From a height
on a high mountain
hard to tell about
The Laponian World Heritage is more than just a landscape with high natural value, in which the indigenous Sámi people have lived and worked for generations. Laponia is more than the historical traces in the landscape, reminding us about those who lived here before us. Laponia is more than just a landscape, which would have a partly different appearance without the impact on biodiversity due to the grazing of reindeer. Laponia contains all of these landscapes.
Laponia is also the image of landscapes that we carry within us, independent of our background. The Sámi people – who traditionally, with respect and caution, have taken care of land and water in a way that preserves resources for future users – carry within themselves their mental landscapes. The visitors, looking for a place to rest at the end of their long journey, carry within themselves images of their landscape. The conservationist sees a landscape where the natural conditions and the historically low intensive land use have provided conditions for high natural values. Laponia is all of these landscapes – and many more.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee inscribed Laponia as a World Heritage in December 1996 with the following justification:
The Committee considered that the site is of outstanding universal value as it contains examples of ongoing geological, biological and ecological processes, a great variety of natural phenomena of exceptional beauty and significant biological diversity including a population of brown bear and alpine flora. It was noted that the site meets all conditions of integrity. The site has been occupied continuously by the Sámi people since prehistoric times, is one of the last and unquestionably largest and best preserved examples of an area of transhumance, involving summer grazing by large reindeer herds, a practice that was widespread at one time and which dates back to an early stage in human economic and social development.
The World Heritage Convention states different criteria for cultural heritages and for natural heritages. Laponia meets the following criteria according to the World Heritage Convention.
- to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
- to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
- to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
- to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.
- to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.
Laponia is a combined nature and cultural World Heritage based on both conserving it while at the same time developing it. Contrary to most World Heritage areas, Laponia has a specific industry – reindeer husbandry. This form of livelihood was basic for the nomination process. It is therefore important that this industry be given the chance of developing sustainably in this region. This development will not occur in a vacuum, but rather options have to be seen in a context where reindeer husbandry, like other forms of livelihood, successively develop and transform.
As well as reindeer herding, other forms of livelihood which relate to the World Heritage are carried out. For example, catering to the needs of visitors. Others see the possibility of processing local produce such as wild berries, meat and fish as having a potential in the future.
It is important that the Sámi population have the possibility to continue reindeer herding and develop it. The same is true for the rest of the inhabitants who live and work in the World Heritage area and its surroundings, that they can keep and develop sustainable livelihoods—both traditional ones as well as new possibilities—to be able to live here and sustain themselves. Such options contribute to increase the willingness to protect and conserve the area for future generations.