The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation is protecting Aholansaari primeval forest on lake Syväri

The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation has purchased a valuable forest for conservation on the Aholansaari island in lake Syväri in Nilsiä. The island is known for being the home of lay preacher and “wilderness prophet” Paavo Ruotsalainen. The opera The Last Temptations, composed by Joonas Kokkonen, is mostly set on Aholansaari. This is the largest purchase ever made by the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation.

The new conservation area will be called Aholansaari primeval forest. The 67-hectare forest has a high tree density and significant natural values. Nearly half of the area consists of herb-rich forest or moor, and the rest is heath of the bilberry type. Apart from some light use, the spruce-dominated mixed forest has been allowed to grow in peace for a long time, and some of the trees are as old as 200 years old.

“Decayed wood diversifies Aholansaari primeval forest and offers nourishment and nesting places for other organisms. The island is home to an interesting species of bracket fungus, and on summer evenings you can smell the lesser butterfly orchid in the air. The forest also has small crags, peat-covered areas, and areas of broadleaf trees with aspen with holes for birds’ nests. In Aholansaari one can really experience the atmosphere of a vast, old forest, with the call of the black woodpecker in the background,” Anneli Jussila, Conservation Director for the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation, describes.

From northwest to southeast, the conservation area is more than a kilometre long, and it is possible to walk the length of it while constantly remaining inside the old forest. Even just the size of the area gives it a high conservation value. The new conservation area includes more than two kilometres of unbuilt shoreline and ten small islands and islets. Near the beaches there are flood plains and groves.

“The Aholansaari primeval forest is also valuable from a landscape perspective, and protecting it will help support the valuable built environment in the southern part of the island,” Anneli Jussila continues. 

Aholansaari primeval forest was sold to the Foundation by a family who has owned it for 70 years. The south side of the island is managed by organisations within the Awakening movement. They have been maintaining the legacy of Paavo Ruotsalainen by organising confirmation camps, among other things.

The island has two buildings of culture-historical significance. The Finnish Heritage Agency protects Paavo Ruotsalainen’s house, Paavo’s cottage. The oldest parts of the cottage are from the 1830s. Kleofas Hyvämäki’s summer manse was built in the early 1900s. Aholansaari is served by a regular ferry in the summer, and by an ice road during part of the winter season.

“The areas surrounding Aholansaari in Tahkomäki already have several conservation areas which are particularly important for the protection of lush mires, herb-rich forests, and small waterways. Out of all the areas near Tahkomäki, Aholansaari primeval forest is the largest individual area, and it is an excellent addition to the network of conservation areas in Nilsiä,” states Harri Hölttä, who recently started work as Conservation Officer at the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation. 

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