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Home* News and Stories → Dis­cus­sion about new huts for com­mer­cial tou­rism in Spits­ber­gen

Dis­cus­sion about new huts for com­mer­cial tou­rism in Spits­ber­gen

While the sun is slow­ly retur­ning to Spits­ber­gen after the polar night, the dis­cus­sion about new huts for com­mer­cial use by local tour ope­ra­tors is going on: Should it be pos­si­ble to build new huts in the field?

The dis­cus­sion star­ted with the last Storting­s­mel­ding, a government poli­cy state­ment issued in 2016 that drafts an out­line of poli­tics for Sval­bard for the years to come. With the back­ground of dimi­nis­hing coal mining, most par­ties invol­ved agree that tou­rism should be deve­lo­ped as a cor­ner­stone for the local eco­no­my in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. To help this, the Storting­s­mel­ding opens for the pos­si­bi­li­ty of new huts being built for use by local tour ope­ra­tors in the con­text of their orga­nis­ed tours (not for indi­vi­du­al use, neit­her com­mer­cial nor pri­va­te, to be clear on this). Acti­vi­ties are sup­po­sed to be more or less clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, at least wit­hin admi­nis­tra­ti­on area 10, bet­ween Isfjord and Van Mijen­fjord.

The use of huts for tou­rism does not have a tra­di­ti­on in Spits­ber­gen and it is con­tro­ver­si­al, to put it mild­ly, as oppo­sed to main­land Nor­way, whe­re the use of huts for tours is well estab­lis­hed and open also for tou­rists. In Spits­ber­gen, only locals may use huts pri­va­te­ly. So far, the­re are only 3 huts out­side Lon­gye­ar­by­en which may be used com­mer­cial­ly. One is near Nor­dens­kiöld­breen in Bill­efjord, ano­t­her one is at Brents­kar­det in inner Advent­da­len and the third one is clo­se to Sveagru­va in Van Mijen­fjord.

Now the ques­ti­on is if and whe­re fur­ther huts should be per­mit­ted. Local tour ope­ra­tors could file their app­li­ca­ti­ons in 2017 and ever­y­bo­dy could com­ment on the app­li­ca­ti­ons until end of Janu­ry 2018. The Sys­sel­man­nen recei­ved twel­ve state­ments with rele­vant comments (plus 8 without comments). The­se state­ments came both from pri­va­te per­sons and from insti­tu­ti­ons inclu­ding the Mil­jø­di­rek­to­rat (Nor­we­gi­an envi­ron­men­tal aut­ho­ri­ty), the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te and the Rik­san­tik­var (pro­tec­tion of his­to­ri­cal monu­ments and sites). Most state­ments share an altog­e­ther cri­ti­cal atti­tu­de. The Polar Insti­tu­te examins all poten­ti­al sites for new huts regar­ding their eco­lo­gi­cal values and comments on the dama­ge to the envi­ron­ment that per­ma­nent infra­st­ruc­tu­re may have in the­se pla­ces. Pri­va­te per­sons from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, inclu­ding some of the few trap­pers who are still acti­ve in Spits­ber­gen, seem to share a very cri­ti­cal per­spec­ti­ve. Remar­kab­ly, rather than gene­ral oppo­si­ti­on to the idea of huts (the­re are, of cour­se, pros and cons to this as well), the state­ments most­ly offer a detail­ed dis­cus­sion of the spe­ci­fic sites.

The sites in ques­ti­on are:

map huts Spitsbergen

The­se sites are being dis­cus­sed for new huts for com­mer­cial use in Spits­ber­gen.

  • Elve­ne­set (point 1 on the map) at the mouth of De Geerda­len in Sas­sen­fjord. The idea of a new, com­mer­cial­ly used hut in one of the last low­lands and river del­ta are­as clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en cur­r­ent­ly without any infra­st­ruc­tu­re is not met with any enthu­si­asm at all. The values of this tun­dra area for wild­life such as rein­de­er and polar foxes are high­ligh­ted and stand in con­trast to regu­lar use. A new hut would be near a fox den. Pret­ty much all state­ments look cri­ti­cal­ly at the idea of a hut at Elve­ne­set. This inclu­des the Mil­jø­di­rek­to­rat, which will pres­um­a­b­ly have an important say in this dis­cus­sion.
  • Svel­ti­hel (2), a low­land area in Sas­senda­len on the coast of Tem­pel­fjord. This site does not seem to con­flict too much with the local envi­ron­ment, but accord­ing to the important Mil­jø­di­rek­to­rat, it is too far away from Lon­gye­ar­by­en and too clo­se to a natio­nal park.
  • Kre­kling­pas­set (3), bet­ween De Geerda­len and Hel­ve­tia­da­len. Accord­ing to the various state­ments, one of few sites that can at least be con­si­de­red for a new hut, without too much poten­ti­al for envi­ron­men­tal or other con­flicts. Locals, howe­ver, see their regu­lar­ly used tour are­as com­pro­mi­sed.
  • Tverrda­len (4), south of Advent­da­len. Away from the coast as Kre­kling­pas­set, and addi­tio­nal­ly not near the com­mon­ly used rou­tes for pri­va­te and com­mer­cial tours and without much poten­ti­al to dis­turb the local envi­ron­ment. The site is hence likely to remain in the dis­cus­sion.
  • Lang­ne­set in Van Mijen­fjord, bet­ween Sveagru­va and Reinda­len (5). All state­ments are expli­ci­te­ly cri­ti­cal regar­ding this site. Van Mijen­fjord is the only fjord on the west coast of Spits­ber­gen that does still free­ze during the late win­ter, at least in its inner reaches, as it is shel­te­red from the open sea by the island Akseløya. Hence, Van Mijen­fjord is an important area for seals to give birth, and the­re seem to be several polar bears rather sta­tio­na­ry in this area, inclu­ding fema­les who use the area to give birth in snow caves. Exten­ding regu­lar tours into this area is an idea that most peop­le and insti­tu­ti­ons do not like. If the Sys­sel­man­nen takes the state­ments serious­ly, then this site should not have a chan­ce to remain in the dis­cus­sion.

The num­ber of per­mits that will be issued in the end is not defi­ned. In theo­ry, it might be all sites or none. In any case, the­re will be strict regu­la­ti­ons for the use of the huts: only wit­hin the con­text of orga­nis­ed tours, no addi­tio­nal traf­fic in the field and pre­fer­a­b­ly non-moto­ri­zed access etc. But some fear that it may be dif­fi­cult to con­trol how the huts are used and rela­ted tours are ope­ra­ted in prac­ti­ce, once the huts are the­re.

Also the aut­hor of this arti­cle sees the estab­lish­ment of new, per­ma­nent infra­st­ruc­tu­re in so-far lar­ge­ly untouched natu­re are­as cri­ti­cal­ly. If addi­tio­nal infra­st­ruc­tu­re is to be used in the field, then one might also opt for mobi­le solu­ti­ons that can be used sea­so­nal­ly and easi­ly be remo­ved without a trace after the sea­son. This would also make it easier to con­trol the future deve­lo­p­ment in case of unex­pec­ted, unde­si­red deve­lo­p­ments.

Der Hyperitt­fos­sen, a water­fall at Elve­ne­set in De Geerda­len: the most­ly untouched land­s­cape and natu­re would hard­ly bene­fit from a new hut.

Hyperittfossen, Elveneset

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

By the way, my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the tit­le “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (1): Spitz­ber­gen – vom Polar­licht bis zur Mit­ter­nachts­son­ne”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!

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last modification: 2018-02-22 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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