New conservation area in Soukkavaara in Posio

At the start of January, the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation purchased a 150-year-old forested hill in Soukkavaara, located only one kilometre east of the municipal centre of Posio.

The new area is connected to the nationally valuable landscape of Kitkajärvi and Riisitunturi. “Despite its valuable landscape status, these days old natural forests on the shores on the Posio side of lake Yli-Kitka can mainly be found on islands and some of the shores. The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation’s new conservation area will ensure the preservation of these last primeval forests,” says Petri Haapala, Conservation Officer at the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation.

The 29.5-hectare conservation area, which is located on the northern slope of Soukkavaara, is covered in coniferous forest dominated by natural spruce trees and flat-topped pine trees. The trees have a varied age structure. Some of the trees in the forest have already turned into dead standing trees, moss-grown snags, and rotten birch trees which are suitable nesting places for the endangered willow tit.

The conservation area also has a small, natural mire, with a clear stream emanating from the mire spring and the seepage areas on Soukkavaara’s slope winding its way along the mire’s edge. On a day in January, the tracks of an otter could be seen in the snow along the stream.

There is a small question mark hanging over the future of Soukkavaara because of an application for an ore prospecting permit which extends into the area. “The mining company Latitude 66 Cobalt has applied for an ore prospecting permit for an area which extends approximately two hectares into the conservation area. On the other hand, the mining company has publicly promised not to carry out any mining on or near conservation areas. The Kitka water system is also a reason to make sure that they keep this promise,” Conservation Officer Petri Haapala explains.

The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation purchased Soukkavaara on the open market. Going forward, the Foundation will look into using the forest as a recreation area for the inhabitants of Posio municipal centre and visitors to nearby Pentik Hill.

Soukkavaara is the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation’s 152nd conservation area in Finland, and its tenth in Lapland. The Foundation has protected more than 3,600 hectares of valuable natural areas all over Finland.

(Picture: Ari-Pekka Auvinen)

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