Workshop in South Sámi Reindeer Herding Area, Norway

In mid-August, 2023, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and University of Hamburg (UHH), together with the County Governor of Trøndelag and Innlandet, arranged a workshop in the South Saami Reindeer area Plassjesne in Rossen tjïelte (Røros). This workshop was part of a series of workshops and outreach initiatives in the CHARTER project.

This region of reindeer herding is in a far more southerly location than most reindeer herding in Fennoscandia which means different climate conditions and different land use pressures, including wild reindeer herds and more widespread farming.

The workshop was organized by Hans Tømmervik and Jarle W. Bjerke (NINA), Jorunn Stubsjøen (The County Governor of Innlandet – Norway) and Joachim Otto Habeck (UHH). Over 30 participants attended the meeting including reindeer herders from Saanti sijte and Gåebrien Sijte (in Trøndelag and Innlandet counties), including the President of The Saami Reindeer Herders Association of Norway, members of staff from the County Governor Administrations of Innlandet and Trøndelag counties including two mayors and several administrative employees from the nearby municipality administrations also attended and finally farmers and inhabitants living close to the Tolga wild reindeer range (Tolga East).

A wide range of issues were covered during the workshop, with a focus on topics such as the grazing conditions for reindeer on the Fæmund sijte winter pasture areas with NINAs proposals for rotation based grazing in certain areas. These proposals were the subject of much discussion as the area is also partly overlapping with the Tolga Øst wild reindeer range as well as being used by farmers in the Sålekinna-Håmmålsfjell mountain range. Intense land use discussions related to this region between herders, hunters and farmers go back centuries, and continue today. Improved dialogue was called for by several parties.  

Otto Habeck gave an overview of the CHARTER work and how shifting seasons due to climate change have impacted other reindeer herding regions. Conditions in this region have a different shape compared to more northerly reindeer herding areas, however it was noted by all that Autumn and Spring are delayed. Unlike many other reindeer herding districts in Fennoscandia, artificial feeding is not practiced in the Plassjan (Røros) area. While, difficult winters have been occurring, (for example 2019-2020), the high quality of the winter pastures and good herd conditions meant that even without feeding, only small losses were experienced in both districts.

Other themes presented during the seminar included the role of traditional knowledge in tackling reindeer diseases associated with climate change, with a focus on the practice of reindeer milking  and the risk of foot rot disease (digital necrobacillosis; slubbo in North Sámi); the variation of albedo in reindeer pastures due to lichen cover was presented and conclusions that for reindeer herding, climate change will have direct impacts on reindeer that will be more severe than the indirect effects through deteriorating winter grazing ranges.

The workshop included a fieldtrip to Synnervika and Grådalen to both a reindeer corral and a site of lichen research. At the corral, the annual cycle of herding operations, in particular the gathering and slaughtering of reindeer was highlighted and was linked to language revitalisation. The link between albedo and abundant lichen cover is particularly evident here as it is has been estimated  to have the highest broadband albedo recorded for a vegetated surface in the world. Herders also discussed the importance of other forms of lichen.

More information on the seminar can be had from organisers Hans Tømmervik and Jarle W Bjerke.

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