict nature reserves. However, in some strict nature reserves it is possible for the public to walk along marked trails or paths. In strict nature reserves located in northern Finland the local residents may have rights to use these areas associated with reindeer husbandry or other nature-based livelihoods.
Provisions on designating an area as a strict nature reserve and on its purpose are laid down by an act if the area is at least 1,000 hectares in size and, if this is not the case, by a decree. A strict nature reserve may be established on State-owned lands only. The site must be relevant in terms of safeguarding undisturbed development of the natural environment, or for scientific research or education. In the past few decades no new sites have been designated as strict nature reserves.