WP 5 Nature protection and biodiversity
Country report Norway
Democratisation, local participation and the principle of subsidiarity in nature protection
processes and management is an international trend influencing Norwegian nature protection
policy. However, the national level has been, and still is, the decisive level regarding nature
protection. The major juridical instrument – The nature conservation act (NCA) – is
embedded in national and international concerns and obligations. But the process towards
increased focus to the local level, which in Norway means municipal level, is obvious. It is in
the interplay between the national policy level and the municipal level that interesting
developments are taking place, which will also be the focus in the following text.
2. Context analysis
2.1 Chosen level of analysis
As explained above, the increased focus on democratisation of nature protection processes
and management means by and large an increased focus on the municipal level. The
municipality is the lowest democratic level in Norway where the inhabitants through elections
every fourth years forms the municipality board. One major task for the municipal political
and administrative level is planning by the Planning and building act (PBA), as described in
WP 3. PBA plays a major role regarding how the rural landscape is formed – both nature and
culturally influenced landscapes. However, the main legal instrument under the heading
nature protection and biodiversity is NCA.
According to NCA, protection of particular areas of natural habitat and natural features can be
done according to four categories (NCA, June 19th 1970):
• National parks: For large areas of natural habitat that are undisturbed or largely
undisturbed, distinctive or beautiful. Mostly state owned land, but private land
adjacent to state owned land can be included. The natural environment with landscape
and flora, fauna, natural features and archaeological and architectural monuments and
sites shall be protected against development, pollution or other disturbance. Most
Norwegian national parks do not have extensive facilities for visitors. Marked trails
and cottages with simple standard for hikers are common.
• Protected landscapes: For protection of distinctive or beautiful areas of natural or
cultural landscape. In this area, no measures may be initiated which may substantially
alter the nature or character of the landscape. What is termed “traditional agriculture”
can, according to the restriction rules, continue. This usually means extensive
agricultural land use like grazing and mowing.
• Nature reserves: Areas where the natural environment is undisturbed or largely
undisturbed or of a special type, and which are of special interest for scientific or
educational reasons or which stand out because of their distinctive character. Smaller
areas than the two mentioned types. There can be strong restrictions on access in the
• Nature monuments: Geological formations and botanical or zoological features which
are of scientific or historical interested.
All decisions to designate areas protected by NCA are taken by the King or the Government.
When it comes to management, national parks have until now exclusively been managed by
the state, delegated to the county level. LPAs have to some extent been managed by the
municipal level and this is also the case for some nature reserves. However, it is on the issue
of management of large protected areas that the changes regarding democratisation and
decentralisation are substantial. It is also in the wake of these changes that it is highly relevant
to discuss knowledge forms and knowledge dynamics, which will be addressed in the
following case study.
The chosen case study is Geiranger-Herdalen Landscape protected area. The LPA concerns
two municipalities, Stranda and Norddal, and some basic information/descriptions of those are
included. In addition, information on the county level (Møre and Romsdal county) and at the
national level is included where it is necessary in order to explain a wider context. The
rationale behind choosing the LVO as an example is that the process leading to the
designation has been based on participation from different actors representing different
interests and also – potentially - contributing with different knowledge forms.
2.2 Natural conditions and trajectories
The number of species and nature types in Norway is low seen in a global perspective.
However, Norway is characterised by a large variation over short distances, mainly due to the
varied topography, inland – coastal climatic gradient, and the combination of a Northern
location and the Gulf Stream with warm waters from the South. Mountainous areas makes up
44.4% of the total land area, forested areas 38.2%, fresh water and glaciers 7%, mires and
wetlands 5.8%, cultivated land 3.2% and built up area 1.4% (Statistisk sentralbyrå, 2005b).
The total number of species is estimated to 60 000 of which about 50% are found in forested
areas. The species diversity is also brought about by human influence in the nature, and many
of the red-listed plants are conditioned by culture (extensive agriculture like grazing and
mowing). This means that nature conservation and protection of biodiversity also includes
protection of a human-influenced diversity and not only “pure” nature (NOU 2004:28).
