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Arctic Environment & Land Degradation Issues

Updated on April 28, 2019

An era is past, and a new era, with a new generation and new conditions for existence have begun! As such, one could define the life of the Sami and the Sami people's history here in Lapland.

Times change but it rarely makes so fast and unforeseen. As a reindeer herding Sami, I have seen development and decline whithin it over the years in a number of specific areas that affect the Sami business community here in a sparsely populated area with sometimes already harsh conditions for an existence.

During our generation, we have experienced perhaps the most dramatic stage of a decline in reindeer herding which has also become the perhaps most demanding challenge for most Sami people in reindeer herding.

Let me explain!

Over the past ten years, we have seen an environmental impact on nature and the mountain world, which already constitutes a threat in the long term towards the existence of ours and the reindeers here.

With a warmer climate of C + 0.4 degrees over the past 100 years, because of environmental pollution we have seen a negative effect on the reindeer pasture, which is essentially the wildly growing white moss. This most important pasture for reindeer has now almost disappeared in an almost described as an, uncontrollable extent from the ground because other herb species and grass varieties that thrives on a warmer climate with longer roots than the roots of white moss. There are research since several years at UiT The Arctic University of Norway that shows how we have 11 new sorts of herb species and grass varieties that has compete out white moss from important reindeer grazing areas, as well from the high mountain and important winter pastures for the reindeers.

This problem is not a dramatic negative consequence that happens rapidly, it is constantly happening from year to year. And now the situation is already unsustainable!

What is definitely today is that we have to do something about this problem because we, as reindeer herders, should not lose our reindeers year by year because the reindeers are starving to death, because we should not lose our largest and most important life work and income in the most affected regions.
This problem already causes great losses every year and the reindeer herding loses big money in conversion, winter feeding, and migration of the reindeers that must be made every winter due to all to small areas were grazing is to be find under the cover of snow.

A negative development in reindeer herding entails large losses for not least the state and tax revenues to the state. Therefore, there is no longer any time to waste doubtful speculation about the environmental change that we see happening here and now. We must act on a broad front for support to set an end to this effect before we make an environmental disaster that obliterated the reindeer herding and the existence of the Sami people.

From an environmental perspective, we have a negative development for the environment due to migration with reindeers in the winter with the motor-borne reindeer herding in today's society.

More unfortunate, this negative trend during our time has meant that the younger generation who is now starting up reindeer herding activities does not always have the historical perspective and thus cannot perceive the limitation within today's reindeer herding before they've struggled through some time. We who have an experience and knowledge of the conditions for reindeer herding thirty years ago clearly see how the reindeer herding decreases and this because of lack of food and pastures for our rendeers, and thus following negative concequences because of that. It may happen that we are actually changing the nature of the reindeer seen in a longer perspective, as well. However, we see that the reindeer today is considerably more fragile and much smaller in weight per animal in the presence of what it was thirty years ago.

With this as background, we must now gather ourselves for an effort to remedy this negative development. And before we do that, we should read about the history of the Sami within reindeer herding to create an idea of the marked change that we have suffered and which we are now undergoing. Furthermore, without deforming structural conservatism with any more environmental impact, I would say that we must think in new paths regarding opportunities for grants to plant out white moss in strategic winter pastures in northern Lapland. Through various sources we have received an idea of buying packed white moss that has been pressed into bales by irrigation and then drying. These white moss bales could possibly be grounded down to crop as seeds to be planted in specified areas. This could be feasible using a similar support structure as those found at the Swedish Board of Agriculture for the application (EU support for the management of "sl├ąttermyrar"). Hereby, I intend to transfer this matter for further dialogue for the officials in each area for an action plan.

This document is public.

Kiruna 2019

Roger K. Olsson


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