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Outdoor Recreation: Right of Access
State of the Environment Norway
Filed 17 Jan 04
1. State: What does the right of access mean
2. Pressure: Threats to the right of access
3. Response: Efforts to safeguard the right
Everyone in Norway has a right of access to and
passage through uncultivated land in the countryside, regardless
of who owns it. This is of course of fundamental importance for
traditional types of outdoor activities. It gives everyone the right
to walk in the mountains and forests, go skiing in winter, and cycle,
toboggan and ride on paths and tracks.
The right of access to uncultivated land is set
out in the Outdoor Recreation Act, and is based on respect for the
environment, landowners and other users. The right of free access
and passage applies to uncultivated land, but also to cultivated
land when it is frozen and snow-covered. Uncultivated land includes
most areas of water, beach, bog, forest and mountain in Norway.
Cultivated land includes fields of crops, hay meadows, cultivated
pasture, gardens and young plantations. It also includes farmyards,
plots around houses and cabins, and industrial areas. The right
of access does not apply if you are using a motor vehicle.
What does the right of access mean in practice?
On uncultivated land, you may go anywhere you
like on foot or on skis and picnic wherever you want. You may also
put up a tent for the night - or sleep under the stars - but you
must keep at least 150 m away from the nearest house or cabin. If
you want to stay for more than two nights in the same place, you
must ask the landowner's permission, except in the mountains or
very remote areas.
The right of access also involves responsibilities.
You must show consideration and care, so that you do not cause any
damage or inconvenience to the landowner or other users. You must
also respect the countryside: make sure you take everything with
you, including your rubbish, and never leave an unsightly camp site
behind you. Open fires are not permitted in or near forested areas
in the period 15 April to 15 September, and we ask you to respect
this. Take care not to cause any damage if you light a fire at other
times of year. In general, you may pick berries, mushrooms and flowers,
but special rules apply to cloudberries in the three northernmost
counties. Wherever you go, act considerately and do not damage or
disturb livestock, the environment or wildlife unnecessarily.
In 1995, a survey of how much Norwegians know
about the right of access to the countryside found large difference
between age groups. Among older adults (40 - 64 years) 75 per cent
answered that they knew something about their rights and responsibilities.
In the age group 15 - 24 years, the figure was only 40 per cent.
Threats to the right of access
Public access to the countryside is being threatened
by commercial developments and privatisation. In some places, fences
and other barriers are put up even where they are not permitted
under the Outdoor Recreation Act. Piecemeal developments along the
coast, particularly in the Oslofjord and in popular areas of Southern
Norway have gradually reduced public access to the shoreline. As
a general rule, building and partitioning of property is prohibited
in the 100 m zone closest to the sea, but local authorities have
made liberal use of opportunities to grant exemptions from this
rule in many areas. Permanent housing and holiday cabins have been
built along more and more stretches of the coast that were once
attractive recreation areas.
With so much building and development along the
shoreline, long stretches of shore and beach have become private.
This type of privatisation in this way may be legal in some cases,
but in many others it is not. Privatisation is generally illegal
if the main aim is to keep the public away from areas where they
have a legal right to access or passage.
Efforts to safeguard the right of access
The Government will intensify its efforts to safeguard
the right of access to the coast and beaches. These include setting
aside areas for outdoor recreation areas and coastal parks, either
by means of public funding or through agreements between the authorities
and landowners. Local authorities will receive a circular asking
them to follow a more restrictive practice when they receive applications
for exemptions from the prohibition against building less than 100
m from the shoreline. The Government also proposes to extend the
scope of the National Policy Guidelines for planning in coastal
and marine areas of the Oslofjord region, so that they cover the
coastline all the way round to Rogaland county. National policy
guidelines may also be drawn up for other important stretches of
Local authorities can suspend ongoing construction
in violation of the Outdoor Recreation Act, § 13. Structures,
barriers or other installations that have been partly or wholly
erected in contravention of prohibitions or orders issued in or
pursuant to the Outdoor Recreation Act, can be removed at the expense
of the person responsible (§ 40).