Forest fires and reindeer husbandry

September 13, 2018 • Svetlana AvelovaBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

The past summer will be remembered as hot and dry, as well as numerous forest fires that raged both in Sweden and Yakutia.

Situation in Sweden

Sami reindeer herders of Sweden described the damage caused to reindeer pastures by forest fires.
Approximately has 25 000 of hectare forest burned, whereof 21 500 of hectare where useful grazing lands and 31 out of 51 reindeer herding communities are someway affected by the fires.
The most severe forest fires within reindeer herding areas where in Jämtland (8500 of hectares), Dalarna (2500 of hectares) and Västernorrland (500 of hectares).
The regions of Norrbotten, Västerbotten also experienced some smaller forest fires, which were extinguished rather quickly.

Both primary and secondary winter grazing lands has burned, and it is hard to predict how the reindeer will act when arriving to the troubled areas this winter, and how it will impact the reindeer herding in the future.
As well as the reindeer herders, are the farmers, foresters and animal owners afflicted by the drought and fires. Many farmers have indicated for a reduced amount of fodder production, which in the long term also affects the reindeer herder whom purchases the ensilage from the farmer. One would therefore like to wish for a favorable winter season to come.
The climate has changed; and as reindeer herders one have no predictions on what to expect for the seasons to come, and cannot either surely know if it will be favorable for the animals.
The winter of 2017/2018 was for many reindeer herding districts rough, due to a lot of snow, resulting in exhausted animals.

The Sami Parliament in Sweden has been in contact with the responsible ministries of the Swedish government to apply for funding to excess costs due the fires and the drought. The reindeer herding are not yet included within the national intervention funding that the Swedish government appropriated to support Swedish farmers affected by the drought and fires.
Our member organization, Ruoŧa Sámiid Riikasearvi also remarks that this kind of catastrophe funding should not affect other funding related to reindeer herding.

Forest and Taiga forest are recognized as a threat to traditional reindeer herding, already stated in the Jokkmokk Declaration from 2017 at the latest World Reindeer Herders congress:

Note that forest and tundra fires are severly impacting reindeer herders, and urge authorities to give priority to reindeer pastures when fighting such fires.

Situation in Sakha republic

The total area of ​​fires over the past summer in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) has exceeded one million hectares. Fire extinguished from the ground and air. About a thousand people and over one hundred units of equipment were involved in extinguishing fires.
Forest fires over the summer occurred in Olekminsky, Vilyuisk, Namsky, Gorny, Nyurbinsky, Myrninsky, Ust-Maysky, Lensk, Amginsky, Tattinsky and Kobyaisky districts of the republic.
The situation was worsened by the air temperature, which reached over 30 degrees Celsius. In recent years, on the territory of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), there has been an increase in the cases of the approach of bears to human settlements. This is due to the increase in the brown bear population, the migration of bears due to crop failure, annual forest fires in the republic and neighboring regions.

As for reindeer herders, it should be noted that from the above-mentioned ditricts exposed to forest fires, traditionally reindeer herding is practiced in Verkhoyansk, Olekminsky, Kobiai, Zhigansky and Ust-Yansky ditricts. Although there is no specific information about the damage caused to reindeer husbandry in the media, given the general amount of fires in the republic, it can be assumed that the damage has been caused to some extent.

As reported on the website of the Department of Forestry of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), for some fires there was no threat to human settlements and economic objects and the projected costs for their extinguishment exceeded the predicted harm that could have been caused to them, in this connection, the decisions of the Governmental Commission for prevention and liquidation of emergencies and ensuring fire safety of Sakha republic  their extinguishing has been suspended.



“I didn’t choose this life, it chose me”

May 9, 2018 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, EALLU, ICR/WRH, Projects, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

A nice article and photo (in German) was published in Berliner Zeitung a few months ago which we are reposting here, with their permission. Journalist Bernd Hauser visited Kautokeino in the spring and spent time with Issát Turi (pictured with his mother Kirsten Turi) and family in their winter pastures. Turi talked about the challenges facing reindeer herders in Finnmark and how herders can best continue to practice their traditional livelihoods. Turi is also an author in the EALLU food book where he wrote about the traditional ways that Sámi slaughter reindeer in order that the flavours of the reindeer meat are enhanced. The article closes with a quote from Turi that encapsulates the essence of the livelihood: “Nicht ich habe dieses Leben gewählt. Es hatmich gewählt!” (I didn’t choose this life, it chose me)

Berliner Zeitung 2018

Most of reindeer will die in Yamal: the authorities of the region announced a rescue plan

April 23, 2018 • Alena GerasimovaChallenges, ReindeerLeave a comment

According to URA.RU, Yamal reindeer herdingо will face a major decline in the next ten years. This conclusion was made by scientists after geobotanical studies conducted in the Yamalskiy and Tazovskiy districts. Due to the impoverishment of the food base, reindeer will soon have nothing to eat. These dates were announced at a closed meeting by the first deputy governor of Yamal – Alexei Sitnikov. 

Sitnikov said that Yamal is threatened with the same thing that happened in Alaska in the 1930s. For 10 years because of hunger, the number of reindeer decreased from 600 thousand to 20 thousand animals. Yamal, with 760 ooo grazing reindeer,  is now facing a similar problem. Last year’s experiment to increase slaughtering capacities has failed. A detailed study showed that the number of reindeer in each individual family is below the necessary norm and herders simply can not  send animals for slaughter. The root of the problem lies in the number of families leading the traditional nomadic way of life. There are more than 3370 such families in Yamal. To solve the problem, no less than two thousand families need to be moved to towns and villages. At the moment this is impossible.

Read more…


Concerning court proceedings from reindeer herders in Norway

April 20, 2018 • Philip BurgessChallenges, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Another reindeer herding case which was brought to the Norwegian Supreme Court now concerns reindeer herders in southern Norway of the Femund reindeer district. According to NRK, the dispute is between reindeer herders and farmers who demand a compensation for 530 000 kroner according to the law on damage. The case started in 2012, but the courth did not consider extreme and tough winter conditions for reindeer in 2012. 

This case becoming a case of principle,which deals with negative attitudes towards reindeer herders in southern Trøndelag and a desire to change the reindeer husbandry law. 

For more detailed information read on NRK



Finland has launched a reindeer warning app

November 9, 2017 • Svetlana AvelovaBlog, Challenges, ReindeerLeave a comment

Source: Arctic now

The app is free and available in Google Play, App Store and some vehicle navigation systems. With the alert online on your smartphone, you will receive real-time alerts of reindeer on the road when you are driving, or you can view live reindeer alerts on the map.

Read more…


Mass Reindeer Deaths Linked to Extreme Climate Events on Yamal

November 16, 2016 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment
Dead Reindeer, death due to extreme climate event. Photo: Roma Serotetto

Dead Reindeer, death due to extreme climate event. Photo: Roma Serotetto

From the press release announcing a new paper entitled ‘Sea ice, rain-on-snow and tundra reindeer nomadism in Arctic Russia’ published today in the journal, Biology Letters. You can read the article in full here.

Scientists have interviewed nomadic reindeer herders in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug of West Siberia, the world’s most productive reindeer herding region, to look at how global warming is affecting their way of life. While rain-on-snow generally does not cause problems in spring, it can be catastrophic for reindeer in the autumn when rain turns to an ice crust as normal freezing temperatures return. This crust, often several centimetres thick,
prevents the reindeer from feeding on fodder beneath the snow throughout the winter
months. Two extreme weather events in 2006 and 2013 caused mass starvation among the
reindeer herds, and researchers for the first time have linked these extreme weather events
on the coastal mainland in northwest Russia with sea ice loss in the adjoining Barents and
Kara seas.

