Landscapes are an integral part of local identities, everyday lives and the wellbeing of people. Landscapes are formed by interaction between humans and nature, which makes them bearers of historical and cultural values. There are many traditions of researching, classifying and evaluating landscapes in Finland. The most important regulations promoting landscape protection are included in the Nature Conservation Act and the Land Use and Building Act.
Rural landscape in south-west Finland. © Riku Lumiaro.
There are 156 areas in Finland that have been classified as nationally valuable landscapes. They represent the cultural landscapes of our country, and their value is based on culturally significant natural diversity, cultivated agricultural landscapes and traditional architecture. The areas were selected with a decision-in-principle by the Government in 1995. A new inventory of the areas in in progress.
Areas can be designated as landscape conservation areas under Finland’s Nature Conservation Act. The aim of landscape conservation areas is to cherish natural and cultural landscapes and the historical features particular to the region. The areas are founded in close cooperation with local actors, such as village associations and municipalities.
Built heritage and cultural environment
The Ministry of the Environment has surveyed cultural landscapes that have been shaped by the traditional ways of using land. Often, these areas have ecological significance as well, as they function as biotopes. Traditional rural biotopes are ecologically unique, and their disappearance threatens the natural habitats of a wide range of flora and fauna.
Traditional biotopes are culturally affected areas of nature, such as various types of meadowland, moorland and wooded pastures. For the most part, they have been formed by mowing and grazing. The overall area covered by traditional biotopes has declined rapidly due to drastic changes in farming practices and new production methods. Traditional rural biotopes are protected by landscape conservation projects and supportive actions aimed at cherishing traditional agricultural landscapes.
Built cultural heritage includes historical buildings, early industrial and transportation structures, landscapes affected by gardening and archaeological remains.
The updated inventory of built cultural landscapes in Finland was completed in 2009, when the National Board of Antiquities designated over 1,400 areas as nationally important cultural historical environments. The inventory of built cultural environments is based on the Land Use and Building Act, and it is used in the new landscape inventory currently in progress.
National urban parks can be designated under the Land Use and Building Act. In the parks, valuable cultural environments and urban nature become part of the daily lives and recreation of people, following the principles of sustainable urban planning. National urban parks include nationally important areas, but also areas with more ordinary public images. Propositions to designate areas as urban parks are made by cities or municipalities, and the designation decisions are made by the Ministry of the Environment.
In 1994, the Ministry of the Environment celebrated Finland’s 75 years of independence by selecting 27 National Landscapes. The selected landscapes are culturally and historically important and they represent the history of Finnish livelihoods and the particular features of the regions. Landscapes that have left their mark on Finnish identity and the image of Finnish nature were also included.