EC warns Finland to protect important conservation area

The European Commission is acting against Finland’s plans to drown 250 square kilometres of a national park, which “should have been designated as a Special Protection Area”.


The Commission issued a formal warning to Finland on 13 September for failure to protect an important bird area called the mires of Kemihaara in north-east of the country. It says that the Finnish authorities recently granted a permit to construct a power plant and artificial lake which would drown 250 square kilometres of mires and forests around the upper Kemijoki River, including the mires of Kemihaara, which lie within the boundaries of the Urho Kekkonen National Park.

The Commission said that a great number of vulnerable bird species listed under the Wild Birds Directive breed or live in the Kemihaara mires, and for that reason, the area should have been designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA). Finland’s own governmental Forest and Park Service says that the mires are “situated far from human habitation”, have “no permanent roads in the area” and promise that “this wilderness area will be preserved as real wilderness”.

According to the Commission, 21 vulnerable bird species breed in the mires and eight are migratory or visit the area regularly to find food. Furthermore, in 1994, 10 endangered species in the Finnish Red Data Book were observed in the area. Among the vulnerable species are cranes, smews, hen harriers, and the peregrine falcon, endangered in Finland. With the project’s construction it is estimated that 45,000 breeding bird pairs will disappear.

Commenting on the decision, Margot Wallstrom, Environment Commissioner, said “This decision stresses the importance of complying at the national level with the nature conservation procedures required by the Directives of the European Union. At the same time it is important to not that…the Commission is not taking a position against or in favour of the building of the Vuotos power plant.”

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