Indigenous-Led Rewilding Realises Sámi Land Rights in Näätämö Area

A view from the 2020 site. Snowchange, 2020

A view from the 2020 site. Snowchange, 2020

Snowchange and the Indigenous Skolt Sámi have worked to secure key forest areas from the open markets to return to Sámi-led rewilding and use areas in Sevettijärvi, Finland. In June 2020 with recent additions, over 150 hectares of OGF forests are under the Landscape Rewilding Programme.

The new Samirs rewilding sites contain streams, lakes and marsh mires. Snowchange, 2020

The new Samirs rewilding sites contain streams, lakes and marsh mires. Snowchange, 2020

In Finland there are no specific Indigenous land or water rights. Industrial and third-party land uses are affecting the Sámi potential and possibilities to manage, govern and decide on the traditional use areas. In order to address these gaps, beginning in 2019 and expanded in June 2020, Snowchange and the Skolt Sámi coordinators managed to secure three key forest locations in the village of Sevettijärvi into the Landscape Rewilding Programme.

Between 2015 and 2019 Skolt Sámi and Snowchange enabled the full restoration and rewilding of the Vainosjoki river catchment that had been altered in the 1960s and 1970s. Additionally rewilding plans have been completed for lake Sevettijärvi and river Kuosnijoki, altered water bodies slated for rewilding in 2020s.

Thanks to the Landscape Rewilding Programme and a range of key donors Snowchange has been able to extent the rewilding actions now to OGF forests in the area.

This has included, by mid-June 2020:

  • Securing three separate key forest lots, with a total of 150 hectares along the Sevettijärvi lake and Kirakkajärvi lake systems with a key site added in June 2020 (Musta-ahvenlampi).
  • Development of co-management and co-governance tools for these sites that will be presented to the village of Sevettijärvi, COVID permitting, in August 2020.
  • Bird, plant and carbon surveys and stock taking: Given that these locations are marked and internationally important carbon sinks in the north boreal, Snowchange has calculated the GHG inventories also on these key habitats and the interface between boreal forest and freshwater lakes in the climate change issues. In 2020 microplastics surveys will commence on the aquatic ecosystems.
  • Skolt Sámi histories of the sites and historical uses of timber resources
  • Management plans and uses of these areas will be jointly governed and utilize Sámi Indigenous knowledge.

Landscape Rewilding Programme and Skolt Sámi moved to enable these sites to be a Skolt Sámi -use areas (and eventually transitioning to the Sámi in full) given that the region is facing third party and large-scale industrial development plans, especially in the form of the Arctic Railway.

Marshmires are key carbon sinks in the high Arctic. Snowchange 2020

Marshmires are key carbon sinks in the high Arctic. Snowchange 2020

In order to make sure Indigenous rights and free, prior and informed consent is fully realised in the future, Snowchange is also, following Skolt Sámi decisions and guidance, in the process of registering these rewilding sites as Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas – ICCAs under the UNEP registry towards 2021.

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