Approaches to Integrated Land Management – Norway 2017

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Amanda Bryan (Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish School of Forestry, Inverness College UHI)

 

Integrated Land Use

 

Land cover in Norway is predominantly forest (37%) or upland/moorland (38%) with very little attributed to either agriculture (3%) or settlement/ infrastructure (2%). Having said that many forested areas would also be considered to be within individual farm units or collectively managed by those who own farms. Indeed farmers don’t just keep livestock or grow crops but also have forestry interests which they actively manage and they definitely have an interest in hunting for the table or for income from sale of hunting rights. This integrated approach is embedded in the way the land is managed with most open land used for cultivation or production of winter fodder while livestock are kept indoors during winter and then grazed in the forests during the summer months post lambing and calving. In terms of integration we can also add public access and conservation into the mix.

There is a freedom to roam in Norway covering all uncultivated land known as ‘allemannsrett’. Similar to the Right of Responsible Access in Scotland it covers many different forms of access including walking, cross-country skiing, camping, non-motorised boating and berry picking for individual use. This is a right that is taken up by a significant percentage of the population as over 50% of Norwegians participate in walking and fishing every year.

While the vast majority of the land is under some form of management and is modified nature conservation and natural heritage interests appeared to be in a relatively healthy state. During the visit we were largely engaged with consideration of wildlife management for economic purposes (even in relation to protected species including large carnivores), we were able to consider wider ecosystem health and the role that played in maintaining healthy populations of different wildlife species. For example pine marten populations had a direct correlation to rodent populations and the level of rodent populations had a direct impact on the predation of nests by pine martens. The control of predators (i.e. fox and pine martens) were considered in relation to the population of black grouse and capercaillie which had an impact on both biodiversity but also on farm economics due to the value of hunting. It is in the interest of the farmers to maintain the biodiversity as there is a direct gain from it generally from hunting, a concept that is largely alien to most farmers in Scotland. Locally set hunting quotas are managed in such a way as to maintain this balance between different types of wildlife.

Factors Driving Integration

Historical Land Cover

Norway has always had a relatively high level of tree cover and never saw the level of deforestation that took place in Scotland (or indeed the UK). There are many reasons for this not least the fact that Norway has a population of just 5.3 million (directly comparable to Scotland) in a land mass of 385 thousand km2, an area almost 5 times greater than that of Scotland. The Western coast of the country which was more heavily populated experienced some of the same issues as Scotland, although tree cover is now returning, however the inland Eastern areas which were never subjected to the same human pressures retained a much higher level of tree cover. With this resource already in place it is much easier to achieve an integrated approach as it doesn’t require a change in mind set or gaining of new skills as they are already embedded within the community.

 

Land Ownership

As noted by Duncan Orr-Ewing the majority of agricultural land in Norway (generally located in the South of the country) is privately owned in relatively small units often with access to areas of communal land, with very few large landowners of the type we see in Scotland. Farm units tend to comprise not just cultivatable land but forested land as well. There are strict rules about farms being actively worked by resident farmers and it is difficult for those who are not Norwegian citizens to buy land and all transfers of land above quite a small area have to be approved by the municipality.

 

As noted above farmers often have access to areas of communally owned land. The shares they may have in this land will relate to the size of their own privately owned agricultural holding and this has a direct bearing on how many livestock they can graze in the communal area, what share of the hunting rights on that land they hold, what amount of timber they can take (or share of timber income they receive) and how many votes they have in relation to any management decisions regarding that land.

 

This results in a much higher percentage of local land ownership and management in rural communities. This link to the land and the presence of significant areas of communally managed and utilised land means that there is a high level of knowledge of land and resource management in almost every household in rural communities and most households derive part of their income or resources needs (wood for heating, game for eating etc.) from the land.

