Photo: Visit Finland

Controversial Lapland rail plan chugs on

Regional authorities in Lapland are going ahead with zoning for a rail line that would cut through traditional Sámi reindeer herding areas.

The Regional Council of Lapland has decided to include a controversial rail line from Rovaniemi to Kirkenes in the far north of Norway in an updated land use plan, according to Yle News.

However, there are currently no plans to construct the line and consultants for Finland’s Ministry of Transport and Communications have deemed the project economically unviable.

The line would cut through traditional lands of Finland’s indigenous Sámi people and their northern reindeer herding areas. Both the Sámi Parliament and reindeer herding associations along the route have expressed their opposition to the plan.

The council’s vice-chair, Heikki Autto, told Yle, “In the future, this will possibly be one key logistic connection of importance not only to northern Lapland but also to the whole of Lapland, to Finland and the European Union. We still don’t know what the world will look like in the 2030s or 2040s, but with this land use plan we have a tool with which to develop this area if constructing the rail line happens then.”

Culture and constitution
Heikki Autto also rejected claims by the Sámi Parliament that if constructed, the rail line would destroy the basis of Sámi culture and livelihood.

“As a native to the area myself, I see it as important that we ensure that families can settle in the Sámi homelands as well, find a variety of jobs and sources of income, including those continuing traditional livelihoods which preserve the Sámi language and culture,” he added.

Henri Ramberg, council board member, disagrees, saying, “Here we run into constitutional questions regarding Sámi culture. The part of this [plan] routed through Sámi areas should have been buried. Simply with this land use plan, we are enabling the construction of the rail line. As a consequence, the bottom can be knocked out of the culture and the future of the culture of the people of the Sámi areas.”

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