The Foundation was established in 1942 by the Finnish State (Ministry of Agriculture) and the Finnish Hunters’ Association.
Finnish game research was established at the initiative and in response to the needs of hunters. Contacts between research and hunters have been maintained and continue to benefit both parties.
THE FIRST STEPS IN GAME RESEARCH
The beginning of organised game research in Finland date back to 1924, when, at the fourth Nordic Hunters’ Congress organised by the Finnish General Hunters’ Association (now the Finnish Hunters’ association), on the initiative of the Danish Consul General, C.M. Pay, it was proposed to all Nordic hunters’ organisations that they should set up committees to study the conditions for conserving and increasing game populations.
In the past, game research in Finland had been carried out mainly by private hunters, whose work was not very systematic and whose conclusions could even be erroneous.
THE WILDLIFE BIOLOGY COMMITTEE IS SET UP
In September 1924, the SYML (Finnish General Hunters’ Association) met to consider the situation and as it was considered particularly necessary to start research activities, the Federation’s Board of Directors set up a planning committee to consider the establishment, operation, financing and organisation of the actual committee. Drs. Gunnar Bengelsdorff and Kalle Rikala and the young biologists Drs. Runar Forsselius and Gunnar Ekman were elected as members of the planning committee. The planning committee decided to propose the establishment of a permanent committee for the conservation and enhancement of game populations and international cooperation, working in close cooperation with SYML, with financial support from the Federation.
The Committee was set up in April 1925 and its chairman was Professor Kaarlo Mainio Levander, Professor of Zoology. Drs Runar Forsselius and Gunnar Ekman and Masters Ilmari Välikangas and Väinö Korvenkontio were elected as members. The original name of the Committee was “Forest Biology Committee”, but this was soon changed to “Game Biology Committee”.
THE WORK OF THE COMMITTEE
At the time, it was believed that fluctuations in game populations were due solely to animal diseases and the effects of parasites, among other things, on morbidity. This was the basis for the Committee’s research work. Most of the work of the Committee was done by Chairman Levander, who carried out research on the side while working for the University of Helsinki Zoological Museum. A major achievement during the 17 years of the Committee’s work was the acquisition of a large body of basic wildlife literature for the benefit of future researchers.
RESEARCH ACTIVITIES EXPANDING
In the late 1930s, the Committee began to consider expanding and reorganising its game research activities. On the other hand, during the exceptional circumstances of the 1940s, the importance of wild game in meat production and the economic value of furs and skins was also recognised and in July 1942, Minister of Agriculture Ikonen set up a commission to consider the improvement of game management. Tauno V. Mäki, a hunting supervisor, was appointed to the committee as chairman and Vilho Seppänen, forester and the head of the Evo Forest School and director Martti Hovilainen, representing SYML, and forester Martti Virtanen representing Metsähallitus as members of the committee.
The work of the committee led to concrete action the same year and the Finnish Game Foundation was established on 14 December 1942. Jukka Rangell, the former chairman of the Finnish Hunters’ Association, who had recently been appointed Prime Minister, arrived to witness the establishment of the Foundation. The founding document was signed by the Minister of Agriculture, Juho Koivisto, representing the State, and the rapporteur, Urho Miettinen. On behalf of the Hunters’ Association, the deed of foundation was signed by Dr Rikhardt Bengelsdorff, Mr Martti Hovilainen, Director, and Mr Martti Kivilinna, Secretary of the Federation. The Foundation was registered on 23 December 1942.
STATUTES OF THE FOUNDATION
The purpose of the Foundation is to promote and support the development of game management in our country. According to its original statutes adopted in 1942, the Foundation operated in the following ways:
1. to acquire, by lease or otherwise, game management areas with hunting rights,
2. to organise effective control and protection of game on these areas;
3. practised game feeding and experimented with different game management methods,
4. set up game farms to increase game and increase healthy and strong game populations,
5. distributed live game and game bird eggs for stocking purposes to parties and individuals who were qualified to carry out game management activities,
6. carried out game biology studies and experimental game management activities,
7. studied the damage caused by game and ways of preventing it,
8. promoted the teaching of game management and educated game keepers,
9. had the right to acquire and own real estate.
