The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation recently acquired for protection a forest area by the side of a popular outdoor recreation route in the Liperi region of North Karelia, approximately 20 kilometres from Joensuu. The forest is almost entirely abundant with trees, being made up of an old pine stand growing on a heath of lingonberry and blueberry type.
“From a global perspective, old pine forests of this type are Finland’s responsibility in particular because they are Finnish specialities not to be found elsewhere that much”, says Risto Sulkava, a board member of the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation, about the significance of the purchase.
The Kotimetsä forest was on sale by an agent, available through a competitive bidding, and the entire area becoming exposed to a cutting was a scenario that hung by a hair. The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation managed to win the competitive bidding, but only just, through its special fund-raising campaign arranged on the initiative of those living around the forest, donations coming from a number of local and more remote nature lovers. For the first time in the foundation’s history, a short-term and allocated fund-raising campaign produced enough funds on top of the basic price of the tree stand to achieve a winning bid.
The purchased area covers less than 12 hectares and includes the majority, i.e. 1.3 hectares, of the beautiful Hovatta pond along with its quagmires on the shore. The proportion of forests in Kotisalo is approximately 10.5 hectares. The surrounding terrain is versatile with its ridges and provides living environments for the large blue butterfly, among others. The diversity of the forest is increased here and there by the deciduous trees of the more exuberant ground, the multitude of layers, and the forming of dead pine trees. More exuberant forests with aspens appear especially north of the Hovatta pond. It is known that the majority of the Kotisalo forest has not been exposed to cuttings since the 1950s. A minor thinning was conducted in a small section of the site. Some of the trees in Kotisalo are at least 120 years old. After the wartimes, some trees were picked, and at those sites, the oldest hold-overs are clearly older, at least 150-year-old trees that have been allowed to grow there in peace.
The route that goes through this old pine forest belongs to the 65-kilometre long Kinttupolut network built and maintained by the municipality of Liperi. The maintenance will be continued in co-operation with the municipality. The maintenance of the trail will be allowed by the conservation decision even though the entire forest is permanently protected in accordance with the law.
“The multitude of trees makes it feel like you were walking inside a national park somewhere in southern Finland”, Heikki Hamunen, one of the contributors living in the neighbourhood, describes the Kotisalo forest.
“The outdoor recreation route of Kinttupolku is in active use – by both mountain bikers and hikers. Cycling through the site is the best thing you can do along this route, getting a chance to feel a breath of air from this abundant forest. This is one of the few non-protected forests with such a large number of trees close to the town centre with an outdoor recreation route. And now, it's time to protect it, a source of joy for those exercising in the area and nature itself.”
Those contributing to the conservation of Kotisalo include the following:
• Asianajotoimisto Teräskulma Oy
• Pekka Ylhäinen
• Merja Mäkelä
• Matti Pihlatie
• K-market Ylämylly, kauppias Mikko Jaskari
• Kontiolahti Outdoor ja Kontiolahden Urheilijat
• Suomen Luonnonsuojelun Säätiö sr
• ProMaisema Ay
• Mikko Vastaranta ja Ninni Saarinen
• Simana Oy
• Pohjalammentila Oy
• Taksipalvelu M. Lappalainen
Photo: Janne Leppänen