2.3 Relevant political institutions and actors
The most relevant institution for nature and biodiversity protection is the NCA as mentioned
which sorts under the Ministry of environment. Area protection management is delegated to
the state departments at the county level (fylkesmannen).
Area protection is following national plans approved by the Government. The first national
plan for protected areas was presented in 1964, resulting in the so-called “national park
period”, stretching from the 1960s until late 1980s. In this period several large, remote and
scenic areas were designated for nature protection. The second national park plan was
introduced in 1986. This provided the beginning of a new era with increasing attention on
local participation (Lundberg 1991; Daugstad et al. 2000).
In addition to the National plan for protection of national parks and other large areas, there are
also a number of plans approved by the Government for protection of more “specialised”
nature types like wetlands, coniferous forest, marine areas etc. Such areas are often designated
as nature reserves.
A common feature for all area (and species) protection is that they are initiated at the national
authority level, followed by a process of hearings at the national and local level, and the final
designation is done by the King or the Government. The system is in other words basically a
top down system. The democratisation and decentralisation typically tends to manifest itself
in discussions about the final size of the suggested protected area, to some extent protection
type (extent of the national park and the “buffer area” of LPA status), and the future
management of the protected area. The initiative and basic justification for the protected area
status is still in the hands of the national level.
2.4 Policy objectives and existing programmes and schemes
The National plan in force (the second National Park plan) is to be completed by 2010. The
ambition is to increase the total protected area from about 11% today to 13 % of the total land
area. The intention with the plan is to preserve a more representative spectrum of bio-diversity
and nature types. The plan refers to a statement from The World Conservation Union (IUCN)
that all countries should protect at least 10% of all nature types by 2010. Given the fact that
state-owned mountainous areas are over-represented, lower areas in southern Norway, coastal
areas and coniferous forests are of particular interest (Miljøstatus Norge 2002). To reach the
IUCN level, extensive areas of private land have to be designated. Hence, the potential for
conflicts between national and local interests increases.
Designation according to the Nature Conservation Act and management of protected areas has
been and still is a national responsibility. During the last decade, some Landscape protected
areas and Nature reserves have been managed at the municipal level as pilot projects. In 1999
the environmental authorities announced the possibility for all municipalities to take over the
management of “their” designated areas. The motivation is to revitalise the local democracy
and contribute to more efficient management by reducing the distance between the managers
and the area and actors being managed. About 1 out of 10 municipalities have applied for this
delegation of authority (Daugstad, 2003).
Regarding management of large protected areas (National parks with adjacent Landscape
protected areas), a pilot study on alternative management models has been initiated by the
Parliament for four large new protected areas. The aim is to gain insight into how to manage
them in a way that secures local participation and a voice for local actors in management
processes and decisions (Innst. O. Nr. 64 1995-96).
In the processes of democratisation of management, local participation is first of all
implemented by setting up reference groups representing local actors in the designation
process and later on for the elaboration of management plan for the protected area. Besides,
the arrangements of public meetings and the invitation to submit written comments also
constitute ways of involving local people in designation processes.
As mentioned, biodiversity and nature protection in Norway is closely connected to
agricultural influence. What is mainly termed as “traditional” or extensive agriculture has
contributed positively to increase the species diversity. However, agricultural activity is also
diminishing biodiversity as monocultures of industrial farming are seen as biodiversity
“deserts”, and on the other hand abandonment of land previously being mowed, grazed or in
other ways influenced by extensive resource use leads to natural succession and loss of
species diversity (Daugstad & Rønningen, 2004; Norderhaug et al., 2004). The concept of
“cultural landscape” has in Norway served as a meeting point for the nature conservation
authorities, the cultural heritage authorities and the agricultural authorities (Jones & Daugstad,
It should also be mentioned that as part of the increased focus on values in the cultural
landscape (in a Norwegian and even Nordic context this to a large degree means agricultural
landscape) and the cultural heritage values of agriculture, much has been said about
knowledge. Especially the local, experience based and non-scientific knowledge embedded in
practises of resource use and farming methods have been highlighted. It is argued that those
who live off the land as farmers have a practical experience based knowledge of nature and
landscape management, sustainable use and long term thinking (Ministry of agriculture,
2002). However, this seems to be an argument running parallel with the focus on
democratisation in nature management but the two are not integrated or seen in relation to one
another. One can get the impression that this has to do with producing the compulsory
rhetoric which is not followed by action, or that acknowledging farmers as legitimate “non-
scientific” actors in nature protection policy is a huge ideological step in a country with a
“purist”, nature science and national level focused protection policy and ideology.
