“The activities of the Norwegian armed forces are becoming more and more active.” According to the leader of the Skogerøya/Spurvneset reindeer herding district in Ser-Varanger. Atle Magga, the biggest problem is land use.
As Atle was being interviewed, the sound of several dozen snowmobiles from the garrison in Ser-Varanger could be heard in the background. The sound of heavy automatic weapons was also heard nearby.
“The deer are scattered over large areas, and we have a lot more work to do. The armed forces are now planning to extend the range of fire during the exercise without considering that these are important areas for us,” said Atle Magga.
Together with the neighboring county, the reindeer herder of Ser-Varanger is applying for 175,000 kroner from the Sami Parliament to cover legal expenses.
“We are a small district, and it is very difficult for us to negotiate with the armed forces alone. We are afraid of losing pastures, which could lead to many people losing their livelihood,” Magga explains. “The reasons for what is happening, which is causing problems for the reindeer herders, is the increasing tension and cooling of relations between the East and the West – the new Cold War.
The Cold War, as we remember from history, is a state of tension between two military powers without the use of weapons.
Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen’s point of view on the situation in Northern Norway in this context was
“The issue on the agenda today is to improve the defense capabilities of the country,” Bakke-Jensen noted. “Therefore, the Norwegian authorities see the need to strengthen the military presence.”
The defense budget has been increased by NOK 6 billion in 2020 and NOK 3.5 billion this year. The total budget now stands at NOK 64.5 billion.
“The army will be able to carry out its tasks in an increasingly acute and confusing security policy situation.” – Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said.
Bakke-Jensen adds that strengthening the armed forces will increase Norway’s ability to prevent or delay the enemy’s seizure of Norwegian territory until allied forces are in place.
“In the current environment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand our situation,” Magga explains.
Major Eirik Skomedal, spokesman for the military command in Northern Norway, expressed regret that the reindeer herders were experiencing such a situation.
“It’s unfortunate to hear that they have difficulty communicating with us. That’s not what we want. We want a good dialogue with the locals, the civilians and the reindeer herders in the regions where we work,” Skomedal said.
Sami Sami Parliament Counselor Silje Karine Muotka, says she can’t answer in advance whether financial support will be provided.
“An open review of the case could make the case unsuccessful,” Muotka explains.
The border guard garrison needs more space. At the end of 2020, the unit in Ser-Varanger consisted of about 100 officers and 600 enlisted men.
Skomedal states that an army recruitment campaign took place in Højbuktmoen over the summer. The plan to increase the size of the frontier unit has been fulfilled, with 150 additional enlisted frontier fighters and 45 staff officers.
This fact is further evidence that the armed forces need more space and influence in Ser-Varanger.
“We will increase and have already increased our activities in Ser-Varanger. We are getting new and other types of weapons. Which means we also have to practice and train more and more,” Skomedal explains.
“We’re seeing a lot of serious interventions. It’s not just the armed forces that are causing problems for deer farming in Ser-Varanger. The civilian movement is making the overall pressure unbearable. The pain threshold has already been reached.” Explains Magga, in support of the rationale that it is difficult to do reindeer husbandry under these conditions.
In addition to military firing, blasting and training, there is a lot of civilian activity in the reindeer herding areas.
“It’s an explosive situation. Tourist traffic is increasing and the environmental impact is increasing. Walking for pearls, kiting and biking are becoming more and more popular” – Magga mentioned. According to Maggie, the rules for snowmobile riding in the winter have tightened. “New restrictions have become in place for this mode of transportation” – he added.
He believes legislation needs to change if reindeer husbandry is to be successful.
“Reindeer husbandry needs to have stronger protection of the areas. Otherwise we won’t be heard.” – summed up the leader of the Northern Norway Reindeer Herding District in an interview.
From Norwegian sources of “Arctic Partnerships”.