Finnish NGO Snowchange is working to rewild a growing number of peatlands and forests. Four sites within Snowchange’s burgeoning Landscape Rewilding Programme have just joined the European Rewilding Network, amplifying the benefits for nature, climate, and local indigenous communities.
Today a growing number of the wetlands, rivers and forests that characterise the Finnish landscape are being rewilded. One of the key organisations managing and driving this process is Snowchange, an NGO and European Rewilding Network member that specialises in the restoration and recovery of natural areas damaged by commercial exploitation. Snowchange primarily focuses on sites across Finland that were once used for intensive forestry and peat extraction.
In 2017, with support from Rewilding Europe, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other partners, Snowchange initiated the Landscape Rewilding Programme. The aim of the programme is to develop landscape rewilding initiatives across Finland, leveraging a combination of indigenous and (where applicable) traditional knowledge and Western science. These initiatives are now helping to address climate change and biodiversity decline, and rejuvenate rural communities (many of them belonging to the Sámi people), on a growing scale.
Enhancing rewilding efforts
The first five years of the Landscape Rewilding Programme have seen Snowchange rewild 52,000 hectares of peatland and forest across multiple Finnish river catchments. Some sites have been purchased by the NGO (around 3100 hectares), while others are managed through land use agreements, whereby Snowchange and private landowners agree on the restoration and management actions that will take place on a particular property. To date, the NGO has offered land concessions on over 52,000 hectares, with over 65 rewilding sites classified as Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs). The Kivisuo peatland, the largest site, is the same size as some Finnish national parks.
Four sites within the Landscape Rewilding Programme – the Kivisuo Peatland, Näätämö Basin, Koitajoki Basin, and Lake Kuivasjärvi – have just become the latest members of Rewilding Europe’s European Rewilding Network (ERN). This will give those involved in rewilding access to the collective knowledge and expertise of the entire ERN membership, and in return allow ERN members to learn about and benefit from Finnish rewilding efforts. The plan is for representatives of the Sámi communities involved to attend ERN events.
“We’re really happy to be joining the network,” says Snowchange Director Tero Mustonen. “These new ERN sites are great examples of indigenous and community-led rewilding, an exciting and pioneering model that works well and is already generating positive impact in the Finnish landscape. The exchange of knowledge and expertise with other ERN members will enhance rewilding efforts and hopefully help other rewilding initiatives at the same time.”
Today rewilding is gaining momentum as a progressive and effective approach to conservation in Europe. Underpinning this trend, the burgeoning European Rewilding Network continues to foster collaboration and amplify results.
Founded by Rewilding Europe in 2013, the aim of the ERN is to enhance the efforts of each member by facilitating the exchange of skills, insight and experience. Members meet regularly, usually via webinar, while nature-based businesses can also apply to Rewilding Europe Capital, Rewilding Europe’s enterprise loan facility.
Rewilding Europe extends a warm welcome to all European rewilding initiatives that focus on practical, result-oriented rewilding and encourages them to apply for ERN membership.