Russian Nature reserve demands NOK 47 million for Norwegian reindeer grazing on its territory
The Pasvik Nature Reserve in the Murmansk region demands 47 million Norwegian kroner (€4,2 million) as compensation for the 40 deer from Norway staying on its territory for two months. According to Russian experts, the animals have caused damage to nature, and recovery will take years.
The reindeer from Norway came to the reserve in December 2022 after crossing the border on the frozen Pasvik River. The animals were spotted by camera traps, Natalia Polikarpova, director of the reserve, told The Barents Observer. Two months later, at the beginning of 2023, the reindeer were transferred back to Norway. Also, according to iFinnmark, some of the animals had been in Russia since 2019, but because of the pandemic and geopolitical circumstances they were returned just recently.
Natalya Polikarpova says that the damage caused by reindeer was calculated using two methods. The first count showed damage of NOK50,000 (€4,460).
“However, this calculation is based on the old scheme, which was used several years ago. In a letter to the department of reindeer husbandry of Troms and Finnmark county, we indicate that it is no longer relevant due to many years of inflation, and the last time such a calculation was recognized by Norway was in 2007,” Polikarpova said.
The second calculation was made using a new method which was developed “based on the experience of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
“We took into account the compensation guidelines that are currently used between Norway and Finland, as well as between Russia and Finland,” the director of the reserve said.
According to the second calculation method, the Norwegian reindeer caused RUR340m worth of damage to the Russian reserve, which translates into NOK47m at the then exchange rate.
Polikarpova explains what exactly the animals did for such an amount.
“The ground vegetation cover in the form of lichens and shrubs was eaten away. There was also trampling by hooves, which leads to degradation of the vegetation cover in the reserve. This further affects the increase in soil erosion. That is, we are losing a component of the ecosystem which will take years to restore. And we didn’t even apply the Red Book factor; if we do the amount will be multiplied by five,” she said.
The expert emphasizes that this was not a natural migration of wild animals: these were domestic reindeer owned by reindeer herders.
According to Polikarpova, Norway was aware of possible consequences of such a violation: the “MFA” calculation method was presented to them back in 2015. In parallel, the management of the reserve pointed to the need of building a fence and driving the animals away from the Russian border.
“This is arrogance and disrespect for nature conservation, which Norway claims to adhere to, and disrespect for the interests of another country,” Polikarpova sums up.
The claim was sent to the Department of Reindeer Husbandry at the end of June. Polikarpova says they haven’t heard from Norwegian officials yet. She does not rule out taking “action through intergovernmental contacts” or going to court.
The amount Russia requests for the Norwegian reindeer’s two months of grazing is enormous. Acting director of reindeer husbandry Torhild Gjølme says they have “not seen” such numbers before. According to iFinnmark, the Agricultural Department has not yet taken a stance on Russia’s claims.
The Barents Observer has tried to compare the stated claims with the compensations that the Russian state has demanded for environmental damage, for example from oil companies. In 2020, a leak from an oil pipeline in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug left traces of oil along a 40-kilometer stretch of the Kolva River. Damage to nature was estimated at 25 million rubles. In 2021, a similar accident occurred in the Komi Republic: about 100 tons of oil spilled onto the ground from a ruptured pipeline with some ending up in the same Kolva River. Lukoil-Komi paid more than half a billion rubles for the leak. This amount is comparable to what the Pasvik Nature Reserve intends to get after a two-month “visit” of forty Norwegian reindeer: NOK47m equalled approximately RUR420m at the time of writing.