Today, Rewilding Europe announces that it has taken on board a fantastic new rewilding area: Lapland in the north of Sweden. In the Nordic Museum in the heart of Stockholm, the initiative was officially launched during a small ceremony with the signing of an agreement between Rewilding Europe and ‘Rewilding Lapland’, a newly established foundation and our local partner in Sweden.
With Lapland becoming part of the portfolio, Rewilding Europe now works and supports nine rewilding areas across the continent. The ultimate goal is to have 10 areas in different regions of Europe demonstrating how rewilding can be pioneered and put into practice in different local socio-economic and ecological contexts.
Lapland – also called Sápmi – is a unique blend of untamed nature and cultural heritage. Here old-growth forests, mountains, glaciers, free-flowing rivers and extensive wetlands co-exist with the indigenous Sami community since millennia. There is no other place in continental Europe with such vast, uninhabited, road-less and original landscapes as Lapland. The composition of fauna and flora is still largely intact and the functioning of ecosystems unaltered. Here, the large-scale reindeer migration and largely intact river systems shape the ecology and the landscape as well as people’s lives. Lapland is for good reasons sometimes referred to as ‘Europe’s Alaska’.
However, even under such pristine conditions, there are threats and needs to ensure that the uniqueness of the land remains and that some lost components are brought back. Rewilding Lapland aims at demonstrating that tourism, including wildlife watching, wildlife promotion and other concepts, including reindeer herding and river restoration, can serve as important alternatives to negative, resource-extractive developments. A brochure with more background to the initiative can be downloaded in English and in Swedish.
— Lars-Anders Baer, Chairman of the Rewilding Lapland Foundation explains: “By nurturing local entrepreneurship based on the high values of nature and culture as well as supporting the protection and restoration of nature, Rewilding Lapland has set itself the goal to make a difference for the future wellbeing of this unique part of Europe and the World.”
The start of Rewilding Lapland is made possible by a generous grant of the Swedish Postcode Foundation for a period of three years (2016-2018). Rewilding Europe is very grateful for this initial funding which makes it possible to set up the foundation, establish a team working in the area and start the first pilots with local partners (see below). Other promising fundraising and partnership building efforts are also underway.
— “Not many people in Europe know about the challenges that Lapland is facing when it comes to protecting its incredible landscapes, wild nature and beautiful culture,” says Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe. “Based on a shared vision, we will work with local partners to show the huge opportunities for a nature-based economy in this area, where both people, nature and wildlife can benefit.”
The first pilot projects
Rewilding Lapland will start with three initial pilot projects, addressing river restoration at two sites along the Råne and Pite rivers and the conservation of large-scale reindeer migration linked to local economic development – such as wildlife watching and nature- and culture-based tourism. Rewilding Lapland aims at demonstrating how nature and entrepreneurship can work hand in hand, creating new jobs and income at the same as supporting the conservation of nature and the cultural identity. These projects have been identified to become showcases for creating new development opportunities for people – with nature, wildlife and traditional culture at the core – as an alternative to traditional extractive industry development, like forestry and mining.
Three cooperation agreements have already been signed with local stakeholders: one with the Udtja Sami community and two with river restoration organisations for the Råne and Pite rivers – (Pite älvs ekonomiska förening & Degerselsbygden Samfällighetsföring) – all of them community-anchored. More partnership agreements with local stakeholders are in preparation.
The Rewilding Lapland area is located in northern Sweden and Norway. It stretches from the Atlantic fjords in the west over a range of mountains, vast taiga forests and marshlands, and connects with the northern part of the Baltic Sea via some of Europe’s most well preserved river systems – Råne, Kalix and Pite rivers. Within a core area of more than 3 million hectares, less than 1,000 people live permanently. Only four smaller roads lead into the area from the east, making Lapland Europe’s largest, non-fragmented nature area. Within this vast area, more than 15 Swedish Sami communities have their home, some of them stretching their traditional land use also into the Norwegian side.
More information about the area, the vision for Rewilding Lapland, the main objectives, a photo gallery and others can be found at the website of Rewilding Europe. You can also visit and “like” the Rewilding Lapland Facebook page and stay updated about the ongoing activities.
Rewilding Lapland Foundation
A special legal entity – a foundation registered in Sweden – has been set up to oversee and drive this initiative. Four board members have been assigned, including Lars-Anders Baer, Nina Siemiatkowski, Carina Halvord and Magnus Sylvén, who will have the role of Executive Director until a local team has been established. The position of the Rewilding Lapland Foundation Managing Director is still open for applications until February 10; please have a look here.
Free press images are available here. You can download the Rewilding Lapland brochure in English or Swedish by clicking on the image.