STF applies for a new land lease agreement in Jämtland/Härjedalen

Svenska Turistföreningen (STF), the Swedish Tourist Association, is now applying for a new land lease agreement in the western Jämtland mountains and parts of Härjedalen. STF will continue to offer sleeping accommodations, self-catering facilities, and shops for mountain hikers and skiers, but there will be changes in the food offerings, a reduction in the number of beds, adjustments to opening hours, and discontinuation of one mountain hut. These changes are being implemented to reduce disturbance to the reindeer and to contribute to sustainable development of the area while still making nature experiences accessible.

STF, an association with 228,000 members, aims to promote and be pioneers when it comes to sustainable tourism and outdoor activities. STF built the first mountain cabin in the Jämtland mountains over 130 years ago, and now we are taking responsibility by stepping back to enable sustainable outdoor activities for at least another 130 years.

By taking responsibility and adapting our operations, we want to secure access to the mountains for outdoor enthusiasts in a sustainable way in the long term. In collaboration with affected “samebyar”, the sami reindeer-herding and economic districs, STF is now submitting a new application to the County Administrative Board of Jämtland County for land leases for STF’s self-operated mountain stations and cabins in Jämtland and parts of Härjedalen. The application for the two cabins in the Rogen area of Härjedalen will be submitted separately later this autumn.

In Jämtland, the situation is unique and cannot be compared to the rest of the mountain chain. It is a network of trails crisscrossing the mountains, making it difficult for reindeer to find grazing and calving areas. In this area alone, there are no less than four of STFs total eight self-operated mountain stations, all of which are located within the reindeer grazing area of a single “sameby”. STF was allowed to build mountain cabins and stations in the area in the past to enable mobile outdoor activities. Now, we are taking a step back from recent years’ developments and focusing on the specific mission outlined in the law.

Historically, STF has unfortunately been lacking in the necessary dialogues for respect and cooperation. We have not been attentive enough to the situation of reindeer husbandry, but the dialogue we have initiated is something we look forward to continuing. Through the changes we are making, we want to create conditions for good cooperation in the mountains. These are measures that we believe can contribute to reduced disturbance and sustainable development for the mountain environment, especially by reducing pressure on specific locations and minimizing transportation.

STF is now applying for a new land lease agreement for Jämtland and parts of Härjedalen, which is proposed to take effect on January 1, 2024. The cabins Skedbro and Rogen are not included in this application. The changes in the application compared to the current agreement are as follows:

  • The opening hours at STFs mountain stations and cabins in Jämtland and Härjedalen are being changed to reduce disturbance during particularly sensitive periods, such as calving. The mountain stations and cabins in Jämtland and Härjedalen located in areas without accessible roads (Sylarna, Blåhammaren, Helags, Vålåstugan, Stensdalen, Anaris, Lunndörren, and Fältjägaren) will remain open during the winter from mid-February as before but will close when the snowmobile ban comes into effect at the end of April (currently April 19) and will reopen in the summer on July 1, with the exception of STF Sylarna Fjällstation, which will open on July 15 and remain open until the end of October, as it does today.
  • STF Gåsen Fjällstuga will be closed to create a larger area around Bunnerfjällen where reindeer, especially their calves, can have peace. This will mean fewer people moving in this area, resulting in less wear and less disturbance. One of the buildings at the cabin site will be transferred to Handölsdalens “sameby”. We are doing this to avoid demolishing the building and incurring significant costs. Demolishing a functional building is also not sustainable when it can serve another purpose. The fate of the other buildings will be discussed with the County Administrative Board. It will also be the responsibility of the County Administrative Board to ensure mountain safety in this area.
  • At STF Blåhammaren Fjällstation, we are closing the restaurant and reducing the number of beds to a total of 30 (equivalent to a halving). The shop with basic groceries and the self-catering kitchen will remain, allowing hikers to continue trekking the Jämtland Triangle with lighter packs as they can buy and prepare food on-site. By closing the restaurant, we reduce the need for transportation, and we believe there will be fewer campers/day visitors in this area if the restaurant is not available.
  • At STF Sylarna Fjällstation, the number of beds is reduced by 25%, and the restaurant will be closed by 2028. Self-catering facilities and a shop will remain, allowing hikers to continue trekking the Jämtland Triangle with lighter packs as they can buy and prepare food on-site. However, this reduces the need for transportation, and we believe there will be fewer campers/day visitors if the same restaurant offerings are not available.
  • At STF Helags Fjällstation, the restaurant will close by 2028. Self-catering facilities and a shop will remain, meaning visitors can still purchase provisions and prepare their own meals on-site. This reduces the need for transportation, and we believe there will be fewer campers/day visitors if the same restaurant offerings are not available.