The most recent rain-on-snow event of November 2013 resulted in 61 000 reindeer deaths,
about 22% out of 275 000 reindeer on the Yamal Peninsula, says the paper, which warns
that these events seem to be increasing in severity.

Read more…


Anthrax in Reindeer on Yamal Seminar Held, Salekhard

November 12, 2016 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, ICR/WRH, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Anthrax seminar The ICR and WRH team have been in Salekhard, the capital of the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug for the whole week and yesterday, attended an international seminar on the outbreak of anthrax on the Yamal Peninsula this summer. The anthrax outbreak was an event that captured global headlines and aroused significant concern amongst herders and their advocates, as significant reindeer culls have been suggested, and a desire to reduce the number of active herders has also touted. Considerable unease and uncertainty within the livelihood has arisen as a result.

The seminar was a two day event and was opened by the Yamal Governor Dmitry Kobylkin and included presentations by multiple presenters from Russia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, UK, Germany, Canada and the US on various topics including anthrax outbreaks, pastures, reindeer health, education,

From the ICR/WRH team, presentations were made by Svein Mathiesen (“Social- ecological resilience of reindeer husbandry in times of Arctic change”), Johan Mathis Turi (“The role of traditional knowledge and management in the future”) and ICR board member Roza Laptander from the Arctic Centre, Finland, (“Turbulent periods in the history of Yamal reindeer husbandry in stories of tundra dwellers”)

Read more…


Lynx Kill Far More Reindeer Than Science Previously Stated

October 19, 2016 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Lynx predatorFascinating research on predators emerging from NINA in Norway regarding the rate and number of reindeer (and sheep) killed by Lynx is far higher than authorities have previously stated. Indeed, the numbers are far closer to that which herders have always claimed, especially in Troms and Finnmark, that predation by Lynx is a major threat to herders’ economy and livelihood.

In February of this year, 10 Lynx were captured and fitted with GPS collars which were monitored by researchers. Once animals were stationary for some time, researchers would then look for dead animals in those areas. Researchers found that a make lynx can kill a reindeer or sheep each day. One lynx in particular killed 100 reindeer.

While compensation for losses to predators are compensated, up until now Finnmark and Troms County reject 90% of all claims. Hans Ole Eira, Head of the Lakkonjárga district is quoted as saying that he is glad that research is finally proving that herders should be believed.

Read the full story here (in Norwegian)


More than 300 Reindeer Killed by Lightning

August 29, 2016 • Alena GerasimovaChallenges, ReindeerLeave a comment

VmzHAlzSmYmjtpU650P44giS1QqvJV6e_g7o0emsWS9QThe tragedy which left 323 reindeer dead in Hardangervidda occured on Friday night, as reported by NRK. The animals were killed by lightning. – There was a quite hard thunderstorm in the afternoon. The herd was probably struck by lightning, said Knut Nylend from the  Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO). 

Read more…


New Law on Nomadic Family Finally Been Adopted in Yakutia

June 18, 2016 • Alena GerasimovaBlog, Challenges, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Photo by Yuri Kokovin, 2014 at Iengra ,Yakutia

After a long struggle in Sakha Republic (Yakutia) a new law on Nomadic Family in Sakha Republic was finally adopted on June 15, 2016. The State Assembly (Il Tumen) of Sakha Republic (Yakutia) for the first time made it protected by law – the definition of nomadic family and nomadic way of life, which will allow indigenous peoples of the North to use their constitutional rights.

It took many years to bring the draft law on approval of the Yakutian  State Assembly. Acccording to the law, nomadic family is a family that lives and migrates on nomadic territories and reindeer pastures throughout the whole calendar year for the sustainable and rational use of food, water, biological and hunting resources. 

Read more…


Girjas Sami village in Sweden wins case for land rights against Sweden

February 3, 2016 • Alena GerasimovaChallenges, Reindeer HerdersComments (1)

Matti BergAs reported in Sameradion & SVT Sapmi today: Matti Berg is in tears since the Girjas Sami village (sameby) have won their case against the state.

Girjas Sami village has won the case regarding the management of hunting and fishing in the area. The verdict was made today in Gällivare District Court, which is indeed an important principal decision for indigenous peoples.

For more information go here 


Animation on how man made barriers impact wild reindeer migration

January 13, 2016 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Wild ReindeerLeave a comment

Nice short animation that illustrates how human changes to the landscape (roads, railways, hydropower, cabins, tourist trails) have impacted the wild reindeer herds in Dovrefjell and Rondane, southern Norway – which is home to Europes’ last wild herd of reindeer. Of course these landscape changes impact semi domesticated reindeer in the same way. The film was produced by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research as part of the project ‘Renewable-Reindeer



Planned Railway to Complete the Bisection of Yamal Peninsula

December 2, 2015 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Bovanenkovo-Sabetta railwaysNews from Yamal – according to a news report, the extension of the Bovanenkovo railway to the newly constructed seaport at Sabetta has been given official approval. The railway is already the most northerly railway in the world and this will extend it further northwards be several hundred kilometres, bringing the railway to the east coast of the Yamal Peninsula for the first time. The peninsula is the largest single area of reindeer husbandry in the world where primarily Nenets herders undertake long seasonal migrations with their reindeer. This railway will bisect migration routes and result in a sizeable footprint in the construction and operation zone.

On November 25, 2015, Legislative Assembly of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District approved the Law on participation in the strategic project “Construction and Operation of the New Non-Common Use Railway Line Bovanenkovo-Sabetta”. The railway is to be built and operated under the principles of private-public partnership with the conclusion of an agreement with the District’s Government.

Bovanenkovo-Sabetta railways

The new line will be a continuation of the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo line in compliance with the strategy for social and economic development of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District through 2020. It is particularly focused on ensuring the construction of railway infrastructure at Sabetta seaport and transportation of cargoes by the Northern Sea Route. Source.

You can see imagery of the railway on the Gazprom website.



Arctic Ungulate Conference: Abstracts Wanted!

May 6, 2015 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, ReindeerLeave a comment
AUC 2015(Taken from the Arctic Ungulate Conference (AUC) website). The AUC is an international conference held every four years. The UNESCO world heritage site at Røros in Norway will be the host for the upcoming AUC in August 2015.
The arctic and northern areas are facing great social-ecological changes by ongoing industrial developments and global climate change. These rapid changes creates great concerns for conservation of biological resources and the important human cultures found alongside reindeer and caribou. The conference will focus on how we best can meet these challenges and improve the interface between science and policy making through state of the art examples from both management and science on arctic ungulates. The theme of the conference – “the past, the present and the future” – allows us to look back at the 2nd Reindeer and Caribou Symposium held in Røros in 1979, and to highlight the evolution of research and management as well as identify the most appropriate future research and management directions. The scientific programme will focus on the following main four themes:

Read more…


Loss of Pastures: Balsfjord Power Line Gets Final Approval

May 5, 2015 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Last week the Balsfjord to Hammerfest power line received final approval from the Norwegian government (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy). Construction can now begin. This is a major investment by Statnett (3-4 billion NOK) in a 420 Kv power line that will be 360 km long, 40 metres wide and cross 8 municipalities (Statnett).

