Court rules to protect Sámi herders

Two large wind farms could be torn down

Wind farm

Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB
A reindeer wanders around the windmills at Storheia wind park, one of the biggest in the Fosen Vind portfolio.

FRAZER NORWELL
The Local

On Oct. 11, Norway’s Supreme Court ruled that two large wind parks were causing injury to  reindeer herders from the Sámi people by encroaching on their pastures. The court ruled that the Indigenous people have been harmed by two wind farms on the Fosen Peninsula  in western Norway. It is not immediately clear what the consequences of the finding will be, but lawyers for the herders say the 151 turbines built in 2020—part of the biggest land-based wind park in Europe—could be torn down.

“Their construction has been declared illegal, and it would be illegal to continue operating them,” said Andreas Bronner, who represented a group of herders alleging harm from one of the two parks.

Ole Berthelsen, a spokesman for Norway’s ministry for oil and energy, said that “the Supreme Court verdict creates a need to clarify the situation,” adding it would “communicate later about what to do next.”

The judges declared the licenses issued by the ministry to build and operate the turbines void, saying they violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

United Nations Article 27 states that ethnic minorities “shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.”

“Traditional Sámi reindeer herding is a form of protected cultural practice,” the Norwegian court found.

“Of course, this is a surprise to us,” said Tom Kristian Larsen, head of Fosen Vind, which operates one of the wind farms

“We based our action on definitive licenses granted to us by the authorities after a long and detailed process that heard from all parties,” he added. “Special importance was given to reindeer herding.”

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 22, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

The Local

This article first appeared in The Local, a independent source for Norway's news in English. Visit www.thelocal.no.

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