Reindeer herding is both a traditional livelihood and a business still practiced in the northern parts of Eurasia. In the Nordic countries, reindeer herding has contributed to keeping remote northern areas inhabited while maintaining Indigenous cultures. Reindeer herders have also been able to adapt to new circumstances, and many of them have invested in value-adding production or secondary occupations, such as tourism. The main challenge for reindeer herding is the loss of pastures to other industries and infrastructure projects. The growing investment in wind farms—which not only compete for the same land with reindeer herding but may also disturb the herding practices—has emerged as a recent competitor to reindeer herding in the context of land use. In this article, we study the rights and opportunities of reindeer herders to participate in decision making on land use for infrastructure projects in general and wind farm projects in particular. Our focus is on the situation in Finland, but we also use examples of reported land use conflicts between reindeer herders and wind farms from other Nordic countries. The aim of this article is, on the one hand, to find out how the rights of reindeer herders in planning and making decisions on wind farms are regulated and, on the other hand, how these rights function in practice. In addition to national legislation on participation in land use, there exists a growing number of international conventions to protect the environment and the rights of Indigenous people. Wind farms are particularly interesting in that renewable energy is now internationally preferred and subsidized as “green energy” in the fight against climate change. The challenge remains how to protect traditional livelihoods and human rights while targeting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Field of science