Balsfjord power line

The route of the Balsfjord power line. Source:

It will cross 30 reindeer herding districts in northern Norway and have dramatic impacts on some districts, according to herders. Herders have been vociferous in their opposition to the project and have asked for it either shelved or that significant route alterations be undertaken, or that areas critically effected could have submarine/underground construction.

Acting Head of NRL, Per John Anti believes the consequences for reindeer herding in the area will be negative.

It will particularly impact on calving country. Research shows that the reindeer avoids areas from one to four kilometers from the disturbance, particularly females with calves. This causes pressure in other areas of these regions.

Read more…


EALLIN Final Report Delivered at Arctic Council Today

April 24, 2015: Iqaluit, Canada


Reindeer Herding Youth Take Action on Arctic Change

Young Reindeer Herders Deliver Strong Message to Arctic Foreign Ministers at the 9th Arctic Council Ministerial in Canada

“For us, the reindeer is everything. If we lose the reindeer we lose our language, our culture, our traditions and the knowledge to move in the nature.”

[Participant at the EALLIN workshop in Jokkmokk, 2013]
A unique project called EALLIN involving reindeer herding youth from Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway has delivered a 120-page report, executive summary and recommendations to the Artic Council Ministerial meeting in Canada today. More than 160 indigenous youth from multiple regions in Russia, Mongolia, Finland, Sweden and Norway participated in 12 community based workskops over four years. “EALLIN” means ‘life’ in the Sami language and the project was backed by Norway, the Russian Federation and the Saami Council. EALLIN calls attention to the serious challenges faced by young reindeer herders, such as mental health, a lack of appropriate education and a lack of participation in local community development.

Reindeer herding youth are the future of reindeer herding, and the strong message from engaged youth was that they wanted to continue herding reindeer, as it ‘a good life’. However, there are many issues and challenges that are making life ‘not so good’ everywhere where reindeer are herded. EALLIN brought young reindeer herders of the taiga and tundra together to bring their voices to the Arctic Council. Reindeer herdings youth in the Circumpolar North are on the frontlines of monitoring the rapid ongoing changes in the Arctic, therefore, their knowledge and skills are key for their future existence in their home pastures and territories.

“Our peoples are undergoing dramatic and historical changes in our homelands, changes that we have never seen in the millenia-old histories of the reindeer herding peoples of the north” states Arctic Council EALLIN Project Lead Dr Mikhail Pogodaev, the Executive Chair of Association of World Reindeer Herders (WRH).

“We know enough about the changes to act”, concludes Anders Oskal, Project Co-Lead and Co-Author of the IPCC 5th Report. “We don’t need more assessments to understand, basically, we have to do things differently now if these societies and cultures are to survive and thrive under the Arctic boom – and bust”. And doing things differently is exactly what the EALLIN report calls for.

Delivered to Arctic Council: “Youth – The Future of Reindeer Herding Peoples – Executive Summary” and “Youth – The Future of Reindeer Herding Peoples”, Full Project Report 120 pages,

Downloads available at

Read more…


Sweden: 1 in 3 Young Reindeer Herders Consider Suicide

March 23, 2015 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, EALLINComments (2)

Many might consider reindeer herding to be some kind of idyllic life. But it has its darker side. Anxiety, depression and the struggle for land are eroding the powers and vitality of young herders, and this appears to be particularly the case in Sweden at the present time, though anecdotally it is known that this is a challenge for young people across the world of reindeer husbandry. In Sweden, 1 in 3 young herders (18-29) have considered suicide.

Three excellent articles in NRK Sapmi by Liv Inger Somby this last week on this difficult topic. The first is an interview with Petter Stoor, a Sami psychologist who works at SANKS (Samisk nasjonalt kompetansesenter – psykisk helsevern go rus), based in Karasjok, Norway. SANKS is now the only institution in the Nordic countries that has expertise in culturally adapted suicide prevention among Sami, including culturally and linguistically adapted clinical psychiatry. Stoor stated in the article

There are complex reasons [for suicide]. Reindeer herding is a confrontational environment on many different levels. Everyday is very tough with the struggle for land. Constantly one has to fight in order to operate a profitable pastoralism. The range is huge and very complex, ranging from external to internal conflicts and family problems, which can lead to the youth gets tough in everyday life. Many feel their situation as heavy, they cannot mastered their defeats.

Read more…


More ‘Mystery Craters’ in Yamal

February 26, 2015 • Philip BurgessBlog, ChallengesLeave a comment

The Daily Mail in the UK has run a story on the holes that have been appearing suddenly on the Yamal tundra, which is home to Russia’s largest sources of natural gas, most of which is shipped to Europe by pipeline and also the world’s largest single area of reindeer husbandry. There are many theories about why these holes are appearing now, and climate change would appear to be playing a role.

Scientists have found four new craters have been spotted in the region. Worryingly, one crater was found about 10 km from the extensive Bovanenkovo gas field.

Read the full story, with some great photos here.

Methane Holes in Yamal


Framtidig reindrift – fra et samisk perspektiv: Konferanse

February 24, 2015 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Dávggas, ICR/WRH, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

SamediggiSametingsrådet inviterer til oppstartskonferanse i forbindelse med sametingsmelding om reindrift 25.-26.02.2015. Sted: Diehtosiida, Kautokeino

På mange måter står reindrifta i 2015 ved et veiskille. 

Utfordringene er mange. Det føres en samfunns- og næringspolitikk som krever nye og større deler av eksisterende reinbeiteområdene. Den økonomiske utviklingen i reindriftsnæringa de siste årene er bekymringsfull, med økende kostnader og nedgang i inntektene. Et økende rovvilttrykk fører til store økonomiske tap og bekymringer.

Samtidig er det viktig å ha framtidstro. Den samiske reindrifta har en lang historie, den har gitt inntekt og liv til mennesker i århundrer. Reindrifta har alle muligheter for å utvikles som en bærekraftig næring samtidig som man holder fast på de dype røttene reindrifta har i den samiske kulturen. Reindrifta er en viktig del av samisk kultur og av det samiske samfunnet. Reindrifta selv og det samiske samfunnet må gå i front på veien som fører til en framtidig og livskraftig næring.

Sametinget skal, sett i forhold til de visjoner og mål vi har for et framtidig samisk samfunn, være med på å utforme de overordnede langsiktige målene og strategiene for reindriftsnæringa. Med en ny Sametingsmelding om reindrift, ønsker Sametingsrådet sammen med næringa å arbeide for en trygg framtid for reindrifta.


Read more…


Reindeer Herders’ Child Death Investigation in Yamal

February 6, 2015 • Alena GerasimovaChallengesLeave a comment
nenets chumSource: Vesti-Yamal
Circumstances around the death of a 9 month old baby is under investigation. The child in reindeer herders family got sick in the beginning of January 2015.

Read more…


Reindeer herders in Southern Yakutia conduct negotiations with Evraz mining company

December 15, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaBlog, ChallengesLeave a comment

bugatOn Monday, December 15th, public hearing on construction of mining plant “Timir”, which will be implemented by EVRAZ Company, was held in Neryungri (Southern Yakutia, Russia).

Read more…


Profession of reindeer herder to be excluded from list of specialties

December 7, 2014 • Svetlana AvelovaBlog, Challenges, ICR/WRH, Reindeer, Reindeer Herders, UArctic EALAT InstituteLeave a comment

reindeerThis autumn, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation has taken the initiative to exclude about 100 names from the list of specialties of secondary vocational education, including the specialty entitled “technician reindeer herder”.