A seven-member Board of Directors was elected to manage and represent the Foundation, four of whom were representatives of the State and three of the Finnish General Hunters’ Association. The State Hunting Supervisor was an ex officio member of the Foundation’s Board. The other three state representatives, one of whom was nominated by the Metsähallitus, were appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Board met twice a year, in the spring and autumn. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Finnish Hunters’ Association each elected one auditor and one deputy auditor each year to audit the Foundation’s accounts and activities.
Operations started in 1943. The Foundation elected Dr Lauri Siivonen as its Executive Director, a post he held until 1960.
FUNDING FROM DONATIONS AND THE STATE
The initial funding for the activities consisted of an appropriation from the Ministry of Agriculture and a donation from the Finnish General Hunters’ Association. Funds were also received from other organisations and private individuals, so that the initial capital amounted to 250 000 finnish marks. In addition, a library of almost 2000 volumes was donated to the Foundation by the Hunters’ Association.
The Foundation initially received 10% and later 15% of the annual State hunting card funds to cover ongoing research and experimental expenditure. However, in addition to this – quite inadequate – funding, the extensive work programme was dependent on private donations from many hunting clubs, private enthusiasts and fur and game trade associations.
GAME RESEARCH INSTITUTE STARTS WORK
The Foundation’s Game Research Institute started work soon after its establishment. The Game Research Institute was located in Helsinki and soon game research stations were established.
From the outset, the aim was to establish a biological basis for rational harvesting of game populations and productive game management. In the first operational guidelines, the tasks were defined in more detail, stating, among other things, the need to establish the basic biological conditions on the basis of which the country’s game populations and hunting industry could be promoted and kept as productive as possible at all times. The Foundation was to study game populations and their variations, the habits and habitat requirements of the various game species, the opportunities for game in the various parts of the country and to determine the natural conditions which would enable a harvest and management programme to be drawn up which would be as productive as possible while at the same time conserving game populations. In addition, the Foundation had to experiment with different methods of game management, study ways of improving the quality of game populations, investigate ways of handling harvested game and find methods of preventing damage caused by game.
GAME RESEARCH WAS NATIONALISED IN THE 1960S
The nationalisation of game research took place with the new Hunting decree on 1 April 1964 and the Game and Fisheries Research Institute was established. The Foundation’s Game Research Institute ceased its activities on 31 December 1962. The assets of the Foundation Research Institute were sold to the State Game Research Institute and the staff were transferred to the new Institute.
The new tasks of the Foundation were to continue the publication of Finnish Game and to distribute research grants from the proceeds of the sale of the research stations and other equipment.
The Foundation’s activities were rather quiet in the late 1970s and the idea of dissolving the Foundation was put forward. However, the Finnish Hunters’ Association insisted that the Foundation’s activities should be continued, based on old traditions, and saw a need for them, even though the Foundation no longer had any actual game research activities.
RESEARCH INFORMATION FOR HUNTERS IN FINNISH
The Foundation continues to publish the Finnish Game publication. Providing research information in Finnish to hunters, hunters’ organisations, game institutions and the administration is still seen as an important activity today. Finnish hunting and game management will be developed on the basis of scientifically researched information. Publishing cooperation with the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute (now the Natural Resources Institute of Finland) continued until 2015, after which the Foundation has been solely responsible for the publication.
The Foundation supports university students in the field of wildlife (prograduate scholarships) and young researchers’ doctoral theses through grants. The Foundation has also tried to award one scholarship per year for a thesis on game by an polytechnic student.
TO SUPPORT HABITAT MANAGEMENT
The Foundation’s statutes were renewed in 2016. The Foundation’s activities were updated to meet modern needs, in particular to support the management of game habitats.
The Foundation will be able to award grants and project funding to promote game management measures by landowners and hunting clubs, for example, as well as the management of game habitats. Under the updated rules, the Foundation will be able to provide grants and project funding to help manage conflicts over game and to promote the well-being of game management.
The Foundation will also be able to promote game management through contractual arrangements, whereby it can enter into agreements on the use of the areas for which it provides grants or project funding. In this way, the Foundation’s activities return to its roots in promoting practical game management.