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The United States Should Adopt The Allemannsretten

We strive to work together to protect public lands and fight for the well-being of our future generations so they, too, may be able to experience these landscapes. But what if I told you we haven’t been given access to over half of what’s really out there?

Originally posted on out-spiration.com

Freedom to Roam

Ahhh, the exhilarating feeling of open fields and rushing waters; the golden aspens glimmering in the wind; those pristine mountains capped in snow; the freedom to roam. Here in the United States we pride ourselves on our park systems and public lands. We strive to work together to protect these lands and fight for the well-being of our future generations so they, too, may be able to experience these landscapes. But what if I told you we haven’t been given access to over half of what’s really out there? Areas are marked off for agricultural purposes, some are used for drilling and mining purposes, and others still are marked off by privatization. Our efforts, as willing as they may be, have not seemed to be enough to strike out against these constraints. That is why the United States should adopt The Allemannsretten- the freedom to roam.  

What is The Allemannsretten?

In 1957, Norway established their Outdoor Recreation Act which enacted The Allemannsretten; the Right of Public Access. This right enables all Norwegian citizens (and visitors) to freely explore the country and experience nature. The rules are fairly simple; be considerate, do no harm to the environments/surrounding areas in which you are traveling, and leave no trace so other visitors may experience nature, uninterrupted. All areas within the country are able to be explored and can be defined by being either infield or outfield locations. Infield areas consist of courtyards, gardens and anything that would be a nuisance for the owner of the land. On the other hand, outfield areas are defined as forests, mountains, rivers, etc. that are not owned by anyone. Even though these areas are open to anyone there are specific rules and recommendations when utilizing this right of access.

All areas are able to be explored. Whether it be walking, biking, camping, skiing, etc. there are notable recommendations about how to respectfully tour these landscapes. 

Walking: Users can walk freely wherever they want in the outfield, as long as they are doing so in a considerate manner. In infields, it is recommended to walk on roads and paths, as long as you keep a fair distance from houses, gardens, etc. As always, the duty to travel without a trace and not do unnecessary damage applies. 

Biking: Cyclists are able to ride freely as much as they would like, both on paths and roads in the open country. Users are also able to cycle off paths and roads above treeline in open spaces. 

Camping: As long as users are not disturbing the peace of residents, camping is allowed in the open without the landowner’s consent. All tents and hammocks must be set up at least 150 meters from inhabited houses and are able to stay there for a maximum of two days, unless approved by the landowner. If setting up camp in an uninhabited area (i.e. high mountains), the two day limit does not apply.

Skiing: Traveling “on foot” via skis is very common in this region. Year round travel, as long as it is done in a considerate manner, is suitable on skis when land is frozen or snow-covered. 

Foraging for food while traversing these areas, swimming and paddling on rivers and lakes, and an abundance of other activities are all covered under The Allemannsretten. This right provides access to all citizens and visitors and enables them to fully explore Norway’s great outdoors. 

Why We Need The Allemannsretten in the United States

Now, more than ever, the people of the United States need The Allemannsretten. Our current pandemic and social injustice are affecting all of us and creating unsettled temperaments. The outdoors can be a temporary salve for these issues. Vitamin N (Nature) has proven health benefits. When spending time outside in nature, participants report improved moods, reduced stress, increased energy levels, and several other benefits. Opening up our country and enabling its inhabitants to roam freely would greatly impact us in a positive way.

Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow and the senior director of Environmental Strategy and Communications at the Center for American Progress, writes about the need to keep nature in his report on current nature loss rates in America. It is clearly identified throughout his report that “only a modest proportion of America’s remaining natural places have been protected”. In a 2018 Center of American Progress (CAP) study, it was found that only 12% of the United States land area has been conserved. We can thank President Theodore Roosevelt for starting this movement back in the 19th Century; but this is the 21st Century. Almost two whole centuries have passed and less than 15% of our country’s natural lands have been saved for public use. If this doesn’t upset you, it should. 

The same report speaks on the urgency and clarity of the CAP Public Lands Team’s 30X30 goal. The 30X30 plan refers to conserving 30% of America’s lands by 2030. The pursuit of this goal is highly focused on areas of the country with high biodiversity. It also strives to protect and restore “places that matter most to the livelihoods, well-being, identities, and health of all peoples, including communities of color, economically disadvantaged communities, and tribal communities”. 30X30 targets accessibility as well. It identifies the need for nature to “become more accessible to all people, more reflective of the experiences, cultures, and histories of traditionally underrepresented communities” and it also focuses on providing cleaner air and water to those burdened with pollution. Overall, our natural lands need to be conserved and shared equally among the nation so we can all gain from Vitamin N. 

Conclusion

Our forefathers saw the beauty of America’s natural lands and set them aside for future generations. On the other hand, land has come and gone with differing parties and differing ideologies. More recently, we have seen a decline in respect for these areas and have instead, seen them stripped of their glory and resources. This is why America needs to adopt The Allemannsretten- to save our natural lands. The freedom to roam would (hopefully) end mistreatment and open the country up to everyone. In doing so, citizens and visitors would be able to explore these landscapes and connect with them- emotionally tying users to these lands and instilling a sense of place attachment within them. 

References

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2019/08/06/473242/much-nature-america-keep/

https://norskfriluftsliv.no/hva-er-allemannsretten/

https://www.visitnorway.com/plan-your-trip/travel-tips-a-z/right-of-access/

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!