The operations of WWF Finland were started by Pertti Salolainen, a Member of Parliament in 1972. He invited Fritz Vollmar, the Secretary General of WWF International, to Finland to discuss starting operations. After Vollmar’s visit, the WWF headquarters named Pertti Salolainen as the Honorary Organiser of WWF Finland. The next thing for Salolainen to do was to choose and call a preparatory committee into meeting. After this, the operations of WWF Finland began swiftly.
Work groups consisting of experts from different fields who work on a voluntary basis have always been at the heart of WWF operations. The successful White-tailed Eagle Work Group, that still continues its work today, was founded in late 1972.
During the early years of WWF’s operations, protection work groups for the peregrine falcon and Finnish forest reindeer also began work. The peregrine falcon population is growing, and the restoration of the Finnish forest reindeer to the Suomenselkä area has been successful. Later, work groups for Saimaa ringed seal, white-backed woodpecker, lesser white-fronted geese and earless seals.
The white-tailed eagle and Saimaa ringed seal have since become symbols of Finnish nature conservation. WWF started the protection work of Saimaa ringed seal in 1979 when the population had shrunk down to just 150 individuals. As a result of years of protection work, the number of Saimaa ringed seals has grown slowly, and now over 300 of these happy fellows have been counted in Lake Saimaa.
A third of a century of volunteer camps
Preserving different habitats specific to certain areas is an important part of nature’s biodiversity. So, WWF expanded its operations from protecting species to also nurturing endangered habitats. The largest targets in Finland include Kesonsuo in Ilomantsi, Siikalahti in Parikkala and Liminganlahti located close to Oulu.
In 1977, WWF began its work for preserving traditional Finnish environments and other already rare nature types by organising the first voluntary camp in the Linnansaari national park in the Saimaa region. Since then, these camps have been organised annually, and altogether around three thousand volunteers have participated over the years.
In the 2000s, WWF Finland was the first Finnish environmental organisation to become responsible for organising the operations of EU’s LIFE programme. In the project, over 300 hectares of valuable traditional environments in Finland, Sweden and Estonia were restored.
WWF Finland goes international
The period of internationalisation in WWF Finland’s operations began in mid-1980s. Its own push for progress led to HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the then International President of WWF, to visit Finland in 1985.
A few years later, WWF participated for the first time in funding conservation projects abroad in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and Sri Lanka. For example, the UN’s Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, Finland joining the European Union, the Kyoto climate treaty and the progress of globalisation further increased WWF’s international cooperation.
Since the early 2000s, the conservation programmes of WWF Finland have been conducted to support the objectives of the conservation programme of WWF International. For example, WWF Finland’s own development projects in Nepal, Bhutan and Borneo are a part of WWF’s international conservation programmes.
A lot of additional information on the extent to which species are endangered and the reasons behind this was gathered during the 1990s. The existing methods of forest industry were revealed to be the main reason for the distress of many species living in forests. So, WWF concentrated even more on the issue of forest nature.
WWF promotes preservation of valuable old forests in Finland as well as in Russian Karelia. WWF played an important part in the preparation of the Finnish Forest Act of 1996 and the national forest programme. WWF’s Traditional Forest programme that encourages voluntary forest protection brought a whole new approach to the deadlocked forest discussion at the turn of the century.
WWF has been strongly involved in bringing the internationally established voluntary FSC certification of forests to Finland. Certification proved to be difficult to carry out in Finland, but finally in 2011, the national FSC criteria were accepted in Finland. WWF works for the extensive implementation of the certification.
In the late 1990s, a wide network of the EU’s Natura 2000 areas was established in Finland. Since then new areas have been added to the network. In the future, these areas will probably be as highly regarded as the national parks that caused a lot of resistance when they were first introduced. WWF Finland has also participated in the preparation and realisation of the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland Metso that was approved in 2003 and continued in 2008. WWF has also negotiated together with Metsähallitus and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation on the protection of valuable old forests.
One of WWF’s most important protection objects is the Baltic Sea. WWF Finland has worked for a healthier Baltic Sea since it was founded. Now, one of WWF’s main focuses is decreasing the nutrient runoff to the Baltic Sea through planning and establishing agricultural wetlands together with landowners.
Another serious risk factor is the constant increase of oil deliveries. In 2004, thanks to WWF Finland’s activity and with the support of WWF International, the International Maritime Organization, IMO, declared the Baltic Sea as an extremely delicate sea area. Consequently, strict decrees improving marine safety can be applied to the Baltic Sea. WWF Finland set up a volunteer oil spill response team in 2003, which now has over 6,000 Finnish participants. WWF has trained group leaders from among them to guide volunteers in case of accidents.
WWF adds to its efforts to improve the condition of the Baltic Sea and to conserve the habitats and species of the Baltic Sea. One objective is to increase the number of protected sea areas, and also to enhance the planning on the use of sea areas through cooperation with all the Baltic states.
New methods were introduced to WWF’s work at the turn of the century. This is a natural progression, as the issues of nature and environmental protection vary from one era to the next.
Climate change might just be the largest environmental issue ever faced, and WWF has not been left resting on its laurels. The threat and ways of preventing climate change have been brought to view through social endeavours and various campaigns. The Green Office environmental system developed by WWF Finland aims to cut down greenhouse gas emissions and is used in Finland by around 500 offices. The Green Office network is currently expanding outside the borders of Finland. WWF also cooperates with companies investing in environmental protection in order to develop new ways to save and produce energy and cut CO2 emissions.
Climate change is a clear example of human actions surpassing nature’s endurance. The strain we put on the environment and the ecological footprint of humans must be decreased. Children and young people are in an important position – they represent the decision-makers of tomorrow. WWF has started working in close cooperation with schools in order to promote the status and methods of environmental education. Environmental education is also an essential method in WWF Finland’s development cooperation projects.
Internationalisation development is still underway and the number of protection projects abroad is growing. Currently, WWF Finland is responsible for the entire Living Himalayas conservation programme in the international WWF network, amongst other things. WWF Finland also participated in the Heart of Borneo conservation programme, the goal of which is to protect a million hectares of immaculate rainforest on the island of Borneo.