Responsibility for the environment

The most important environmental aspects of the Metsähallitus activities are related to the use of natural resources, maintaining biodiversity, water protection and landscape management.

Metsähallitus has a certified environmental management system based on the ISO 14001:2015 standard and a quality management system based on the ISO 9001 standard. In forest management, Metsähallitus observes the requirements laid out in the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) forest certification scheme. The functioning and effectiveness of the environmental management system and forest certification are regularly monitored by means of internal and external audits.

The audit and certification of the PEFC forest certification and the ISO 14001 environmental management system of Inspecta Sertifiointi Oy.

Metsähallitus leads the way in responsible operations and halts the loss of biodiversity on state-owned land and water areas.


Environmental matters are coordinated together

In Metsähallitus, coordination of the environmental matters is the responsibility of the environmental group, which comprises the environmental managers of individual units. The group monitors legislative developments and the implementation of Metsähallitus’ environmental policy and goals. The environmental group meets at least four times each year. The group works in close cooperation with the Metsähallitus responsibility group. The environmental guidelines of each business unit are contained in the environmental and quality management manual, which is available to all employees.

The environmental issues relevant to individual units and the environmental goals derived from them are reviewed in the environmental group each year and the environmental goals for the following year are prepared on the basis of the priority areas determined during the review. Success in the achievement of the environmental goals is assessed each year in the environmental reviews of individual units and the environmental review covering all Metsähallitus operations submitted to the Metsähallitus Management Group is based on these reviews.

The strategic environmental goals for 2017 were as follows:

  • biodiversity
  • safeguarding the availability of ecosystem services.

In Metsähallitus, all employees are responsible for environmental matters. Metsähallitus management is committed to responsible environmental governance in accordance with the environmental policy of Metsähallitus.

Biodiversity index measures the impact of the activities

A new indicator to monitor biodiversity in state-owned land was jointly developed by Metsähallitus units during 2017. The purpose of the biodiversity index is to describe trends in key structural biodiversity features in all state-owned land areas. The index is also a useful tool in the work to verify the impacts of biodiversity work.

The biodiversity index comprises the following five indicators, which have already been used before:

  • Natura 2000 habitat type status assessment
  • forest biodiversity indicator / decaying wood m3/ha
  • forest biodiversity indicator / mature aspen m3/ha
  • consideration of nature sites in fellings
  • restoration measures surface area/ha.

The index is used to monitor biodiversity trends in state-owned land areas and it also helps Metsähallitus to communicate the results of its yearly biodiversity work.

At the end of 2017, the biodiversity index was also retroactively calculated for the years 2015 and 2016. The index target level for the coming years will be set during 2018.

2015 2016 2017
Biodiversity index for state-owned land 3,24 3,46 3,56
Status assessment of Natura 2000 land habitats 3,90 3,90 3,89
Forest biodiversity indicator / decaying wood m³/ha 2,30 2,30 2,30
Forest biodiversity indicator / mature aspen m³/ha 3,40 3,40 3,40
Consideration of nature sites in fellings 2,70 4,45 4,52
Area covered by restoration measures 3,89 3,23 3,70

Biodiversity index, scale 1–5.

Negative environmental impacts arising from forest management are minimised

Systematic environmental follow-ups are carried out to ensure that forest management is based on environmental considerations. Adherence to forest management guidelines is checked as part of the follow-ups. Environmental competence of Metsähallitus officials and private contractors is ensured by means of internal audits in which the observance of environmental requirements in daily work is reviewed.

Metsähallitus’ Environmental Guidelines for Practical Forest Management used by Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd contains instructions on how to minimise the negative environmental impacts of forest management. The guidelines are based on the views of a large number of experts. The emphasis in the guidelines is on ensuring biodiversity and ecosystem services. The number of retention trees, the requirements for buffer zones along waterways and the guidelines on the protection of endangered species are some of the matters specified in the document. The updating of the environmental guidelines began in 2017 and the main aim in the work is to make its contents clearer. Experts of Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd and Parks & Wildlife Finland participate in the updating work. The work will be completed in early 2018.

All new officials of Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd and the private contractors working for the company receive training in environmental matters. The transfer of the training packages to the digital Ahjo competence environment began in 2017 and the work is continuing parallel to the drafting of the new environmental guidelines.

Lower emissions from timber purchases

Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd monitors the emissions arising from the harvesting and delivery of timber supplied to customers. During timber harvesting, emissions are created by the use of harvesters and forwarders and during the supply stage, by timber transport vehicles, trains and ships. In addition to the concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), which are substantial for climate change, Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd also monitors the concentrations of hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and microparticles. Emissions monitoring started in 2005 and the latest calculations cover the year 2016.

The total emissions arising from timber purchasing have declined at an average annual rate of two percentage points in recent years. Each cubic metre of timber supplied to customers has generated 12.96 kg of carbon dioxide emissions. Of this total, timber harvesting accounts for 5.41 kg/m3, and transport for 7.91 kg/m3. Other emissions have also declined in the same proportion. The timber harvesting process accounts for most of the reductions, a result of substantial productivity improvements in felling. For the amount of fuel used, more timber is now produced for transport than before. The emissions generated in the timber transport process have remained more or less unchanged.

Legal offences

Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd recorded five legal offences, two of which were committed by outsiders and directed against Metsähallitus. One of the offences committed by Metsähallitus employees concerned timber harvesting in a habitat of an endangered calypso species and other the crossing of the boundary of a Natura site. In the third case, timber harvesting took place outside the area allocated to the work. The offences against Metsähallitus involved violations of the Waste Act in which waste had been brought to state-owned land without permission. All violations arising from Metsähallitus activities have been recorded and processed using a contractual procedure or by revising guidelines.

Holes were dug at the Slottsmalmen antiquity site east of the Raseborg castle ruins in autumn 2017. The area is a historical site managed by Parks & Wildlife Finland. As a result, unique information about medieval Finland was destroyed. Both Metsähallitus and the Finnish Heritage Agency filed a criminal complaint in the case and the investigation is still under way.

A total of 10,791 supervision events were recorded in wilderness supervision during 2017. The most violations were recorded in the supervision of land use and the use of Metsähallitus property (33.9 %), off-road traffic (20.8 %) and fishing (15.9 %).

The offences recorded in wilderness supervision events accounted for 9.8 per cent of the total number of supervision events, which was 0.3 percentage points lower than in 2016. Preventive measures (providing customers with information and guidance as well as the dissemination of information) have been the main reasons for the reduction in the number of violations. Extensive cooperation with the authorities and stakeholders as well as joint supervision campaigns have made the supervision more comprehensive and helped to strengthen its preventive impact.

Photo: Kari Leo