3. Case study
3.1 Description of the two municipalities
The two municipalities where the study case Geiranger-Herdalen landscape protected area is
located, have both experienced population decline from 1981 to 2001. Norddal has had a fall
in population numbers from 2096 to 1953 inhabitants, while Stranda has a fall from 4825 to
4600 inhabitants. When it comes to development in employment, the figures differ between
the two municipalities. Norddal is s typical agrarian municipality with as much as 23.5% of
the working force employed in the primary businesses, 13.7% in industry/construction, and
62.4% in the service sector. Stranda is a major industrial municipality with only 5.5% of the
working force in agriculture, forestry and fishing, and close to half of the working force –
49.6% in industry/constructing. The service sector figure is 44.9% (Statistisk sentralbyrå,
2005a). In Norddal the climatic conditions are especially favourable for production of fruit
(apples, plums) and berries (cherries, strawberries). This is a cornerstone production for many
farmers. Stranda is an industrial municipality. Agriculture is present also here, but the
cornerstone industry has been production of furniture and food production in the latest
decades. Stranda also have a considerable activity in tourism with Geiranger as the main
attraction. In Stranda 70% of the municipalities area is above 600 m a s l, 18 km2 is covered
with ice and snow the year around. In Norddal 64% of the area is over 900 m a s l, and 38km2
is covered with ice and snow the year around (Aschehoug & Gyldendal, 1992).
3.2 The chosen project
The Geiranger-Herdalen area was designated as a Landscape Protected Area
(landskapsvernområde) by the Government in 2004. It encompasses 498 km2 in Norddal og
Stranda municipalities in Møre and Romsdal county. The area consists of high and rather
inaccessible mountains and a valley with settlement and agricultural production. It is the
combination of cultural landscape qualities and the pristine mountainous areas that are the
major protection qualities.
(If possible: A photo of the farm Knivsflå by the Geiranger fjord. Photo: K. Daugstad)
Protection status in this area was proposed the first time in 1986 in a preparatory white paper
for the second (and present) national plan for national parks and other large protected area.
The white paper was followed by a process of political discussions, research investigations in
the area, and public hearings regarding the proposed protection plan. After a few years the
process stopped due to priority given to other protected area plans. This “first round” for the
GH area was a traditional top-down process with little involvement beside the formal actors in
the public management and decision system. In practice little emphasis was given to the local
level. In the process of public hearing, 23 comments were handed in from public bodies
(municipal committees etc), NGOs and individuals. The major part of the comments were
negative or sceptical to protection based in the fear of loosing rights to resource use, increased
bureaucracy and future obstacles for business development in the area. In addition, several of
the remarks stressed that this was as much a cultural landscape as an “untouched” natural
area, which made active management through upholding traditional land use crucial.
The plans were taken up again in 2001 and finalized by the designation in 2004. This second
protection plan round was also run by the environmental authorities at the county level (the
traditional way), but with a much clearer emphasise on local participation and an
organisational structure to facilitate it. An advisory reference group with eleven members was
appointed which were to work with the proposed plan and give advise to the county
authorities. Eight of the eleven were appointed from the two municipalities involved. From
each municipality, one member came from the elected politicians and two members
represented the sector interests of agriculture and landowners as well as the tourist industry. In
addition, one member came from the administration. The last three members came from the
county level: One from the administration of the county council (fylkeskommunen) and two
from the state authorities at the county level (fylkesmannen).
The members in the advisory group representing tourism came from the tourism organisations
(destination companies) and had a formal training within tourism. The members representing
the municipal administration had a formal training in planning and environmental
management. The members representing agriculture were from the local farmers’ union and
can be said to represent local or situated knowledge. On the other hand one of them was also a
member of the municipal board, and another one trained as a primary school teacher. This is
in fact a very typical situation in small communities where one person represents different
interests or activates different forms of knowledge at the same time.
