Adventdalen – or, to be more precice: its lower part – is to become a nature reserve. The proposal is now in the public hearing stage, available on the Sysselmester’s website. Until 15 October, all interested parties, organisations as well as individual persons, can give their input.
The process is about an area of 62 square kilometres, mainly tundra and the wide riverbed.
Adventdalen is one of Spitsbergen’s largest ice-free valleys with huge tundra areas and wetlands, that provide various habitats to a range of animal and plant species, including a number of rare ones. The protection of these habitats is the primary goal of the legal proposal.
The current proposal would, for most, not include significant changes, and that is probably exactly its point: to propose the current status quo. New infrastructure such as new roads, ways or buildings would be impossible. Existing buildings such as huts will enjoy grandfathering, including the possibility for minor repairs. Measures to maintain Isdammen (the drinking water lake) shall remain possible.
Tundra habitat in Adventdalen, here with mountain avens in flower.
The proposal does not include much in terms of restrictions for those who are on tour in the area, both private and guided tours. Most traffic is coming in shape of snow mobiles, obvioulsy during the winter season. Snow mobiles (and other motorised traffic) is, already now, only permitted on frozen, snow-covered ground (comment: controls on this might well be a bit stricter). These areas are used by birds only when the snow-melt has advanced quite a bit, so both uses, snow mobiles (and skiers, dog sledges …) are naturally separated in time, solving conflicts before they might come up.
Other kind of traffic on wheels will not be permitted on ground that is not snow-covered. This corresponds largely to today’s regulations and practice. It might, to some degree, limit the range of FatBikes which sometimes use dry river beds that are not covered by any vegetation.
Red-necked phalaropes in Adventdalen:
one of the more unusual species that can be found here.
As of today, dogs must be on a lead when outside. This is planned to become a bit stricter in the future, when leads must not be longer than 5 m during the breeding season.
Air traffic is to be restricted: no flights lower than 300 m, no landing, except SAR services and police or by special permission. The ban on flying will include drones in the new nature reserve.
The legal proposal is now in the hearing stage until 15 October 2023. After that, the law text will continue its journey through the institutions before it eventually may be turned into valid law.
One may get the impression that the proposed sanctuary / law will not change a lot. This is indeed the case, and this is good: based on the insight that the given status quo is actually pretty good – by far most of the area in question is intact, largely untouched arctic nature – the point is exactly to preserve the status quo. Activities that do not endanger the given status shall remain possible, even when some who quickly come up with strong opinions would rather prefer comprehensive bans on all sorts of activities, especially various sorts of traffic. There were not just a few in Longyearbyen who had feared exactly that in the upcoming Lower Adventdalen nature reserve, which until now is a very important area for snow mobile traffic – in the winter season, but not during the breeding season. Good thing that those who are in charge of the law proposal have realised this. There is no need to solve problems at the public’s expense if they just don’t exist.
Obviously, there are kinds of motorised traffic in Adventdalen, be it touristic, private or of any other sort, which one does not necessarily have to be fond of. But it needs more than that to justify far-reaching regulations. Comprehensive bans on activities that are important for many need to be well-founded. Not liking something is not good enough.
But what may easily put the environment – habitat, species diversity, … – at risk, such as new infrastructure and other significant artificial terrain changes, will not be possible anymore.
It is good to see that relevant institutions still today apparently are able to have a closer look at the local reality to understand the real needs of environmental protection, while listening to locals and others, wherever relevant, and not make peoples’ lives difficult without any real reason.
Lofoten, Jan Mayen and Spitsbergen from the air - Photobook: Norway's arctic islands. The text in this book is German, but there is very little text, so I am sure that you will enjoy it regardless which languages you read (or not).
The companion book for the Svalbardhytter poster. The poster visualises the diversity of Spitsbergen‘s huts and their stories in a range of Arctic landscapes. The book tells the stories of the huts in three languages.
Comprehensive guidebook about Spitsbergen. Background (wildlife, plants, geology, history etc.), practical information including travelling seasons, how to travel, description of settlements, routes and regions.
Join an exciting journey with dog, skis and tent through the wintery wastes of East Greenland! We were five guys and a dog when we started in Ittoqqortoormiit, the northernmost one of two settlements on Greenland’s east coast.
12 postcards which come in a beautifully designed tray. Beautiful images from South Georgia across Antarctica from the Antarctic Peninsula to the Ross Sea and up to Macquarie Island and Campbell Island.