The reason for this decision is the absence or low enrollment of students for training in specific programs, as well as the fact that “students in secondary vocational education on the basis of secondary education or secondary vocational education study 10 months, which corresponds to the period of training for the professional training program” (from the explanatory note to the draft order of the Ministry of Education and Science).

Read more…


Reflective Reindeer Antlers – It’s that time of year again..

October 13, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, ReindeerLeave a comment

Reflective antlersLast year probably the most widely circulated story about reindeer on the internet was the one about the special spray that the Finnish Reindeer Herders’ Cooperative introduced for reindeer antlers for testing. The testing wrapped earlier this year and now, with the winter coming again, new tests are scheduled to begin. These tests will be on about 300 reindeer in 6 cooperatives in the Rovaniemi region in Finland.

Reindeer losses to accidents on the roads are considerable. In Finland alone, 3500-4500 reindeer are killed by collisions with cars and trucks each year, with the peak period being the ‘dark time’ between the months of November and January.

A new product from the Swedish company Albedo100 will be used which it is hoped will prove to be a more sturdy and sustainable solution than the previous product tested which disappointed in trials.

Source: YLE


Shanghai Daily Report on China’s Reindeer Herders

October 9, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Evenki Herder in China

There are not many stories out of China that are about the Evenki reindeer herders that are still practising reindeer husbandry in the North East of the country. The Shanghai Daily has just carried a story on the reindeer herders of China, who number in the tens.

HOHHOT, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) — Soon, tribesman Gu Wenqiang will have to bid farewell to his herd of deer, leaving his small shack tucked away in the lush green forests of the Greater Khingan Range.

After more than a month of tending the herd of reindeer, the 36 year old will soon drive from his temporary shelter and return to his hometown of Aoluguya Ewenki located 50 km away. It’s an occurance that’s happening more frequently these days.


For Gu and others from the Aoluguya Ewenki tribe, dubbed “the last hunting tribe of China,” such trips have become routine following the tribe’s relocation to a township near Genhe City, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, from the mountain forests eleven years ago. For a decade, nomadic life has been the only choice to keep their ancient culture alive.

Read more…


Radioactivity in Norway’s reindeers hits a high

October 8, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, ReindeerLeave a comment

Radiation symbolMuch higher levels of radioactivity than normal have been found among Norway’s grazing animals, especially its reindeer population, a study revealed on Monday.


Almost 30 years after the nuclear plant explosion in Chernobyl, this autumn, more radioactivity has been measured in Norwegian grazing animals than has been noted in many years.

Lavrans Skuterud, a scientist at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Statens strålevern), said: “This year is extreme.”
In September, 8200 becquerel per kilo of the radioactive substance Caesium-137 was measured in reindeer from Våga reinlag AS, in Jotunheimen, central Norway.
In comparison, the highest amount at the same place was 1500 becquerel among the reindeer in September 2012.

Read more…


Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve

October 6, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaBlog, Challenges, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Ardni Siida reindeer in AutumnAuthorities in Norbotten in northern Sweden have rejected plans to allow mining of iron ore in Kallak near Jokkmokk due to concerns over the impact on traditional reindeer grazing, according to The Local 

The ruling is the second time Norrbotten has foiled Jokkmok Iron Mines AB’s ambitions for the site and furthermore recommended that the Mining Inspectorate confirms the decision in order to protect reindeer herding in the area.

Read more…


‘Mining threatens to eat up northern Europe’s last wilderness’ (The Guardian)

September 15, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

YaraThe Guardian newspaper carried a lengthy article on the explosion of mining in northern Finland, Norway and Sweden. As anyone resident in the region knows, there is a huge minerals exploitation boom underway and many are surprised to learn that this part of the world has very favourable regulations regarding the claims process for mining.  This boom is directly impacting on reindeer pasture loss. To give an idea of the scale of the boom, the article notes that,

So far in 2014, 349 applications for mining permits have been made, of which 243 have been for Finland. Over one-eighth of Finland, an area twice the size of Wales, has now been designated for mining and hundreds of applications for exploration licenses have been received by the government.

Currently in the Finnish media, attention is being paid to the massive open pit mine planned for the Sokli area,

Fertiliser company Yara International plans a massive 40-60 sq km open-cast phosphorus mine near Sokli in eastern Lapland between the Urho Kekkonen national park and the Värriö nature park. Billions of gallons of polluted waste water would have to be be drained, via pristine lakes and rivers, and millions of tonnes of waste would be created every year.

You can read one of Yara Internationals presentations on the mine here.



Dogs attacking and killing reindeer

August 20, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaBlog, ChallengesLeave a comment

dogs attacking reindeerSad news came from Norway where few young men witnessed a terrible scene – two dogs were killing a reindeer.

The gruesome pictures which were taken outside Tromso by few kayakers this weekend, show two dogs that have chased reindeer into water, attack and killed it.

Read more…


Yamal Reindeer Herders Fight Against Poachers

July 16, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaChallengesLeave a comment

Nenets reindeer herderIndigenous peoples of Yamal complain about numerous death of reindeer this winter. The reason of this death loss is not only very severe winter but also poaching. 

Read more…


Planned Powerline Concerns Reindeer Herders (Barents Observer)

July 11, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, ReindeerLeave a comment

Some reindeer herders are concerned that a planned Statnett powerline from Balsfjord to Hammerfest could interfere with herding in Finnmark.

Reindeer might avoid the planned powerline from as far away as five kilometers, reducing the amount of area herders can use, said Anders Eira, a reindeer herder and a senior adviser in the Sami group Protect Sápmi, to the BarentsObserver.

A 150-kilometer segment of the project is expected to be completed by 2018 but there is no definite timetable for the remaining 350 kilometers.

Eira said the powerline will go through 30 herding districts and could affect as many as 300 herders. He said he is particularly concerned about reindeer seeing ultraviolet light from the powerline.

According to a 2011 study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, in order to adapt to the extreme seasonal light changes of the Arctic region, a reindeer’s eyes do not block out all ultraviolet rays.

(see Statnet’s information page about this project here.

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Voice of a young reindeer herder about nomadic family

June 2, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaChallenges, EALLIN, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment
Igor is hunting in taiga. Photo by Yuri Kokovin

Facing the second reading of the draft law “On Nomadic Family” in June 2014 in Yakutsk, we decided to publish a short article where young reindeer herder from Iengra village (south of Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Russia) expresses his concern about reindeer herding families and the future of traditional knowledge:

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Reindeer herders in Yakutia talk about the Law “On Nomadic Family”

Alena GerasimovaChallenges, Projects, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment
maria pogodaeva (c) YASIA

Maria Pogodaeva. Photo by YASIA

The draft law “On Nomadic Family” was adopted in the first reading on April 14, 2010. Now, four years have passed. In June this year, the Standing Committee on Arctic Indigenous Peoples of the State Assembly (Il Tumen) of Sakha Republic (Yakutia) will introduce a revised draft for the second reading. The Working Group of this project included scientists, representatives of public indigenous organizations, ministries and departments.

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Russia: Khanty take action to stop road construction through sacred site by oil company

April 30, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaChallenges, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

aif_yugra1Oil workers are trying unsuccessfully to extend a road to an oil field through a sacred lichen grove and Khanty ancestral lands 180 km from Nizhnevartovsk.

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The Last Camping Ground – Khanty Herders Struggles With Lukoil

March 30, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Extensive article by Georgy Borodyansky, an Omsk-based correspondent for Novaya Gazeta which looks at the difficulties facing reindeer herders in the Khanty–Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug (KhMAO) in western Siberia which is a major oil producing region.

