Lately it has been stormy around the wild reindeer on Hardangervidda. There has been great pressure from all sides at the same time. We have everything from here the ski center in the middle of the wild reindeer area in Eidsfjord, to a gondola lift up to the Rossnos plateau in Odda. All of these are territorial conflicts that are eating up more and more of the wild reindeer's last habitats. And the whole time, the situation with CWD has cast a dark shadow over the wild reindeer's uncertain and threatened future.
For a number of years, the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association has had wild reindeer as one of our most prioritized issue areas. As Norway has a strong international obligation to safeguard its habitats and livelihoods as an important type of responsibility. As is known, Norway has all of 90% of the remaining populations of tundra reindeer (wild reindeer). If we do not manage to manage this species in the right way, no other country can ensure the survival of the species.
In recent years, there has been an extraordinary removal of wild reindeer on Hardangervidda, and in the border populations in Setesdal Ryfylke, Setesdal Austhei, and in Nordfjella wild reindeer areas. The entire population in Nordfjella zone 1 was shot in 2018, and the plan was for this tribe to be re-established after a few years of fallow, most likely by importing animals from the Hardangervidda tribe. Now, however, a rather shocking video has been 'leaked' to VG from the helicopter launch that took place in Nordfjella. This has led to a new police report from the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. More about this a little further down in the article.
Important environmental victory
As in 2021, the authorities also threatened this year with an extraordinary take and helicopter hunt to shoot all big bucks over 2.5 years old on the Hardangervidda if not enough animals were taken out during the autumn hunt, which was also extended in both hunting time and quotas. Fortunately, the extraordinary extraction by helicopter was canceled last winter, but the authorities pushed for an extraordinary launch by snowmobile and helicopter this winter. It has formally boiled over with protests from desperate hunters, landowners, all eight municipalities around Hardangervidda and others. The Norwegian Environmental Protection Association also pressed for a complaint and threatened action if winter felling was carried out by the authorities.
The wild reindeer population on Hardangervidda is now historically low. From a tribe that numbered around 10,000 animals before calving in the spring of 2011, and with a winter population of up to 25,000 animals at population peaks in the mid-60s and early 80s, the assumed winter population for the entire Hardangervidda area after the autumn hunt is expected to be of 4,500 animals. 7,000 hunting licenses were distributed this autumn, where 50% was an optional animal, and the other 50% adult bucks 2.5 years or older (12 Sept-7 Oct, adult bucks were changed to optional animals). It is on this basis that the authorities planned a further extraordinary winter withdrawal with snowmobiles and helicopters. Completely unjustified and unacceptable in our view.
Fortunately, the authorities turned around in time. On the 8th of December announced the government via press release that they would still not carry out an extraordinary removal of wild reindeer this winter. This is a major environmental victory for those of us who love Hardangervidda and wild reindeer. The population is already at a critically low level, and the entire population in Nordfjella zone 1 has already been eradicated by the Norwegian authorities.
The film from the launch of the wild reindeer in Nordfjella with a helicopter and a new review
The Norwegian Environmental Protection Association (NMF) was extremely critical of the culling of the entire wild reindeer population in Nordfjella in 2018. Not only from a management perspective, given the discovery of CWD and further management of this population, but also from an animal welfare perspective. What we already knew was that 4 months of continuous motorized hunting with snowmobiles and helicopters was an animal welfare tragedy and gross animal cruelty.
NMF received information that everything had not gone right and that there was a lot of damage during the shooting of the wild reindeer tribe in Nordfjella zone 1 in 2018, and therefore requested that an external investigation by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority be initiated.
- On 29/04/2019 sent NMF demands an investigation by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority acting CEO Harald Gjein
- On 03/05/2019, NMF demanded access to a number of documents regarding the Norwegian Food Safety Authority's handling of the shooting of the wild reindeer in Nordfjella zone 1 in 2018 and about the decision on extraordinary extraction on Hardangervidda. Three days later, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority rejects the access request.
- Former head of the NMF, Kurt Oddekalv has a meeting with the CEO of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, Harald Gjein, where the cases sent to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority were presented to the director. Shortly afterwards he resigned due to another matter.
- Storting: Inst. 413 S (2018–2019) Recommendation from the industry committee at the Storting on the Minister of Agriculture and Food's report on 7 June 2019 on the Norwegian Food Safety Authority's supervisory activities and representative proposal on external scrutiny of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.
- On 19 June 2019, NMF sends a letter to the Storting's business committee in which NMF demands that the external investigation by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority must also include, among other things, the wild reindeer case vs. the launch of Nordfjella zone 1 in 2018 and the decision on extraordinary extraction at Hardangervidda. A copy of the requirement is sent to all parliamentary representatives.
