Management effectiveness evaluation shows: Finnish park management is of high standard but challenges lie ahead

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Photo description: Evaluation Team visiting fortress island Vallisaari. Long closed for military use, the site has remained one of the most diverse nature destinations in the archipelago of capital city Helsinki. From the left: Ben Ross, Nigel Dudley, Sue Stolton (team leader), Michael Hošek, Kari Lahti, Petri Ahlroth, Yu-Fai Leung. Team members absent: Ari-Pekka Auvinen and Naira Dehmel.

Photo: Mervi Heinonen, Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland

Expert article from Matti Tapaninen, Senior Specialist, Tourism. Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland.

Conservation agencies around the world need plenty of timely, transparent and quality information to be able to manage their national parks and nature reserves efficiently. In addition to the baseline information of ecological, cultural, social and economic values of Protected Areas, there is growing interest to monitor trends and predict changes in the future. Needs to measure and enhance management effectiveness are also recognized in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which states:

Ensure and enable that by 2030 at least 30 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas, and of marine and coastal areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed.

EU and national biodiversity strategies play a crucial role in achieving this goal.

Protected Area Management Effectiveness

Protected area management effectiveness (PAME) assessment is a useful tool to organize great amounts of information and it helps to get fresh insights from external evaluators. In 2004, Finland was the first country in the world to commission an independent review of the management effectiveness of the whole protected area system. In 2023, Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland (PWF) repeated the process. The Evaluation Team itself consisted of experts representing a range of expertise, including managing a park agency, biodiversity research units, conservation-related private consultancies, and visitor and tourism management.

The 2023 PAME Assessment

The 2023 PAME assessment was guided by the Principles of Protected Area Management in Finland, which encompass key components of management objectives, ecosystem services and ecosystem approach, and adaptive management process that are operating under a changing environment along with national and regional obligations. The evaluation protocol entailed a system-wide questionnaire with six broad categories of questions, including context, planning, input/resources, process, outputs, and outcomes.

Special attention was paid to important changes in the management context since 2004, as well as future domestic and regional trends that may facilitate, hinder or otherwise impact management effectiveness in one or more categories. The focus of evaluation was on the protected area system in Finland, but additional evidence was obtained from site assessments using the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) in five Protected Areas.

According to the PAME assessment report management of Protected Areas in Finland is of a high standard and the protected area system managed by Parks & Wildlife Finland works well. However, significant challenges lie ahead. Many species are endangered, threats due to climate change are increasing and resources available for management are declining. Henrik Jansson, Executive Director of Parks & Wildlife Finland, says:

The international assessment is an important step towards safeguarding biodiversity and more effective conservation work. This assessment provides guidelines for increasing the impact of the work and helps to compare our competence internationally. Next, we will analyse the recommendations and draw up a development plan from them. We will prioritise the recommendations that we can implement promptly.

A comment by Michael Hošek, President of EUROPARC Federation and member of the international evaluation team

Globally, Finland was the first country to develop a methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of its Protected Areas system in 2004. Moreover, Finnish colleagues understood the importance of an independent perspective, i.e. they invited international experts to the evaluation team.

In 2023, after 20 years, the evaluation was carried out again. The methodology was updated, of course, but with the awareness that the results could be compared to see trends in development.

Personally, I consider the combination of the assessment at the level of the Protected Areas network and the specific sites of great importance. We cannot assume that we have the capacity to carry out a very thorough and repeated evaluation of effectiveness at the level of each individual site. The Finnish example is innovative in this respect, as it combines the assessment at the level of the network and a sample of sites while maintaining the quality of the result. And to make the evaluation truly independent, it is really important to invite colleagues from other countries to the team, taking into account the experience of other countries within Europe and the world. And I hope we have done that. I am personally very happy with the result.

More information

Full evaluation report

The full evaluation report Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Finland’s Protected Areas 2023 (pdf)

Report summary and recommendations

The report summary and its recommendations (pdf): Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Finland’s Protected Areas 2023 – Summary of the Evaluation Report and Recommendations.

System level evaluation

System-level evaluation of protected area management effectiveness for Parks & Wildlife Finland (PAME) – complete assessment questionnaire with evaluation criteria (pdf)

Evaluating Effectiveness (IUCN)

Evaluating Effectiveness: A framework for assessing management effectiveness of protected areas. 2nd Edition. (IUCN publication, pdf)