The Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) issued a new decision on the appeal concerning tree felling in Patterimäki on Wednesday 27 May 2020. The status of Patterimäki in terms of the Siberian flying squirrel has changed since last spring, when the route of the Jokeri Light Rail did not run in the vicinity of any Siberian flying squirrel breeding or resting areas according to the information available to the authorities.
The City of Helsinki commissioned a survey on the Siberian flying squirrels in Patterimäki in March 2020. The survey observed new dropping findings and trees with holes that are suitable for flying squirrels on and around the route of the Jokeri Light Rail. The ELY Centre has assessed the situation in light of most recent information, and come to the decision that the construction work for the Jokeri Light Rail may not commence.
The City of Helsinki Urban Environment Division is applying for a permit from the Uusimaa ELY Centre to deviate from the provisions concerning the protection of the Siberian Flying squirrel laid down in the Nature Conservation Act in Patterimäki park. The deviation permit is applied for on the following grounds:
- Despite looking into other options, no other satisfactory alternative for the route of the light rail has been found.
- The living conditions of the Siberian flying squirrel can be preserved in the Patterimäki area despite the tree felling carried out for the Jokeri Light Rail.
- The project as a whole is very significant in terms of urban development and meeting emissions goals, for example. It is estimated that Jokeri Light Rail will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from traffic by 4,000 tonnes a year in 2030. The postponement of the project would result in considerable costs.
The plans for the Jokeri Light Rail include a tunnel through Patterimäki and a route running along the edge of the industrial area in the west to preserve as much of the local nature as possible. Patterimäki park contains plenty of trees that are suitable for the Siberian flying squirrel. Due to the construction of the Jokeri Light Rail, approximately 11% of the breeding and resting areas in Patterimäki will be lost. In the view of the Jokeri Light Rail alliance, the deviation permit concerning the Siberian flying squirrel in Patterimäki will not affect the level of protection of the species in western Helsinki.
The Siberian flying squirrel population has grown quickly in Helsinki in recent years.
- The Jokeri Light Rail alliance announced that it would begin felling trees in Patterimäki park in mid-May 2019.
- In May 2019, Pajamäki-seura and Helsingin luonnonsuojeluyhdistys applied for a prohibition of measures from the Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.
- The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment rejected the associations’ applications in July 2019. According to the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, the prohibition of measures was unnecessary and no deviation permit was needed for the tree felling.
- Helsingin luonnonsuojeluyhdistys appealed against the decision of the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment to Helsinki Administrative Court and simultaneously applied for a prohibition of measures on the tree felling.
- Helsinki Administrative Court made a provisional decision that there was no need to issue a prohibition on enforcement.
- Helsingin luonnonsuojeluyhdistys applied for leave to appeal against Helsinki Administrative Court’s decision and a prohibition of measures on the tree felling from the Supreme Administrative Court.
- The Supreme Administrative Court issued a prohibition on enforcement on 22 July 2019 until Helsinki Administrative Court has decided on the appeal against the decision of the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.
- Helsinki Administrative Court extended the prohibition of measures and referred the matter back to the Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment on 18 February 2020.
- On 27 May 2020, the ELY Centre issued a decision based on the most recent Siberian flying squirrel surveys, stating that the preparatory work for Jokeri Light Rail cannot start in Patterimäki park.
- The City of Helsinki Urban Environment Division is applying for a permit from the Uusimaa ELY Centre to deviate from the provisions concerning the protection of the Siberian Flying squirrel in Patterimäki park.