Reindeer at risk

Grazing land along the Norwegian-Finnish border could become overgrazed

Photo: Mats Andersson / Flickr Norway’s reindeer population must be dramatically reduced to avoid overgrazing.

Photo: Mats Andersson / Flickr
Norway’s reindeer population must be dramatically reduced to avoid overgrazing.

Lyndsey Smith
The Foreigner

Land used to graze reindeer could become overgrazed. This could cause suffering, or death in some cases.

Grazing ground on the Finnish side of the border has become grey due to overgrazing. There is concern that this could also happen on the Norwegian side.

Researchers at Norway’s Northern Research Institute (Norut) believe the amount of food in this area for reindeer is record low.

The density and quality of land that can be used for grazing on Finnmarksvidda has fallen dramatically since 1987. There was 19 percent available then, it is now down to as little as four percent, according to the Norwegian Agriculture Agency (Landbruksdirektoratet, (Norwegian), Eanandoallodirektoráhtta, (Northern Sámi)).

“The changes are dramatic over time. Now we’re down to the lowest level we have [ever] measured during this period [of the year],” Agency Managing Director Jørn Rolfsen told NRK.

Last month, the Norwegian broadcaster reported that the area had too many reindeer.

Authorities warned they will impose fines of between 10,000 and 140,000 Norwegian kroner on reindeer herd owners. These financial penalties run until animal numbers are reduced to pre-approved levels—18,288 by April 1, 2015, instead of 95,838 as of November this year.

Finnmarksvidda translated into English is “Finnmark plateau,” or Finnmárkkoduottar in Northern Sámi. With an area of more than 22,000 square kilometers (over 8,495 square miles), it is Norway’s largest plateau. Finnmarksvidda lies about 300 to 500 meters (some 985 to 1,640 feet) above sea level. The lowest levels can be found in the plateau’s eastern part near Karasjok (Kárášjohka) and Tana (Deatnu).

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit

It also appeared in the Dec. 26, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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