"The pristine character of the mountain environment must be largely preserved, in terms of biological diversity, recreational value, and natural and cultural assets. Activities in mountain areas must respect these values and assets, with a view to promoting sustainable development. Particularly valuable areas must be protected from encroachment and other disturbance."
Sweden’s mountain areas, with their distinctive natural environments, are sensitive. At the same time, a wide range of stakeholders wish to make use of them. In southern parts of the mountain range in particular, soil and vegetation may be damaged, for example, by visitors and by off-road driving on ground unprotected by snow, and also by development for wind energy, hydropower, mining and other activities.
Large parts of the mountain region are protected so as to preserve their natural and cultural values, but there are still important areas lacking protection from future development. Valuable environments and rich recreational opportunities could be encroached upon by growing numbers of wind farms and increased exploration and extraction of valuable minerals. In addition, more and more snowmobiles are being used in mountain counties, affecting the quality of the environment above all by their unwanted noise.
What are the challenges?
Continued reindeer herding, together with other forms of livestock rearing, is needed to maintain an extensive mountain landscape, characterised by grazing and offering habitats for many different species. At the same time, the reindeer sector’s need for large, continuous grazing areas has to be balanced against the need for facilities for outdoor recreation, nature-based tourism, wind power and mineral extraction. Growth in tourism, more off-road vehicles and increasing interest in development in mountain areas could create difficulties for reindeer herders, thereby eroding the benefits which grazing has in terms of biodiversity. Another conflict is over the size of predator populations, which affect reindeer husbandry in several ways.
Different stakeholders wanting to make use of mountain areas must work together if these sensitive environments are to be developed and used sustainably. An ongoing research programme is focused on developing a deeper understanding of the conflicts and opportunities posed by the alpine environment and promoting sustainable development based on respect for these different perspectives. This programme includes around 10 projects. This effort to increase knowledge is important to improving our chances of achieving this environmental objective before 2020.