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Article Index
Reindeer Husbandry in Finland
Borders and Rights
Reindeer Areas and Management
Number of Reindeer
Economic Issues
Challenges to Reindeer Husbandry
Traditional Knowledge
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Challenges - Loss of pastures and Encroachment

A pasture is not a homogenous landscape, but consists of many important features and characteristics changing in accordance to season and activity performed. Each district needs different kind of pastures, such as summer and winter pastures. The summer pasture is a key factor for the growth of a reindeer. For example, a good summer is needed to survive a hard winter. Reindeer also need large and undisturbed areas during the whole year. For many years reindeer husbandry in Finland has had to grapple with encroachhments even though reindeer herding, practised by both Sámi and non-Sámi Finnish reindeer herders, is in most parts of Northern Finland theoretically protected by the Finnish legislation against other land uses. In the area especially reserved for reindeer herding, forestry and other land use should not, according to the law, significantly hinder this traditional livelihood.

The Sámi people's rights to practise their culture and traditional livelihood is also protected through the Finnish Constitution and a number of international agreements and it is recognised that reindeer herding is the basis of the Sámi culture.

The most important and most challenging task today is to find a way to integrate diverse interests regarding reindeer pastures. An extensive proportion of the reindeer-herding area consists of coniferous woodland, and it is thus commercially exploited by forestry. These two sources of livelihood are often in conflict. Other conflicts are caused by the mining industry and increasing levels of tourism, especially in areas that are important for calving. The third major problem is the question of legal ownership of the pastures in the reindeer-herding area. Currently these are owned by the state, but there are dissenting opinions which are waiting to be addressed through a series of state sponsored investigations. A fourth problem is the conflict between nature conservation and reindeer herding. Reindeer are for example an important source of food for large predators.

Forestry is a large industry in Finland and it is primarily practised by the Finnish governmental forestry enterprise Metsähallitus, especially in Lapland, where the state is the main land owner. There have been widespread logging activities and other activities connected to logging in forests in the North that are important for reindeer grazing. More than 75 % of the reindeer in Finland graze in forested areas where logging activities are planned and are being undertaken. Logging deteriorates the forests reindeer graze on and are dependent upon especially in winter. Left overs and debris from logging activities prevent reindeer from accessing ground lichen, and the destruction of old-growth forests means the destruction of tree hanging arboreal lichen. These two lichen types are crucial for the survival of reindeer especially in the late winter. This situation has during the last decades led to conflicts between reindeer herders and the forestry industry.

In Finland the reindeer districts not get compensation for impacts from forestry because the State owns the largest part of the northern Finnish reindeer herding area. Fees for example fishing licenses go to the Forestry Council (Meahcceráđđehussii).

(Forestry Conflicts in Finnish Sapmi: Local, National and Global Links, R. Lawrence, K. Raitio)


Predators inflict damage on reindeer herding. In 1997, about 3,400 reindeer were found killed in Finland, mainly by wolverine (Gulo gulo), bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus) and golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). The predators issue is currently one of the main issues the Finnish Reindeer Herding Sámi (Suoma Boazosámit) is working with.

The goal of Finland’s predator policy is that there should be a certain number of predators in Finland. Finland’s predator numbers have in generally increased over the last decades. In 2000 there where 130 wolfs, 115 wolverine and 850 lynx. This trend has also led to increased levels of reindeer killed by predators. For example, the number of bears increased by 300 % from 1987 to 2000 and the level of reindeer killed by 531 %.

According to the law, individuals must accept that their private property, such as reindeer, may be food for predators. In light of this the State pays compensation for reindeer killed by predators. Compensation for wolverine, wolf and lynx are paid directly to members. Every district has a predator assessor who must approve the killed reindeer before compensation can be paid. The compensation depends on what kind of reindeer it is. The compensation for a calf is 218,64 €, 386,83 € for a male/female reindeer and 504,56 € for a semi domesticated male reindeer (heargi). Compensation for golden eagles are paid to the district and the compensation is based on the number of nests with chicks. Finnish reindeer herding Sámi report that compensation some years have been paid during several times and other years in the end of the year and is dependent on the state’s economic situation.


Climate Change

Large areas of pastures are being lost to different industrial activities. Climate change is likely to add new set of stresses. The Arctic Council Arctic Climate Impact Assessment – ACIA (2005), reflects more than 250 researchers' assessments of how climate change will affect the Arctic environment and the communities that live there. The report also demonstrates that temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than elsewhere in the world. These changes will involve, inter alia, shorter and warmer winters, and new varieties of wildlife in the Arctic. Climate Change also results in increased development, for example in the form of roads and facilities in the Arctic, which both directly and indirectly have impacts on reindeer husbandry and reindeer pastures.

Since reindeer herding is conducted in nature and is very much dependent on the conditions that nature provides, any changes that occur have special impacts on the practice of reindeer husbandry. But no one can yet know with certainty when, how and how much reindeer herding will be affected as a result of increased climate change.

Sources of indigenous knowledge across the Arctic report according to ACIA state that the weather seems more variable, unfamiliar and is behaving unexpectedly and outside the ‘norm’. According to the ACIA report autumn weather in some areas has fluctuated between raining and freezing, often creating an ice layer on the ground that has reduced reindeer’s access to the underlying lichen. These conditions represent a major change from the norm, and in some years, have resulted in extensive losses of reindeer. Future changes in snow in extent and condition have the potential to lead to major adverse consequences for reindeer herding and the associated physical, social and cultural livelihood of the herders.

Warming is projected to cause earlier melting and later freezing. The biodiversity of the reindeer herding region is quite vulnerable to climate change. There remains uncertainty about how the mountain flora will withstand warmer climates couple with the impacts that a warmer climate will have on different insect varieties and how they will affect reindeer. Since snow free time is when reindeer collect important fat and protein reserves reindeer some researchers have stated that climate change may been of benefit to reindeer as they can forage for longer periods of time.

(Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, 2005)
(Sverige inför klimatförändringarna – hot och möjligheter SOU 2007:60)
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