- On 19 June 2019, NMF simultaneously sends an inquiry to the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Bollestad, with a copy of the letters in which NMF requested a meeting on the matter. The Minister of Agriculture thanked the inquiry on 26/06/2019 with the following refusal; "The Prime Minister has a packed calendar in the future and will unfortunately not have the opportunity to meet the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association as requested.".
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Food gave the investigation assignment to KPMG, but the investigation by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority never included the objectionable conditions in the wild reindeer cases that NMF demanded to be investigated.
Only on 8 December 2022 will VG get access to film material from the helicopter launch of the reindeer herd in Nordfjella zone 1 from 2018. Unfortunately, it confirmed several of the conditions NMF had tried to have investigated. Sometimes, as in this case, there is no joy in being right in the circumstances we were notified about in 2019.
State helicopter hunting: − Organized animal cruelty
These recordings show state hunting of wild reindeer from a helicopter in 2018, where the shooter misses and shoots the reindeer. - A demanding and comprehensive assignment, says the State Nature Inspectorate.
Norwegian Environmental Protection Association (NMF) police report to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and the Norwegian State Nature Inspectorate (SNO) for serious animal cruelty during the hunt for wild reindeer from a helicopter in 2018. Here, the state itself has provided evidence of illegal and reprehensible conditions they themselves have committed and withheld this for a very long time.
ARV Aktivt Rovdyrvern and Dyrenes rett also report to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate "for animal cruelty during the slaughter of wild reindeer in Nordfjella in winter 2017/2018".
An administration on the wrong track and secret decisions
The government announces in a press release on 24/06/2021 that they have adopted a decision on the extraordinary removal of wild reindeer on Hardangervidda during the autumn hunt.
The NMF wanted to have access to this decision, as well as its decision-making basis, and therefore sent on 28.07.2021 a request for access authorized in §§ of the Public Act. After having to nag, the refusal came to view on 09/08/2021;
Reference is made to an email dated 28 July 2021 requesting access to the government's decision which appears from the press release "Measures to combat scrapie on Hardangervidda" and access to all documents relevant to the government's decision and its authority.
The ministry points out that the government's decisions appear in protocol, which is exempt public in accordance with the Public Administration Act section 14 first paragraph. The same applies to government notes which has been prepared in connection with the government's treatment.
The request for access is refused.
The refusal which LMD justified in §14, first paragraph of the Civil Service Act says; «A body can make an exception from access to documents that the body has prepared for its own internal proceedings.'' The second paragraph, point a) however states that the provision in the first paragraph does not apply to «document or part of a document containing the final decision of the body in a case". Not even the decision itself would the government give access to. The appeal body for this refusal is the King in the Council of State, which is exactly the same government that had issued the decision. Alternatively, this had to be made as a complaint to the Civil Ombudsman.
The government's press release for its "decision"/decision also informed that the government had in a meeting "The state secretaries in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Climate and Environment have today met with the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, the Environment Agency, the Hardangervidda wild reindeer association, the Hardangervidda wild reindeer committee and mayors in the area around Hardangervidda to inform them of the government's decision.".
We cannot accept that the government makes secret administrative decisions that they deny access to organisations. The NMF therefore sent access requests to all mayors with administrative responsibility for Hardangervidda and to Villreinnemda v/Statsforvaltaren in Oslo and Viken, where we asked for access to the decision and "If this decision was only transmitted orally, a report/summary of the decision is requested, cf. the Administrative Law §11, as well as the date of the decision/decision.". This should probably give insight into the government's decisions, but no. Nor had any of the mayors received a written copy of the government's decision. Only an oral briefing on the decision.
The Norwegian Environmental Protection Association (NMF) has experienced many strange things in Norwegian administration, but the fact that the government in 2021 will operate with secret decisions that they refuse access to is quite startling. And that, on top of everything, in a management case that has a great deal of interest and attention surrounding the management of one of Europe's most central reindeer tribes.
The Norwegian Environmental Protection Association (NMF) is happy that the government has finally stopped the extraordinary withdrawal of winter hunting by helicopter and snowmobile this winter. The population has been heavily taxed and the population reduced through the autumn's ordinary hunting with increased quotas and extended hunting time. The winter population is historically low and the animals are stressed. Now the wild reindeer on Hardangervidda need as much rest as possible to get them through the cold winter months. The conditions that developed through the government helicopter launch on Nordfjella zone 1 in 2017/2018 must never be repeated. The NMF therefore hopes that those conditions will be thoroughly investigated, and that there will be an external investigation of means and methods so that we can have open and orderly conditions for any future measures of this or a similar nature. We cannot continue to have a management of such an important responsible species as the wild reindeer that cannot stand the light of day.