Freedom to Roam in Scandinavia

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The freedom to explore nature is considered a birthright of most Scandinavians, and the politicians have seen fit to put that inheritance into law.

Since 1957 Norway has had a Lov om friliftslivet (Outdoor Recreation Act), which states succinctly: “At any time of the year, outlying property may be crossed on foot, with consideration and due caution.” In Norway the terms utmark and innmark divide areas where the right to roam is valid (utmark, “land outside”) and where it is invalid or restricted (innmark, “land inside”).

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In later years the right has come under pressure particularly around the Oslo Fjord and in popular areas of Southern Norway. These areas are popular sites for holiday homes and many owners of coastal land want to restrict public access to their property. As a general rule, building and partitioning of property is prohibited in a 100-meter zone closest to the sea, but local authorities in many areas have made liberal use of their ability to grant exemptions from this rule. However, even if a land owner has been permitted to build closer to the shore, he may not restrict people from walking along the shore. Fences and other barriers to prevent public access are not permitted (but yet sometimes erected, resulting in heavy fines).

From Sweden
From Sweden

In Sweden, the freedom to roam is called Allemansrätten (Everyman’s Right).

From Öland, Sweden
From Öland, Sweden

Everyone is permitted to camp anywhere for a night, or walk, ski or paddle a canoe anywhere, as long as the area is not fenced in or in close proximity to a private home, but all visitors are expected to show consideration for farmers and landowners.

Private property
Private property

Since 1994 the Instrument of Government says that notwithstanding the right to own property “everyone shall have access to nature in accordance with allemansrätten“. What this means is not further explicated on in the constitution, and only sparsely in other legislation, but the Swedish right to roam comes with an emphasis being placed upon the responsibility to look after the countryside; the maxim is “do not disturb, do not destroy”.

From Funen, Denmark
From Funen, Denmark

Due to the compact size and dense populations, Danes and visitors do not enjoy the right to access in the same way as in the two other Scandinavian countries. This means that it is generally illegal to pitch a tent outside the organized commercial camping grounds.

Geiranger fjord, Norway
Geiranger fjord, Norway

Feature image (on top): From Sweden

Freedom to Roam in Scandinavia, compiled by Admin

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