Executives at petrochemical giant Lukoil are accustomed to conquering time and space from their computers in their glass and concrete skyscrapers. But they have encountered an unexpected problem: a family of reindeer herders is resisting the corporation’s takeover of its ancestral camping ground in the Khanty–Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug (KhMAO) in western Siberia. From the window of their skyscraper, it’s just about the end of the earth.

The Aipin family, like most of northern Russia’s indigenous peoples, live on top of the so-far inexhaustible mineral resources that literally underlie the prosperity of not only the oil companies but of Russia itself, with its Olympic Games, summits, forums and Forbes List ratings. The area produces over half of Russia’s oil, but the Khanty themselves have no need of this black gold gushing from below the land where their ancestors have lived for more than a thousand years. What they need is the forests and the white snow that, as the great Kola Beldy, himself from the Nanai indigenous people, used to sing, ‘melts on the horizon into the white sky’; lichen for their herds in the winter and berries and mushrooms in the summer.

Read the full article here on Open Democracy Russia



Reindeer die offs continue in Yamal region (Russia)

March 19, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaChallenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Yamal reindeer loss 2014Wednesday, 19th of March. Reindeer continue dying. Yamal region needs help to get out of this catastrophic situation. Because of the ice crust unfortunate animals simply cannot get to the lichen. As a result dozens of reindeer corpses spread all over the tundra. On the way to the ‘Yarsalinskoe’ enterprise: shocking scenes are practically on every hundred meters. Reindeer which exhausted from hunger just lie down in the snow and fall asleep and been a very easy capture for predators. The director of Yarsalinskoe enterprise Liliya Yakubova said that currently enterprise has lost about 5-6 thousand of reindeer, but no one can give the real number for now.  

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Life on different banks (Alaska and Chukotka)

March 18, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaBlog, Challenges, ReindeerLeave a comment

At the conference “Days of Beringia” that was held the last time in 2013, the participants concerned the fact that today there is less connection between Chukotka and Alaska, contacts between related indigenous peoples of the two countries have weakened. It was stressed that even in the difficult 90’s connection were much closer, that cultural exchange was carried out regularly enough.  And one of the decisions of the conference was to have conferences through TV and radio service (since today there is no means for regular trips overseas).  It was scheduled to have twelve of suchlike conferences in 2014.

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Animals see power lines as glowing, flashing bands, research reveals (Guardian)

March 14, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, ReindeerLeave a comment

UV vision help reindeers find plants in snow cover, but in the depths of winter their wide irises and sensitive eyes means the power lines appear particularly bright.

Power lines are seen as glowing and flashing bands across the sky by many animals, research has revealed.

The work suggests that the pylons and wires that stretch across many landscapes are having a worldwide impact on wildlife.

Scientists knew many creatures avoid power lines but the reason why was mysterious as they are not impassable physical barriers. Now, a new understanding of just how many species can see the ultraviolet light – which is invisible to humans – has revealed the major visual impact of the power lines.

“It was a big surprise but we now think the majority of animals can see UV light,” said Professor Glen Jeffery, a vision expert at University College London. “There is no reason why this phenomenon is not occuring around the world.”

Dr Nicolas Tyler, an ecologist at UIT The Arctic University of Norway and another member of the research team, said: “The flashes occur at random in time and space, so the power lines are not grey and passive, but seen as lines of light flashing.”

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Yamal plans to allocate more than 30 million rubles to eliminate critical emergency around reindeer loss

February 26, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaBlog, Challenges, ICR/WRH, ReindeerLeave a comment

Yamal reindeer loss 2014District Department of Agriculture, Trade and Food prepared and submitted for approval to the governor’s office draft decree “On the allocation of the emergency reserve fund of the Yamal autonomous district’s government”.  The project prioritized events for elimination of critical emergency, related to the loss of reindeer, and sum of expenses. According to operative data, the number of dead reindeer is now about 15 thousand.

On the basis of the represented needs of municipalities for the elimination of critical emergency  from the reserve fund there will be allocated 31,590 million rubles.

Reindeer herders also will be supported with financial support. There also will be providing with carbohydrate-vitamin-mineral supplements, feed concentrates, as well as fuel, purchase of veterinary medicines and firewood for reindeer herders in remote areas.

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Sergey Kharyuchi talks about challenges of indigenous peoples of the Arctic

Alena GerasimovaBlog, Challenges, ICR/WRHLeave a comment

kharychi_sFebruary 26, Moscow. The Presidium of Expert Council in Arctic and Antarctic under the Chairman of the Federation Council of Russia had a session today conducted by Artur Chilingarov, with main topic “Indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation: status of legal support, problems and solutions”.

The session was attended by the Chairman of Yamal Legislative Assembly, Sergey Kharyuchi. According to press-service of Yamal Legislative Assembly, Sergey will report to the participants of the session about challenges of indigenous peoples of the Arctic, and will suggest possible solutions. In his speech Sergey Kharyuchi plans to focus on the issues of improvement of federal legislation in the field of indigenous peoples’ rights development in line with current international principles, that, in his opinion, in the last few years are “stalled”: “There is a persistent tendency to diminish indigenous peoples’ rights. Many problems can not be solved for decades. They are raised and discussed, and for years they migrate from one progressive document to another. For example, the federal law on “Territories of Traditional Nature Use” is been ‘lying without movement’ for 30 years and it is not been implemented. At that time, whole families and even clans are been deprived of their ancestral territories, hunting grounds (and fisheries, pastures), sacred, ritual places and graves”.

Also according to Sergey Kharyuchi’s opinion, these issues require immediate solutions: the questions about documenting national identity of persons belonging to indigenous peoples; establishing procedures for granting the document confirming the maintenance of nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle; the constitutional rights to housing and a number of other important issues.

Source : ЦС КМНС


Indigenous youth in Kamchatka (Russia) urged to work in reindeer husbandry

Alena GerasimovaBlog, Challenges, EALLIN, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

olenevody_kamchatkiAccording to local administration, young indigenous people in the North of Russia – Kamchatka, participated in a meeting devoted to occupational guidance. The meeting was conducted by Valentina Bronevich, vice-chairman of the Government of Kamchatka region. The main issue to discuss was to promote youth employment in reindeer husbandry of the region.

The meeting gathered around 30 participants, among them were residents from Khailino village, Apuka village, Ossora village and Srednie Pakhachi village. All the participants expressed their interest and concern about salary of reindeer herders, issues of education and employment into reindeer husbandry, and measures of state and local administration support for those who choose this profession for themselves.

Natalia Nitsenko, the head of Employment and Migration Policy Department of Kamchatskiy region, Vladimir Kleymenov, head of “PO Kamchatolenprom” enterprise, and representatives of regional ministries and departments of Kamchatskiy region were answering to the questions addressed by young people.


Tories offered up land reserved for Arctic reindeer for oil and gas exploration: documents

February 21, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

(Source: Globe and Mail, Canada) Tracts of land that had been set aside for reindeer grazing in Canada’s North have instead been offered up by the Conservative government for oil and gas exploration, newly released documents show.

Companies interested in obtaining petroleum exploration rights in the Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea region of the Northwest Territories were asked last year to nominate blocks of land that they wanted to see included in a subsequent call for bids.

Reindeer-grazing reserves near the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk were among the lands that were included in that call for nominations, pending a necessary amendment to an order-in-council imposed in 2010.

Documents show officials at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada have discussed just such an amendment in order to allow the reindeer-grazing land to be included in the bidding for exploration licences.

