Doing good for humans and nature
National parks and other nature reserves of Metsähallitus provide opportunities for voluntary activities in different parts of Finland. Participation of nature enthusiasts in wildlife observation and in the restoring of traditional landscapes at volunteer camps are the most common types of voluntary activities. Wilderness education of children and young people is also supported through voluntary activities.
Voluntary activities in 2017
Organisations and companies as well as the associations established by friends of national parks are the partners in the events and voluntary activities. Unlike in the previous years, the focus in the voluntary activities in 2017 was on campaigns such as the making of nest boxes and choir singing events, which were held to celebrate the centenary of independent Finland.
Biggest nature festival of all time
Natural wonders of the hundred-year-old Finland were celebrated on four Nature Days in 2017. All Finns were invited to experience the Nature Days and the event partnership network involved nearly 70 organisations committed to the preparations of a nationwide festival of Finland's nature. Volunteers also made a major contribution to the success of the Nature Days. For example, the voluntary input at the sites presenting Metsähallitus activities was about 10,000 hours.
A total of about 300,000 people visited the events held during the four Nature Days. Metsähallitus found new potential partners and the project also encouraged more people to visit national parks and to take up outdoor activities.
Building snow drifts for Saimaa ringed seal as a team effort
The snow cover in the early winters in 2014–2017 was thin and this prompted people from Metsähallitus, WWF Finland, the University of Eastern Finland and a large number of volunteers to build artificial snow drifts for the Saimaa ringed seal. The work, which was coordinated by Metsähallitus as part of the Saimaa Seal LIFE project, produced results: of the 83 seal pups born in 2017, a total of 70 were born inside the snow drifts built by volunteers.
The Nature Volunteer of the Year 2017 takes special needs groups to nature
Every two years, Metsähallitus awards the title Nature Volunteer of the Year to an individual or an organisation in recognition of their contribution. The purpose is to highlight the importance of the voluntary inputs made by Finnish nature enthusiasts. The award is also in recognition of the active volunteers who demonstrate by their own example the closeness of the relationship between Finns and nature.
In 2017, the award was given to the association Maaselän Latu Ry. The association encourages new volunteers to join its activities and provides special needs groups with opportunities to experience nature. The volunteers of the association played a major role in the organisation of a Finnish centenary nature festival on 17 June 2017 by erecting one of the largest tent hotels of the Nature Days in the Salamajärvi National Park.
Wildlife tutors familiarise children and young people with wilderness traditions
Wildlife tutors of Metsähallitus are committed and responsible wilderness enthusiasts, fishers and hunters who, on a voluntary basis, teach children and young people to hike in the wilderness and to respect and feel at home in nature and educate them about the principles of sustainable fishing and hunting.
In 2017, the focus in the work was on cooperation with schools. During the year, more than 7,000 children and young people as well as about 900 teachers participated in the events and campaigns arranged in cooperation with partners. Joint events included the wilderness skills competitions for 7th graders in the Helsinki region and game recognition competitions arranged by 4H in Finland in schools.
Photo: Joni Turunen