 

Economics & Markets

This area was covered less directly during the visit however reference was made to the fact that Norway has policies relating to the ‘equality’ of citizens and retaining population in rural areas. This means that farmers receive a subsidy payment which would be the equivalent of a standard wage elsewhere – it wasn’t clear whether this was tied to production in anyway but there is an expectation that all farms will be worked. The livestock held on each unit is typically smaller in number than we might see in a hill sheep farm of comparable scale in Scotland but this appears to be dictated by the ability of any cultivated land to provide winter forage and the allocation of grazing rights within any forested area. This lower level of agricultural production means that there is likely to be a greater incentive to actively manage and participate in forestry and hunting in order to provide both income and resources. The provision of a subsidy linked to enabling a standard income also frees the farmer from a single form of land management aimed at production.

 

Active management of other forms of land management are also helped by a range of different economic factors such as markets for end products, as can be seen by forest management. The tree species grown were predominantly Silver Birch, Scots Pine and Norway spruce (the latter at higher elevations. Forest blocks are generally well thinned and generally managed on a seed tree felling regime in relatively small areas of clear fell, although the scale of fellings tended to increase in higher elevations and more remote areas. Natural regeneration is used for restock and there is no fencing which both controls the costs involved but places a significant focus on managing grazing pressure both from livestock and game (specifically moose and deer spp.). Even slow growing stands of pine which in Scotland would be considered to be uneconomic are managed, albeit on a longer rotation, with these logs being used to produce external cladding for houses due to its closer grained wood. The fact this timber has an end product means that it is actively managed – we do not have the same type of timber industries in Scotland and this perhaps results in a desire for faster growing non-native species, resulting in a very different forestry model.

 

Land Management Decision Making, Regulation and Support

Decision making and regulation of different activities have been covered in greater detail by other members of the group so I won’t set these out again here. What should have come through however is that while there is a framework of quotas and regulations set at a high level (national agencies) the setting of local targets and co-ordination of local management is delegated down to local land management co-operatives and overseen by the municipalities. The land managers themselves are empowered to make decisions and it is only if there is a lack of compliance that the municipality steps in. This local ‘regulatory’ role for the municipality is also important as it ensures that there is a locally sensitive approach taken to regulation as well as management. This would appear to be a much more empowering approach and is very different to the type of activity currently undertaken by local authorities in Scotland whose planning role is more tightly defined. As a follow up it would be good to better understand how the municipalities themselves work, their overarching role in land management and how they interact with national agencies who have specific regulatory functions in this area.

 

Culture

Much of what we heard about the underpinning principles of resource management seemed to stem from a long standing culture of equality, use of scarce resources (game appears to be at much lower densities than when managed in Scotland, trees are slower growing etc.) and local land ownership and decision making. It is this culture which has shaped all of the other factors that have been outline above.

 

Moving into the future it isn’t clear whether there will be pressures for this to change with an increasing percentage of the population now based in urban centres and having different values. This could be seen in part with the debate about the expansion/ control of the wolf population. There appears to be a split between people in cities who are taking a pure conservation approach as compared to those in the rural areas most affected who are taking a more resource management based approach. If a primacy of nature based approach focusing on wolves then what would that mean for active land management and what would be the impact on other aspects of the ecosystem which underpins the wide diversity of other species which we saw? It would also mean that national priorities start to outweigh local management priorities and this would result in a significant shift in one of the major tenets of Norwegian culture.

 

Conclusions

In Scotland we have an aspiration to use our land in the most efficient way and to achieve better integration of land uses, however there are only isolated examples of good practice. We struggle to achieve integration both within and across ownership units and there is a pressure here (and a developing philosophy) to see bigger as better as with a lot of land under a single decision making structure (or landowner) then more strategic decisions on land use can be made. However that is clearly not the case as seen in Norway where an integrated approach is embedded at all levels.

 

The fact that this integrated approach is influenced by so many factors including land ownership, traditional culture, historical land cover and that decision making in the country is based on the principle of subsidiarity means that it is not easy to identify specific transferable good practice which would on its own make a significant difference to improving integrated land management in Scotland.

 

For me it was very helpful to understand that scale is not the issue as in Norway an integrated approach can be achieved in even small areas of land. There is definitely something based around having the confidence and ability to make local decisions about the best use of land and having a regulatory and support (including both financial subsidy & markets) framework which facilitates that.

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