Nature conservation legislation

Nature Conservation Act and Nature Conservation Decree

Finland’s Nature Conservation Act (1096/1996, as amended by 492/1997, 144/1999, 371/1999, 553/2004, 1069/2004, 506/2005 and 591/2005) has been drawn up to meet the latest conservation needs, and Finland’s obligations derived from EU legislation, especially from the EU Bird and Habitats Directives and the international convention on biological diversity.

The aim of the act is to preserve the diversity of nature in Finland, by ensuring that the favourable conservation status of different natural habitat types and native species is maintained or restored.

The act introduces a programme designed to protect areas of valuable landscapes in areas where human activity has greatly shaped the landscape for centuries. These areas are mainly selected for their aesthetic value, and any development which would change the characteristic features of their landscape will not be permitted.

The act also incorporates the legislation necessary for the establishment of the Natura 2000 Network. This differs significantly from the legislation related to national conservation programmes, for example in the degree of development permissible in areas included in the network.

The Nature Conservation Act further provides detailed regulations on public information and participation during the preparation of the various protection programmes.

The Nature Conservation Decree (160/1997, as amended by 916/1997, 14/2002 and 913/2005) lists protected species, threatened species, species needing special protection, and species which need strict protection according to the EU Habitats Directive.

The decree obliges the Ministry of the Environment to organise the monitoring of native species and natural habitats, and act where necessary to ensure they gain or keep a favourable conservation status.

  • Nature Conservation Decree (160/1997, Finlex)

European Union Legislation

Some of the most essential parts of the EU legislation in terms of nature conservation are

  • the Council Directive (79/409/EEC, EUR-lex) of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds
  • the Council Directive (92/43/EEC, EUR-lex) of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora

Other Acts and Decrees

  • Land Extraction Act (555/1981, Finlex)

Everyman's right

Finland's legal concept of everyman's right gives everyone the basic right to roam freely in the countryside, without needing to obtain permission, no matter who owns or occupies the land. Public access to private land is much wider in Finland, and the other Nordic countries, than in most other coutries.

Further information

Johanna Korpi, Director of Legislation 
Ministry of the Environment, Permanent Secretary, Kansliapäällikön esikunta Telephone:0295250278   Email Address: