The Shepherd Weeks in Natura 2000 Areas in Finland

The Shepherd Weeks in Natura 2000 Areas is a unique concept that combines landscape and habitat management and an experience-rich holiday.Semi-natural grasslands are nationally assessed as the most threatened habitat group in Finland, nearly all habitat types are considered critically endangered. Active annual management measures are required to ensure their maintenance, avoid deterioration and/or progressively lead to an improvement in the ecological condition of several habitat types. The most efficient method of managing the diverse semi-natural meadows and pastures is through grazing. In remote protected areas where livestock owners live far away from the pastures and meadows, it is difficult to ensure the care of the grazing animals. To solve this, the concept of Shepherd Weeks was developed by Metsähallitus. During Shepherd Weeks volunteer shepherds take care of livestock for a week each.  The operations are organized in cooperation between Metsähallitus, the volunteer shepherds and livestock owners. The Shepherd Weeks concept is one imaginative way of maintaining and enhancing the diversity, as well as increase the area, of semi-natural grasslands and at the same time offer the public an opportunity to take part in biodiversity conservation in Natura 2000 sites. It has created wellbeing for both the nature and the people. Shepherd Weeks are arranged in 12 Natura 2000 areas in Finland and the popularity of the concept has increased enormously. The management of semi-natural landscapes has improved the quality and increased the area of the targeted habitats  Fennoscandian lowland species-rich dry to mesic grasslands (6270) and Fennoscandian wooded pastures (9070) in Kolin kansallispuisto (FI0700010) Natura 2000 -site.

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