An old-growth forest bordering on Sompio Strict Nature Reserve was protected in Sodankylä

In early May the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation bought the old Mukkavaara forest in Vuotso in Sodankylä. The area, measuring 88 hectares in total, consists of two parcels of land. The larger plot, at 67 hectares, has a direct border with Sompio Strict Nature Reserve, which was founded in 1956. The distance from Mukkavaara forest to Tankavaara Gold Village is seven kilometres, and the distance to Urho Kekkonen National Park is three kilometres.

“The border between the old Mukkavaara forest and Sompio Strict Nature Reserve is not discernible in aerial photographs or even in the terrain, as the forest is equally old and natural on both sides of the border,” the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation’s Conservation Officer Ari-Pekka Auvinen comments. 

The northern part of the future Mukkavaara Nature Reserve has been defined as an Intact Forest Landscape in a project led by the University of Maryland, Greenpeace, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Transparent World.

The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation purchased the area on the open market from the parties to an estate whose family farm was once left under the Lokka Reservoir. At the time, the family was given Mukkavaara forest as compensation by the Government. Since taking ownership, the new owners barely felled any trees. In large areas of the forest the average age of the trees is estimated at 200 years, but in reality, a considerable number of the trees are significantly older; many are likely to be more than 400 years old.

Fortum assisted the Foundation in the purchase of the old Mukkavaara forest with the sum of 50,813 euros. Fortum uses some of the profits from its Vihreä service to support the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation in acquiring forests.

“I am proud to say that thanks to our Vihreä customers, we have been able to almost double our support for the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation compared to last year. This is a clear sign that the importance of responsibility is increasing in Finnish businesses,” Fortum’s Head of Enterprise Customers Aleksi Nordlund comments.

“It is important that businesses support the work of the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation and the protection of Finnish forests. This enables us to save spectacular and valuable natural areas. In the case of Mukkavaara, another likely option would have been felling,” Pepe Forsberg, Managing Director of the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation, comments. 

During a clear August afternoon a woodpecker was pecking away at some dead standing trees in Mukkavaara, while a brood of Siberian jay flew past tufts of horsehair lichen. From the direction of the nature reserve one could hear the call of a willow grouse, and a capercaillie hen took off from the foot of a spruce. In Mukkavaara, located at the foot of the Nattaset fells, everything is as before.

The Northern Sami name of Mukkavaara is Mohkkevárri. It gained its name from the bend in the Riestojoki river, where the water goes around a rise in the landscape on its way to Vuotso village. The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation wants to honour the indigenous inhabitants of the area by also giving Sami names to its conservation areas located in the Sámi homeland.


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Old forests still sold for felling – the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation offers an alternative

The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation, which promotes the protection of Finnish nature, is concerned about the slow progress of forest protection in Finland. The situation is illustrated well by the fact that the Foundation is not even able to acquire and protect all the areas of old forest that are for sale publicly. The main challenge is the lack of funding.
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