Forest fires and reindeer husbandry

Сентябрь 13, 2018 • Svetlana AvelovaBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer Herders

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.