Metsä Group sets eyes on regenerative land use to improve state of nature

Regenerative land use aims at a cultural change that enhances the state of nature in the built environment

Metsä Group has set a goal to improve the state of nature in its operations by 2030. The principles of regenerative land use that have now been developed will guide the implementation of the plans in the built environment. A pilot phase of regenerative land use was launched last year in Kemi. The principles, developed in cooperation with the Wild Zone Association, will guide the implementation of biodiversity plans at all of Metsä Group’s 25 mill sites over the coming years.

As a large and regionally significant company, Metsä Group wants to set an example for others in terms of nature solutions in the built environment. The aim is to integrate biodiversity development at mill sites into mill operations and reporting. Working with an extensive network of partners, the aim is to develop internationally accepted design principles to improve the state of nature in the built and industrial environment, regardless of the industry.

“Regenerative land use offers a transformative role for nature in the built environment. The human-altered environment is full of opportunities for both our national species and for people in their everyday lives. Nature solutions in industrial and urban environments support Finland’s national biodiversity targets while creating a healthier, safer and more comfortable everyday environment for residents. This is a change that benefits both nature and people,” said Timo Lehesvirta, leading nature specialist at Metsä Group.

The Kemi planning area covers more than 600 hectares, of which about half is a closed mill site and half is company-owned land. The establishment of meadows, chains and sunlit areas, which started last year, will continue this year. So far, 12 hectares of these open habitats have been created instead of grassland. They will be created using only local species. The cultivation material consists of seeds of more than 100 species collected from local populations of various plant species in the vicinity of Kemi.

Metsä Group’s key partner is the Wild Zone Association, which specialises in biodiversity expertise in the built environment. The City of Kemi implements grazing through the Helmi programme in the Kiikeli city park area. The cows to be grazed are an endangered landrace. The bird association of Sea Lapland area Xenus is carrying out bird surveys and plans to protect the bird population. The local hunting association Hiilimön erästäjät is combating wild minks in an invasive species project, supporting bird-related work.

“In the Kemi region, habitats important for biodiversity include meadows, fields and sunlit areas. They are home to declining plant and insect species. Similar habitats can be created on Metsä Group’s mill sites. There is a large area of suitable land on the mill sites, which is important for the protection of biodiversity. We have used local and rare plant species to establish new habitats. In the Kemi project, food plants for endangered insects are also important,” said Jere Nieminen, chairman of the Wild Zone Association.

Regenerative land use in the built environment is one of Metsä Group’s initiatives to improve the state of biodiversity. Regenerative forestry focuses on enhancing the state of nature in commercial forests, where Metsä Group sources its wood. The funding programme for nature projects finances nature management and restoration projects outside the company’s own sphere of influence, from pollinators to streams and wetlands.

The principles of regenerative land use include implementing solutions that maintain and enhance the native character of the local nature, supporting the presence of endangered species in the built environment, and safeguarding the local and culture-historical importance of the site, among other considerations.