“Most Crown lands in the Mackenzie Delta are withdrawn from disposal under an order-in-council to allow for a reindeer-grazing reserve,” says a briefing note to a top department official from last August.

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Novatek plans second LNG plant in Arctic

February 10, 2014 • Alena GerasimovaChallengesLeave a comment

According to BarentsObserver, the new plant will be based on the resources of the Salmanovskoye and Geofizicheskoye fields, both located on the eastern bank of the Ob Bay in the peninsula of Gydan. The total resources of the fields amount to about 380 billion cubic meters, the company informs.

The federal government has approved the plans and project development is due to start in 2018, Itar-Tass reports.

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Artists boycott Swedish market over mining-reindeer conflict (SR Radio)

February 8, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Thursday was Sami National Day, celebrated internationally by indigenous people of the European Arctic, including in Sweden.

It was also the time when the annual Jokkmokk Winter Market, with a history over 400 years old, started in the far north of Sweden, just above the Arctic Circle. But the market is not without its controversies, and several artists are boycotting this year due to disputes over the possible establishment of a mine in Kallak, located in the municipality of Jokkmokk.

A handful of artists, designers and culture workers who were originally planning to participate in the Jokkmokk Market have announced their decision to boycott.

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Mining Reindeer Pastures, Sweden (ABC)

February 7, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Perth based mining company Hannans Reward is hoping to develop open cut mines in Sweden’s north. But as Verica Jokic writes Indigenous communities argue the mines will endanger their traditional way of life. (Source ABC Bush Telegraph)

Hannans Reward is undertaking several exploratory operations near a town called Kiruna to see if it can proceed with open pit iron-ore, copper and gold mines.

But the location of the proposed mines is on Indigenous Saami land and critical reindeer herding habitats.

The Saami say the mines will threaten their millennia old culture and they’ve started a campaign to stop the Australian company.

Mats Berg is a representative of the Laevas and Girjas Saami Communities in Sweden’s north.

He says the new mines will cut the Saami communities in half, leave 20,000 reindeer without grazing lands, and directly affect the animals’ migratory path.

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In Yamal region reindeer lose weight, there are some cases of animals death

January 23, 2014 • Svetlana AvelovaBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

First Deputy Director of the Department for the indigenous peoples of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Eduard Yaungad commented difficult situation in Yamal and Priuralsky districts.

He explained that kind of situation occurres periodically on the Yamal Peninsula, for example, similar situation was observed fifteen years ago and it was in general connected with weather conditions.

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Reindeer go hungry as mild Swedish winter bites (The Local)

January 21, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

The mild winter even in Sweden’s northern areas has led to a record number of Sami reindeer herders filing requests for emergency food aid.

The situation looks really bad,” says Soren Långberg at the Sami Parliament to the TT news agency.

So far, 22 Sami districts requested disaster assistance from the Sami Parliament, which is considered the highest number in seven years and the pile of applications is expected to grow.
The mild winter, with alternating snow, thaw and rain, has created deep ground frost and the impenetrable ice which makes it very hard for the reindeer to get to food, according to several media sources.
The Sami way of life faces a growing number of natural and man-made threats.
The Local reported in December that mining companies are seeking to exploit the resources of northern Sweden, leaving the Samis wondering how much longer they can continue to graze their animals.
The Samis, the only indigenous people in the EU, number roughly 80,000 people who inhabit a huge swathe of land stretching from Norway across Sweden and Finland to Russia.


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Australian Mining Company enters Swedens Mining Boom

January 6, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, ChallengesLeave a comment


(Source: The Guardian) Lars Jon Allas, whose family has herded reindeer for generations, says mine dust kills the lichen reindeer eat in winter.

The town of Kiruna in far north Sweden is home to the largest underground iron mine in the world. Piles of mined earth dwarf the town and smoke churning from the processing plant at the mine’s entrance creates the impression of an active volcano.

Lars Jon Allas and his reindeer herd spend their winters in the pastures just outside Kiruna. Allas, whose family has herded reindeer for countless generations, says mine dust can carry kilometres and kills the lichen reindeer eat during winter.

Allas is apprehensive about the mining boom taking place in Sweden: “We have mining exploration everywhere, it’s frightening.” Now an Australian company is planning a mining complex just south of Kiruna and Allas’s Sami community is determined to stop it.

Hannans Reward Ltd, a Perth-based company, is planning a collection of open-pit mines just a few kilometres from Kiruna, mining iron, copper and gold. The project is in the advanced exploratory stages, the company hoping environmental impact assessments and final resource testing will be completed in 2014. If so it will apply for exploitation concessions and environmental permits that will allow it to begin mining.

The proposed mine sites stretch kilometres across the forested landscape. Mattias Åhrén, a law professor from Tromsø University and member of the Sami council, says the Hannans’ mines will make reindeer herding in the area impossible. “The site is so huge it cuts the Sami communities in half. It’s directly on the reindeer migration path.”

Åhrén says the mines would destroy autumn and spring pastures and reindeer would not be able to pass. He says it is particularly damaging because the mine sites are in the area used by reindeer cows to give birth.

Read the full article here


Al Jazeera Film on Impacts of Mining Boom in Sweden, Norway

November 30, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Kallok ProtestThe Al Jazeera news network has released a fascinating 25 minute documentary by filmaker Glenn Ellis that looks specifically at the impacts of massive increase in mining activity in Sweden and Finland and includes segments from the ongoing controversial mining proposal by Beowulf on reindeer herding pastures in Sweden.

Europe’s far north is a place of spectacular beauty, of mountains and forests, lakes and rivers, illuminated in winter by the ethereal glow of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.
It is also home to an astonishing array of plants and animals which have survived largely thanks to the indigenous people of the area – the Sami.
To this day many Sami follow herds of free-roaming reindeer, maintaining a tradition that has helped preserve their ancient environment into the 21st century.
But in recent years a new species has arrived: the multinational mining company. Keen to exploit the region’s extraordinarily rich mineral deposits, the industry is being welcomed by Scandinavian governments who want to share in the bounty of jobs and income they promise to bring. But the Sami feel that their way of life and the remarkable natural world they inhabit are being put under threat. So they have been fighting back.

Read the full article on Al Jazeera here and you can watch the documentary below


Reindeer Herding & Mining Conflict in Sweden – Upcoming Radio Programme

November 20, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, ReindeerLeave a comment
Sveriges RadioOn Saturday morning, (09h00 CET / Swedish time)  the national Swedish radio station (Sveriges Radio AB) will run a program sent from the reindeer corral in Tjåmodis, Jåhkågasska.  The program will be about the mining project proposed for Gallok (Kallok), reindeer herding and Swedish Sami policies in general. Guests include Helena Omma, Rebecca Lawrence, Niklas Spiik and Stefan Andersson.
Follow the link from this page on SR here.

Innovative New Exhibition on Wild Reindeer in Norway

October 24, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, ReindeerLeave a comment

Wild Reindeer Exhibit by GagarinThe Icelandic design company Gagarin recently completed a 600 m2 design of the wild reindeer exhibition in the Hardangervidda National Park centre in Norway. The Hardangervidda park is Norway’s largest national park and it holds the largest wild reindeer population in Europe. The exhibition is comprised of 13 interactive installations which cover almost everything one can learn about wild reindeer. Users get to explore and experience, via tangible and unique solutions, the various historical, biological and social aspects related to the existence of the reindeer and learn about the various threats that are being imposed on their habitat – mostly by people.