As a nonprofit organization, we want to clearly demonstrate our values and let our values-driven compass guide us. In 2022, STFs national meeting made decisions to change the association’s purpose clause and establish a visionary goal for 2030. It states that we should be leaders in the sustainable transformation of both tourism and outdoor activities.

STF does not have control over all the factors that contribute to reindeer disturbance, but regardless of what others do or do not do, we, as an organization, will work with what we have control over.

From dialogue to application

The current land lease agreement expires on December 31, 2023. Because of this, STF and the four affected “samebyar”- Handölsdalen, Tåssåsen, Mittådalen, and Ruvhten sijte – have engaged in a dialogue about how the new contract terms can be designed to reduce disturbance to the reindeer during the past two years.

STFs board, elected by the members, has played a significant role throughout the process. They have appointed a strategic group to outline the framework for dialogue and negotiations, discussed the matter at every board meeting, appointed an operational working group with representatives from the board and individuals with local knowledge. The group has been led by STFs Secretary-General Maria Ros-Hjelm, and they have engaged in personal dialogues and multiple meetings with the Sami communities with the goal of finding a solution that contributes to the sustainable development of a highly valued but also sensitive nature and cultural environment.

Regarding the land lease for the Skedbro and Rogen cabins in southern Härjedalen, an application will be submitted later in the autumn. The exact form of this application is currently undecided. The “sameby” that has its reindeer grazing in the Rogen area, Ruvhten sijte, is in an extremely vulnerable situation, having lost grazing land both in Norway and in areas of Härjedalen, and they are also subjected to fines each time their reindeer enter their former grazing areas.

STFs land leases on state-owned land in western Jämtland mountains and Härjedalen

The current land lease expires at the turn of 2023/2024. The lease agreement includes the mountain stations Blåhammaren, Sylarna, and Helags, but not Storulvån, where STF owns the land. Additionally, the following mountain cabins are covered: Gåsen, Vålåstugan, Stensdalen, Anaris, Lunndörren, Fältjägaren, Skedbro, and Rogen.

STFs mountain cabins and stations exist to enable mobile outdoor activities in the area and contribute to mountain safety. It will continue to be possible to purchase provisions in the shops and prepare meals in the self-catering facilities.

The number of guest nights in STFs self-operated accommodations in Jämtland/Härjedalen mountains is approximately 50,000 per year.

The land lease is granted by the County Administrative Board, but according to the Reindeer Husbandry Act, it can only be granted if it does not lead to “significant inconvenience” for reindeer husbandry. In the current mountain area, construction and facilities can only be established under the Environmental Code if they are necessary for reindeer husbandry, the permanent population, scientific research, or mobile outdoor activities.

When a new application is submitted, the County Administrative Board makes the decision. The decision-making process includes formal consultations with the “samebyar”. The County Administrative Board also owns and manages the state-owned hiking trails in the area.

Large parts of the area lack formal protection in the form of nature reserves or national parks, making it more challenging for the County Administrative Board to regulate human movement in the area. Vålådalens Nature Reserve includes some of STFs mountain cabins, and new reserve regulations have been developed by the County Administrative Board.

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