The plan to close the large nature reserves in eastern Svalbard largely for organized tourism has been mentioned several times on this site (click here and here). The public discussion is going on, as reflected by a number of articles and several letters to the editor of the local newspaper Svalbardposten, a common platform for (public) discussions concerning Spitsbergen. The undemocratical, intransparent procedure is being criticised, as is the fact that the Norwegian Polar Institute – a major political influence in the current process – is at the same time the player with by far the highest level of activities in relevant areas.
Local politicians demand to “discriminate locals positively”.
Another reason for criticism is that the argumentative base for the closure of such large areas are restricted to the “precautionary principle” and the “scientific demand for large, undisturbed reference areas” – a very thin line of argumentation, given that many scientists do not support this demand.
The following quotations may shed light on the process:
“Tourism as it is currently managed is not an environmental problem in Svalbard” (Arne Malme, Senior environmental officer, Sysselmannen. October 2008)
“I like strikt rules as long as they are there for others but not for me” (a researcher active in the Arctic, known to the present author. Summer 2008)
The plan is to prohibit landings of organized tourists in eastern Svalbards in all areas except designated places which are marked with green on this map (additionally, local restrictions apply to several of these landing sites). Click here for a larger version of the map.
Sources: Svalbardposten, Sysselmannen and others.