The result is striking.  Images from the exhibition here.



China Daily Posts Extensive Article on Evenki Reindeer Herders of Aoluguya

October 21, 2013 • Philip Burgess5 WRHC, Blog, Challenges, ICR/WRH, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Maria SuoChina Daily, the widest print circulation of any English-language newspaper in the China (over 500,000 copies per issue, of which a third are abroad) has just published an extensive article on the Evenki herders of Aoluguya, near Genhe, in Inner Mongolia. The article features m,any of the same people who were active participants and attendees at this years 5th World Reindeer Herders Congress which was held on their territory for the first time. The article outlines the struggles this reindeer people have faced since their relocation from the forests closer to the city of Genhe and the loss of their rifles. The Congress is mentioned in the article as is the Aoluguya Declaration. With only 20 families remaining to live with their reindeer, the future for the livelihood is painted as being rather bleak in this article.

You can read the article below, or on the China Daily website here.

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Watch Helena Omma’s Presentation from Arctic Futures Symposium

October 17, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, EALLIN, ICR/WRH, Projects, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Hellena Omma at Arctic FuturesHelena Omma was a keynote speaker to the Arctic Futures symposium that was held in Brussels yesterday (October 16, 2013). The entire day was broadcast live on the web and we have captured her presentation and can share it with you here. Her presentation was entitled  ‘Reconciling land use conflicts with reindeer herding communities with economic development in the Arctic’. Besides introducing the audience to the world of reindeer herding, she discussed the ongoing situation facing herders in northern Sweden where extensive mining activities are planned on reindeer pastures and she also touched on the EALLIN project.

You can watch the video (17 minutes, in English) below.

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New Government Signals Changes in Northern Norway

October 8, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Solberg_Jensen 2013Norway’s Conservative leader Erna Solberg said she would form a minority cabinet with the populist Progress Party after talks with two centrist parties broke down on Monday, giving ground on oil exploration and immigration. Solberg agreed to give up plans to drill for oil in several promising Arctic areas and also agreed to tighten asylum policies to win the support of her eventual coalition partner and the outside backing of the centrist Liberals and Christian Democrats.

“We were very close to finding good solutions… This is the second best option,” said Solberg, who is set to become Norway’s second female premier after winning elections earlier this month. “This is not the end of cooperation between the four parties.”

She now faces a difficult alliance with the right wing, anti-immigration Progress Party, which will enter government for the first time. Since it was founded in 1973, and until now, mainstream parties had considered it too radical for power. “We can’t hide the fact that we are very pleased with the immigration issues here. We have got a fairly strong tightening,” said Progress leader Siv Jensen, who is likely to become finance minister when the government takes office Oct 18.

The new coalition have signalled an intention to change their policies in northern Norway, which may impact reindeer husbandry, relations with the Sami parliament and the mining industry.

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Mining Dispute in Northern Sweden Intensifies – Video

September 30, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Beowulf MIning ProjectsLong article posted on Barents Observer today on the ongoing dispute between Swedish Sami reindeer herders and others and Beowulf  Mining and their supporters. Beowulf plan to mine a remote peninsula (Kallak, see our previous post on this story here) which Sami reindeer herders have used as pasturage for generations. The article features interviews with both opponents and proponents of the mine. Kallak will cost roughly $900 million to build and generate around $2.9 billion in revenue over its 15-year lifespan, according to company records.

The costs include the construction of a tailings facility, new roads and, potentially, a railroad spur connecting the site to an existing rail line that would carry the ore to ports on the Baltic Sea and Norwegian coast, where it would be shipped to steel plants in northern Europe and used in the production of everything from cars and ships to electronics and paper clips.

Sami herders insist the new infrastructure and mining activity would block two routes used by reindeer to migrate from summer pastures in the mountains north of Kallak to winter grazing land in the forested valley south of Jokkmokk.

A short video accompanies the article which you can view below and which includes a short interview with a Sami reindeer herder, Jonas Vannar.

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Conservatives Win in Norway – What Will It Mean for Reindeer Herders?

September 26, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Erna Solberg

Very interesting post on Eye onthe Arctic and also posted on the Foreign Policy Blogs by Mia Bennet. She takes a look at what the victory of the Conservative Party might mean for northern Norway.  The Conservatives, however, did not win enough seats to form a majority government. Headed by new Prime Minister Erna Solberg, they will likely ally with the populist, anti-immigrant Progress Party, which won 29 seats. The Conservatives will probably also have to work with the two small, centrist parties, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. VG has excellent  infographics illustrating the election results.

Bennet also looks specifically at what the Conservative victory might mean for reindeer herders.

From her post,

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Reindeer Husbandry & Barents 2030 Report Now Available in Russian

September 9, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, ICR/WRH, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersComments (2)

Barents 2030A translation of the report ‘Reindeer Husbandry and Barents 2030’ prepared by the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, in collaboration with NORUT, UNEP-GRID Arendal and others.. This report was commissioned by StatoilHydro ASA and undertaken by ICR. StatoilHydro commissioned four parallel scenario reports for the Barents Region on respectively climate change, socio-economic consequences, environmental issues and reindeer husbandry.The joint project was initiated as part of StatoilHydro’s preparations or a strategic action plan for future oil and gas developments in the High North.

You can read the report in English here and read/download the Russian translation below.

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Mining on Reindeer Pastures in Sweden Attracts International Attention

August 30, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Mining Protest BeowulfThe ongoing case of mining company Beowulf’s plans to start a large iron ore mine near the town of Jokkmokk in northern Sweden, which will directly impact reindeer herders in the region has been a major news item in Sweden (The Local) and in the Sami media (NRK Sami) for the past few weeks. Now, coverage has gone international.

Major news agencies have picked up the story (AP and UPI) which has seen the story carried by the Washington Post, Fox News, ABC News and more.


“The Swedish Government Has Abandoned Us”

August 28, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Kallok Protest“Beowulf Mining has broken all ethical rules. They have refused to talk to the Sami people, the local community and the reindeer herders as such. They have chosen to use power in order to get their way through. They have called for the Swedish police to use violence against peaceful protesters”, says Lars Anders Baer.

(Article from Barents Observer) Sami activists protesting the British company Beowulf Mines attempts to start blasting for Iron in Kallak were cleaned away by Swedish police.

“You can`t image how it feels standing there behind police road blocks with you hat in your hand, when all you want is to make sure your reindeers are safe. It is humiliating and surreal. The Swedish government has abandoned us,” says Henrik Blind to Barentsobserver. He is a Sami spokesman and local politician.

Wednesday the first explosives were detonated in Kallok where Sweden`s indigenous Sami population herd their reindeers.

Artworks made by Sami artists were bulldozed and about 50 peaceful activists were forced to disperse. 10 people were carried away by police officers.

“It made a huge impression when one of the protesters doused himself with gasoline and threatened to set himself ablaze. Our local Sami politican, Hanna Sofie Utsi, was singing (joiking) while carried away”, says Blind.

The reindeer herders were not given an opportunity to gather the animals still grazing in the area.

“It was brutal. It is impossible for me to describe how it feels in words. We have used this territory for thousands of years. The Swedish government is giving away the very basis of our existence to a foreign company”.

