Enhancing Sustainability and Cooperation in Transboundary National Parks

Sanna-Kaisa Juvonen / Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland
Published: 12 August 2016
Last edited: 02 October 2020
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Cooperation in transboundary National Parks (NPs) Oulanka in Finland and Paanajärvi in Russia was strengthened through implementation of a joint cross-border project that enabled the personnel of the NPs to work closely together in hands-on activities. The activities made the common history come to life, which helped in leaving behind past grievances through achievement of common goals and enhancing sustainable tourism within the Oulanka-Paanajärvi twin park.


North Europe
North and Central Asia
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
River, stream
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Cities and infrastructure
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Waste management
Ecosystem loss
Lack of infrastructure
Poor governance and participation
Social conflict and civil unrest
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Oulanka National Park, Finland | Paanajärvi National Park, Russia


na Nature knows no borders, so ensuring transboundary management of NPs enhances ecological sustainability regionally. Needs for enhanced sustainable tourism through interpretation of natural and cultural sites by quality guides motivated this Solution. Addressing these challenges is fundamental to promote nature tourism, regional appeal, continued recreational use, and gain champions for NPs.


Nature and culture tourism businesses; Tourism associations and development organizations; North-Eastern Finland, District of Loukhi, Russia; Research, education and interpretation organisations; and Oulanka and Paanajärvi National Park management

How do the building blocks interact?

Enhancing ecological sustainability and cooperation in transboundary NPs Oulanka in Finland and Paanajärvi in Russia was done through implementation of a joint project (Building Block 4) that enabled the personnel of the NPs to work closely together in hands-on activities across the border (BBs 1-4). Sustainability of nature tourism and recreational use of nature in NPs was enhanced through channeling of visitor use (BB 2), training and certification of nature tourism guides (BB 3), assessment of sustainability of current actions (BB 4). Furthermore, cultural sites were reconstructed (BB 5) to improve knowledge of the past and shared history in order to promote peace, mutual understanding, learning and continued transboundary cooperation (e.g., BB 4) in modern times.


1. Limits of Acceptable Change methodology was taken into practice in Oulanka National Park in order to guarantee sustainable tourism and recreation within the NP. Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy for Paanajärvi National Park was developed, which strengthened the ecological and socio-economic sustainability of the NP and cooperation between tourism sector, NP and other stakeholders. Sustainable tourism practices were standardized in the Oulanka-Paanajärvi twin park. Channeling of visitor use to decrease risk of overcrowding and disturbance in ecologically sensitive areas in the National Parks was improved. Waste management of Paanajärvi NP was developed, strengthening ecological sustainability of the NP. 2. Nature interpretation and visitor guidance practices and methods/effectiveness of communication on nature-oriented tourism and cultural heritage were strengthened enabling better understanding and interpretation of natural and cultural significance of Oulanka and Paanajärvi National Parks and their shared common history. Sense of common history and future was strengthened. 3. Personal contacts between NPs increased and management unified through implementation of joint action. Commitment to joint work increased.


Finland and Russia are old enemies, we cannot deny that. Fortunately, countries have nowadays other kinds of ties to each other. Now, many grassroots organisations are working together across the border. Oulanka National Park in Finland and Paanajärvi National Park in Russia have cooperated since the establishment of Paanajärvi NP in 1992. The National Parks are physically connected across the border by extensive taiga and a river that runs from Oulanka to Paanajärvi. They are also connected by shared history. For centuries the border between Finland and Russia in Paanajärvi area has shifted alternately eastward and westward. Before World War II, Paanajärvi belonged almost entirely to Finland. In the western end of Lake Paanajärvi, there was the busiest village of the region that was also the hub of tourism. Then the war started and wiped away the settlements. Paanajärvi area became wilderness where nature took back old pastures and fields. In recent years, Oulanka and Paanajärvi NPs have emphasised not just a shared nature but also a shared history and culture in order to remember the past – not with a grudge but with fondness and a learning spirit. When we officially opened the reconstructed buildings in Paanajärvi, we had with us two gentlemen, Mr. Eero Manninen and Mr. Pauli Hietala, that had lived in Paanajärvi area before the war. They were overjoyed that they could visit once again their old stomping grounds and reminisce of the old days with a hint of melancholy but without bitterness. We took Mr. Manninen also to see his parents’ grave that remained on the Russian side after the war. This was the last time he had a chance to see them. The gentlemen could have been bitter but they were not and gave us all an example how not to forget but to forgive. Nowadays cooperation between the NPs is very strong. The NPs support visits of schoolchildren to neighbouring country in order to teach them the meaning of cooperation and to give them a chance to learn about nature and life across the border. To maintain peace in the world today we need to forge relationships with our neighbours and transboundary cooperation is one great way to do that.

Contributed by

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Sanna-Kaisa Juvonen Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland, Vantaa, Finland

Other contributors

Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland, Vantaa, Finland
Institute of Silviculture, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna