The autumn forest in Häme region is filled with colours, but the environmental specialist Juha-Matti Valonen sees the forest behind the obvious.
“There is an old group of retention trees with sturdy aspens and deadwood on the ground. I’ve seen tree hazel grouses in these roadside bushes and one white-tailed deer near the salt lick,” says Valonen as he describes UPM’s forest at the borderland of Loppi and Janakkala.
“Do you know what this is?” asks Valonen, picking up a tiny mushroom.
“This is the smallest mushroom species in Finland that can be detected with the naked eye. This is called Gymnopus perforans. By the way, we have excellent mushroom spots here. The area comprises of both barren rocky hills and lush ravines with many deciduous trees, such as small-leaved limes.”
Juha-Matti Valonen has been working with UPM as an environmental specialist for over ten years. Before that he worked in different positions in wood sourcing and forestry.
“I’ve been wandering in forests since I was a little boy. I followed my dad on hunting trips when I was very young. I also went to forests with my mother’s father. I go birdwatching with my friends. I did my diploma work for my forestry studies on forest management in the white-backed woodpecker’s habitat.”
Stakeholder co-operation is an essential part of an environmental specialist’s job. The most important stakeholders are the environmental authorities, such as ministries, Finnish Environment Institute, centres for economic development, transport and the environment, environmental organisations and also forest owners.
The guiding thread of Valonen’s job as an environmental specialist has been the acceptability of the commercial use of forests.
“I’m motivated by the belief that ecological knowhow and expertise in forestry can be combined and that they are not mutually exclusive. In practical forest operations, the environment can be and is definitely taken into consideration,” emphasises Valonen.
Environmental specialists are responsible for guiding the UPM field personnel about environmental matters. Environmental matters are a natural part of forest management training. “UPM has clearly focused on environmental matters and participates in various joint projects relating to forest environments.
“The company’s own forests have served as learning environments where we have tested different methods in co-operation with various experts.”
“Management of natural habitats, Esker projects, co-operation network projects within METSO programme, co-operation with Osprey Foundation and BirdLife,” says Valonen as he lists important projects, in which he has participated.
Valonen also has knowledge on using fire in commercial forests, for example, for burning retention trees or burning off sun-exposed slopes. His special expertise includes issues relating to birds, as birds have always been Valonen’s hobby. Each of Valonen’s colleagues in the UPM team has their own areas of expertise.
The Forest Act up-dated in 2014 brings more freedom to manage forests. It goes without saying that the freedom also means more responsibility for good forest management.
“Forest owners can place their forests under our management without losing sleep over them. As we state “Let’s create together a forest of your dreams” forest owners should not hesitate to tell us about their preferences. There are different options and we have the expertise to realise them,” emphasises Valonen.