Reindeer risk in Scandinavia

Reindeer herders in both Norway and Finland say that large wind farms could seriously damage their livelihoods. Reindeer can be vital to local communities in both countries. Researchers are calling for funds to study the potential problem.

In Norway, several large wind farms are proposed for the Finnmark area. "Finnmark is very important as a semi-domestic reindeer area, both during winter and summer, so there is great disagreement over the effects of wind power on the reindeer husbandry, both biological and socio-economical -- and the reindeer herders are protesting against the development," says Sindre Eftestol, who has been researching the topic for Oslo university, utility Statkraft and the Norwegian energy Directorate (NVE).

"We want to document the range, use and behaviour before development and compare it to range use and development afterwards," he says. "We also feel that it is necessary to investigate the possible social and economic effects."

Saami groups along the Finnish-Norwegian border are asking the Nordic Council's Environment Fund to finance research into the influence of wind farms on the "health and well-being" of reindeer. "We would like to have a closer and more scientific look at all the links between our reindeer herds, the related economic issues and the impact of wind turbines on the environment they share," says Niklas Labba, Saami project manager. Labba is a business school graduate and reindeer farmer.

"There are health issues and there are also physical issues related to the special way of life enjoyed by Saami people who work in the outdoors and follow their herds," he says. "We want to examine all factors, including a shared future of how reindeer herds and wind turbines might coexist happily together." Wind farm plans in both Finland and Norway have already encountered protests from Saami groups.

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