Reindeer habitat fair game to the wind industry

Reindeer Concerns a Problem for Lapland Wind Farm

By Martin Laine   Digital Journal

Concerned about the effect a proposed wind farm will have on their reindeer herds, a group of Samis in the far north of Sweden have rejected a compensation package from the developer.

“We say no. The money is not in parity with the problems this causes and the threat against our reindeer herding,” said Anders Ruth, a Sami from the Ostra Kikkejaure district. The plan calls for 1,101 wind turbines to be built in Markbygden by the wind power firm Svevind, with the backing of the Swedish government.

They claim that the wind farm would generate as much electricity as two nuclear reactors. But Markbygden is also the area where Samis have traditionally brought herds of up to 4,000 reindeer for winter grazing. Samis are the indigenous people of the region, formerly called Laplanders or Lapps. The total Sami population throughout the Nordic region has been estimated at about 80,000, with about 20,000 living in Sweden.

“The same number of reindeer have to be fed from a reduced area, which will be exploited harder,” Ruth said. “It won’t work, and it is not possible to find alternative grazing areas.” Svevind offered to pay the Samis approximately $770,000 per year, but the Samis argue that it won’t be enough to cover the cost of buying extra feed to compensate for the lost grazing area. Sweden, Finland, and Norway all have extensive plans to develop wind farms in the Lapland region. Thus far, there has been little opposition expressed.

But if the experience in Markbygden is any indication, they could all be in for long and expensive negotiations with the Samis.