River Guardian Program Kicks Off

The River Guardian Program of Koitajoki is a pioneering initiative that engages local people and their knowledge in the restoration and monitoring work across the Koitajoki basin.

In November 2022, Snowchange launched a call for an entirely new concept in the Koitajoki area - the River Guardian Program. River Guardians are local people who care for their local environment and wish to be involved in the rewilding work by monitoring the conditions and changes in nature in their own areas across the Koitajoki basin.

The program is first of its kind in Finland. There are, however, successful examples from across the world. The efforts of River Guardians have remarkable potential in producing more detailed, holistic and in-depth knowledge about the Koitajoki river and improving its state.

15 newly selected River Guardians held their first meeting on January 8th in the village of Kivilahti in Ilomantsi. The guardians will start their monitoring work this month across the Koitajoki basin. The pilot-phase of the programme will last until the end of 2023.



The Guardian Highlights Koitajoki Rewilding

The Guardian wrote about the Endangered Landscapes Programme (ELP) of which the rewilding project of the Koitajoki basin is part.

"In Finland, a $1.5m award will fund attempts to save from extinction a unique, land-locked population of Atlantic salmon by revitalising the fish’s spawning grounds and improving river water quality by restoring 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of carbon-sequestering boreal peatlands.

There are just 30 to 50 mother salmon returning to spawn each year in the Koitajoki watershed. Two hydroelectric dams block the migration routes of the landlocked salmon, which are a population that naturally never journey into the sea but migrate to lakes within Finland. The fish survive only because conservationists physically move them over land to assist their migration.

“It’s a knife-edge moment,” said Tero Mustonen of the Koitajoki watershed project. “This $1.5m project will do massively important work to support the last remaining spawning habitat and juvenile fish habitat that exists and also improve water quality. It is addressing, finally, degradation across Koitajoki in scale. I have a vision of uniquely landlocked Atlantic salmon and precious whitefish swimming in restored rivers and streams. Above this, golden eagle and bar-tailed godwits fly as they once did, perhaps smiling to themselves, seeing their homes saved, restored – in short, alive again.”

Read the full article here:

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