The members of the reference group in Geiranger-Herdalen have been interviewed whether
they feel that they have had a real influence on the process and the final outcome of the
decision or not (Daugstad, 2003; Daugstad et al, 2005). They state that they have had an effect
on the size of the protected area. Basically the area has shrunken compared to the originally
suggested borders. The area taken out of the plan is area suited for economic development
(building of cabins for rent, area for slalom skiing, potentially cultivated land etc). When it
comes to the practical effects of the protection status, the reference group feel that they have
had little effect. The basic argumentation for the protection of this area came from the state in
the white paper from 1986 as a top-down suggestion, and beside the adjustments of borders
both the practical restrictions as well as the ideology behind the designation is still based on
scientific criteria and expert reports. The local dimension is more or less manifested as minor
changes on a surface level.
In addition to the reference group, the county authorities held one public meeting in the area
informing about the protection plan and asking for comments.
In the formal hearing in this second protection plan round 25 comments from local actors
were handed in. As in the first protection plan round in the late 1980ies, also this round show
that the scepticism towards protection status is obvious and the arguments presented are the
same. Especially from the agricultural actors (individual farmers and the farmers’ union), one
see the restriction level in an LPA as an obstacle for developing necessary economic activity
in order to make a living. However, one can also detect a certain adjustment to the fact that
protection is seen as inevitable and one might just as well make the best of it (Daugstad et al,
A striking finding regarding local participation from the study of the process at Geiranger-
Herdalen and other protected areas in Norway, is that the gender imbalance is high. Very few
women have been appointed to the advisory reference groups in the protection areas. Only the
member from the county council administration is a woman, the rest of the group consists of
men (Svarstad et al, 2005). The participation of women in committees and councils attached
to protected areas in this and other protected areas show that the numbers are far below the
official target and legal requirements in Norway of at least 40% women. It is also far below
the average percentage that have been reached in Norway of 35% women in the municipal
councils 2004-2007 and 43% women in municipality standing committees (Hovik & Steigen
2004). It is fair to say that the obviously most excluded group from the processes of nature
protection and management are women.
4. Discussion and conclusion
The status of knowledge types and the dynamics of knowledge in nature protection in Norway
today is still pretty much the same as it has been since nature protection was formalised as a
state policy in the 1960ies. However, the policy towards increased public participation,
inclusion of local actors and a more democratic view on designation and management of
protected areas is developing. Perhaps is the gap between policy formulations and policy
implementation a question of time. The rather radical shift in protection policy challenges
ideologies as well as systems of decision and management, which takes time to change.
The dominant knowledge type in nature protection processes is still the formal expert
knowledge. However, more weight is given to the political system at the local level which can
mean an involvement of managerial as well as local knowledge. Another factor contributing
to the challenge is that area influenced by humans, for example cultural landscapes designated
as landscape protected areas, are increasing which also increase the potential level of conflicts
and in turn squeeze the “implementing apparatus”.
Research show that the policy of local participation in decision-making is not at all
implemented in a way that incorporates concern for gender equality. Given the legislation,
policies and high official profile of Norway in questions regarding gender equality, these data
A last point worth mentioning is that there is a law revision process going on in Norway. A
committee appointed by the Government has suggested a new law for protection of nature,
landscape and biodiversity (NOU 2004:28). The mandate given by the Government was the
need for a better legal instrument to prevent the ongoing loss of biodiversity, an instrument
sensible to the dynamics of nature and adjusted to the need for differentiated measures for
protection of nature and biodiversity. The extensive report from the committee suggesting the
new law mention the importance of local involvement in nature and biodiversity protection,
more in the line of LA21, but nothing is said (in a 500 pages long report) about knowledge
forms or knowledge dynamics. The implicit argument is still that scientific knowledge is what
is needed. It is tempting to interpret this as a reflection of a view on local participation as a
means to increase the legitimacy and effectiveness of nature protection policies, and not
representing valuable knowledge contributions.
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