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Visiting the Reindeer Herders of Kanin

June 24, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Reindeer inside CampStephan Dudeck is an anthropologist based at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi, Finland. His current research is part of the Orhelia projet – Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic. He writes a blog that covers lots of aspects of his work – a recent posting is a report from his visit to the reindeer herders of the 7th brigade of the Kanin reindeer herding cooperative, in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. At the time of his visit the camp was situated some 16 km from the village of Karepole near the river Laka one of the tributaries of the river Kuloi. Interesting photos and insights. Read the full posting here. Also here is an earlier posting covers his visit to the tundra during the summer of last year.


Herding on Thin Ice: Unique Thesis on Challenges Facing Reindeer Husbandry in Finnmark Published

Tracie Curry Thesis ScreenshotTracie Curry recently defended her Masters thesis in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University, entitled Herding on Thin Ice – An Excercise in Resilience and Adaptive Strategy. Interested in learning more about the drivers of change and development in the Arctic, and the impacts that these developments were having not only on the landscape but also the people who depend on these landscapes for survival, Curry was drawn to Finnmark and  reindeer herding. For her topic, Curry looked closely at the case of Hammerfest, located on Kvaløya Island in the Finnmark region of northern Norway where families of herders are currently struggling to maintain their traditions in the face of multiple development threats. In her words,

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Borderstories: What does the Arctic Energy Rush Mean on the Ground

June 13, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer HerdersComments (2)

Borderstories ScreenshotNorthern Norway is bracing itself for the energy and mineral rush that is affecting the entire Arctic. Development plans, mining projects, LNG plants, offshore oil drilling plans are all swirling around the region as the rush for Arctic resources progresses. A fascinating website has been launched by Trine Hamran, a journalist, documentarist and social anthropologist who has a passion for the region. Border Stories is a venue for very different northerners to relate their stories in first person to give context to what this rush for development means for people on the ground.

When our politicians speak about resources, they speak about oil, gas and minerals. Not people. When they say we need more knowledge, they mean higher education. And when they say higher education, they mean studies relevant for the industry sector. Not studies to strengthen identity, language or critical thinking. (Borderstories)

One of those featured is Mariann Wollmann Magga, a reindeer herder and member of the Sami Parliament who lives near Kirkenes, one of the development hotspots of this newly envisioned resource region. The calving grounds of her families reindeer is an area that has been mooted as a possible site for an LNG plant.


Hard times for Reindeer Herding in Finland

April 28, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

Declining sales, losses to predators and growing production costs are making the business of raising reindeer increasingly unprofitable

In Finland, the production year for reindeer herders is calculated from June 1st. According to a forecast by MTT Agrifood Research Finland, final figures for reindeer husbandry for the current year will show average income in the sector slashed by more than half. The average income for a reindeer herding enterprise in the 2012 – 2013 production year is expected to be a mere 2,870 euros, down from the 6 500 euros seen in 2011 – 2012, which in turn had declined by 20% from the previous year. Calculations show that a family operating a reindeer production operation can expect to see an average hourly income of 4.30 euros for the some 1,300 hours of work invested in the business, and no more than a 1.5% return on an average capital investment of 59,000 euros. Reindeer husbandry is more profitable in the far north, in areas occupied by the indigenous Sami people.

Read the full report here at MTT

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Yamal, Reindeer and Oil and Gas Featured in UNEP Year Report

February 22, 2013 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer HerdersLeave a comment

UNEPThe annual UNEP yearbook for 2o13 Emerging Issues in our Global Environment’ has just been released. From the preface,

In the fragile Arctic region the extent of sea ice was at a record low in September 2012. Land ice is also retreating, while snow is disappearing and permafrost is thawing. Rapid environmental change in the Arctic, as a result of climate change, is providing new development opportunities including easier access to oil and gas, minerals and fisheries. It is also threatening ecosystems – with ice-associated animals especially at risk. Changes in the Arctic will have consequences far beyond this region, including a global rise in sea levels and probably more extreme weather across much of the northern hemisphere. These current and future consequences of climate change require urgent responses. Arctic and non-Arctic
countries share responsibility for protecting this region, in particular by limiting their greenhouse gas emissions.

The rapid pace of development on the Yamal peninsula nd its impacts on Nenets reindeer herders is covered in this report with maps of the projected disutbance of pastures, alongside a photo by EALAT PhD student Anna Degteva.

Download the full report UNEP Yearbook 2013, here


Reindeer at risk from new extreme snow sport

September 22, 2012 • Philip BurgessChallengesLeave a comment

Wild reindeer may face a new threat from the extreme sport of snow-kiting, a study has found. Scientists modelled reindeer’s fright responses to both snow-kiting and skiing in an alpine area of south Norway. They found that reindeer were more afraid of snow-kiters because of the airborne kite. The study recommends that controls are put on the sport to prevent harm to wild reindeer.

Snow-kiting is a new sport, similar to kite-surfing, in which the rider wears skis and is pulled along by a kite. It is thought to be one of the fastest-growing recreational sports in Norway.

Amid growing concern among wildlife managers and politicians the study, which is published in the journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, assessed the potential effect of this activity on wild reindeer in the alpine area of Norefjell-Reinsjøfjell.

Scientists conducted experiments in which the reindeer were confronted by an approaching skier or snow-kiter. They gathered data on the animals’ reactions, such as distance from the skier or snow-kiter when the reindeer fled, how far they ran and how long the fright response lasted.

Using this information, the scientists were able to predict the likely effects of an increasing number of skiers and snow-kiters on the reindeer population.

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Forestry Conflicts in Finnish Sapmi: Local, National and Global Links

October 31, 2008 • Philip BurgessBlog, ChallengesLeave a comment

This article by Kaisa Raitio and Rebecca  Lawrence was originally printed in IWGIA 04/06 and is reprinted with the authors permission.

The official status of the Sámi as the indigenous peoples of  Finland has been recognised in Finnish legislation since the early 1990s. The right of the Sámi to practice their culture is enshrined in the Finnish constitution (1999), and in this context Sámi culture has been understood to include traditional Sámi livelihoods, such as reindeer herding, hunting and fishing. In addition to the constitution, the Reindeer Husbandry Act (1990/848) and the Act on Metsähallitus (Finnish Forestry and Parks Service, 1378/2004) give reindeer herding – and Sámi reindeer herding in particular – relatively robust protection.

Finland has also ratified Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires recognition of the cultural rights of ethnic minorities. Applied in Finland, this requires the Finnish state to protect and give recognition to the rights of the Sámi to practice traditional indigenous land uses, such as reindeer herding. In concrete terms, the national and international regulations require that reindeer have free access to grazing lands irrespective of land ownership, and that other uses of state-owned land should not be practiced in a way that  significantly hinders” reindeer herding (Reindeer Husbandry Act (1990/848). The Finnish government has been criticised, however, both by Sámi organisations – for not ensuring adequate practical protection of reindeer herding – and by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – for failing to pass legislation on the more fundamental question of Sámi customary title to land. The Finnish government has failed to pass legislation on Sámi land ownership issues three times (1952, 1973 and 1990) and the forestry industry has been a powerful lobbyist in opposing any legislation that might give recognition to Sámi claims to land (Tuulentie 2003). In this climate, continuous and heated debates persist over how the rights of the Sámi can be balanced against other resource management interests within the traditional territories of the Sámi, of which 90% is currently claimed by the Finnish state as crown lands. One of the most controversial debates of recent times has focused on the conflicting interests of reindeer herders and the logging industry. This artaicle aims to briefly outline some of the local, national and global links and challenges in a dispute over logging in the municipality of Inari, in Northern Lapland, where the protests by Sámi reindeer herders and environmental NGOs over state logging on reindeer winter grazing areas have received considerable international attention.

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