Reform of the Nature Conservation Act
The Nature Conservation Act is one of the key instruments in the efforts to safeguard the biodiversity of Finnish natural environment. The Act will be updated in order to protect species and habitats even better than before and to ensure the important services nature has to offer (ecosystem services).
The Nature Conservation Act is now more than 20 years old and needs to be updated and clarified. The reform is necessary to halt the decline of biodiversity in Finland. At present, one out of nine of our species and almost half of the habitat types are threatened.
Steps in the process
The Ministry of the Environment launched a project to reform the nature conservation legislation on 16 December 2019. Besides the reform of the Nature Conservation Act (1096/1996) and Nature Conservation Decree (160/1997), the process included projects to reform the compensation procedure for damages caused by species protected under the Nature Conservation Act and to develop ecological compensation.
A broad-based steering group was appointed for the project to guide the preparation of the legislation. The draft government proposal for the Nature Conservation Act was prepared by a project group composed of public officials and stakeholders.
The process to prepare the reform has been open and interactive. It started with an online consultation open to all and discussions with a broad spectrum of stakeholders. The preparation proceeded in the working group with consultations with experts and a seminar on the legal aspects related to the Nature Conservation Act, and sub-groups were set up on themes such as hunting, data management and the tasks of municipalities.
The draft government proposal was circulated for comments from 2 July to 6 September 2021. The consultation round was open to all. By the deadline, about 200 statements or comments came in.
The project group submitted its proposal for the government proposal for the Nature Conservation Act on 29 November 2021. The proposal would update and strengthen the conservation of nature sites, expand the range of means available for nature conservation, promote participation and access to information, and offer tools for promoting voluntary conservation. Besides these, the new Act would take into account the impacts of climate change and the promotion of the rights of the Sámi better than at present. Voluntary ecological compensation is proposed as a new element to be included in the Act.
The project group was not unanimous in its work. Some of its members submitted a dissenting opinion or a supplementary statement. The final report of the project, including a proposal for the government’s legislative proposal and dissenting opinions and supplementary statements, was published on 10 December 2021.
The public officials continued the work to finalise the legislative proposal, and the Finnish Council of Regulatory Impact Analysis gave its opinion on the proposal on 23 December 2021. The government proposal is to be submitted to Parliament in spring 2022.
Current Nature Conservation Act
The Nature Conservation Act 1096/1996 entered into force in the beginning of 1997, and it has been amended on several occasions. The main objective of the Act is to maintain biodiversity. The objectives also include promoting the awareness of and general interest in nature, conserving the beauty and scenic values of nature, and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and scientific research on nature.
The Nature Conservation Act maintains and preserves the Finnish natural environment especially by designating areas for nature conservation and protecting habitats and species. The aim of the Act is to ensure the viability of Finnish species and habitats, i.e. to achieve a favourable conservation status from them.