Admiring the view from a summit in the Jotunheimen mountains. Photo: Kim Abel,

Management of protected areas

The responsibility for managing Norway’s protected areas is shared between central and local authorities. The system and the roles of the different bodies are described below.

The Ministry of Climate and Environment, the Norwegian Environment Agency and the county governors are the central government bodies involved in the management of Norway’s protected areas. Until now, the county governors have been responsible for most of the large protected areas. Municipalities have been responsible for some protected areas, mainly nature reserves, but also protected landscapes and a few national parks. 

Management responsibilities delegated to local level

In July 2009, the Government decided to introduce a new management model for large protected areas. Management responsibilities are being delegated to local level, and new management bodies with representatives from all the relevant municipalities are being established. Each body will have a government-appointed member who will also function as the secretary. 

Strategic management plans

The Environment Agency or another administrative authority is responsible for drawing up management plans for protected areas. There are two types, strategic and operational management plans. A strategic management plan is more general. Using the protection regulations as a starting point, it describes management and conservation targets and sets out guidelines for use of the area, information, facilities for visitors and so on. The goal of a strategic management plan is to ensure that the conservation value of the area is maintained through consistent and predictable management. 

Management plans must not include any elements that are in conflict with the protection regulations. In some cases habitat management or restoration will be necessary to maintain the ecological or landscape qualities that were the reason for protecting the area. The protection regulations usually specifically authorise such work.

Operational management plans

An operational management plan focuses on the habitat management or restoration tools that are needed to achieve conservation targets, and how the work is to be organised. It may be drawn up separately or as part of a strategic management plan.

Habitat management (for example grazing, pollarding, mowing, tree clearance) is often essential in areas that have been protected to maintain semi-natural habitats. Cultural landscapes are the result of centuries of human activity, and are dependent on active management. In other protected areas, habitat management tools can generally only be applied in special cases where this is necessary to maintain the conservation value of the area.

It is important to take user interests (e.g. reindeer husbandry, farming, forestry, outdoor recreation) into account in developing management plans, as well as the conservation targets for the area.

Management tasks

The main tasks of the authorities responsible for managing protected areas are to ensure that the rules for each protected area are followed and to draw up management plans. Plans for national parks and large protected landscapes must be approved by the Environment Agency. The authorities are also responsible for reporting any breaches of the regulations to the police.

Other tasks include erecting and maintaining signs and waymarking; providing information; maintaining contact with landowners, rights-holders, users and relevant organisations; and reporting on management activities.

The authorities are also responsible for providing facilities for visitors. In practice, this is normally done by the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate, which is a separate unit within the Environment Agency.

The Norwegian Nature Inspectorate   

The Norwegian Nature Inspectorate is responsible for ensuring compliance with environmental legislation and providing advice and information. It may carry out these tasks itself or purchase services from others. Ensuring that the environmental legislation is obeyed in both privately- and publicly-owned areas in all parts of the country is a key task. The relevant acts are the Outdoor Recreation Act, the Nature Diversity Act, the Act relating to motor traffic on uncultivated land and in watercourses, the Cultural Heritage Act, the Wildlife Act, the Act relating to salmonids and freshwater fish and parts of the Pollution Control Act. The Inspectorate may also be charged with maintaining footpaths and bridges.

Providing information and advice is becoming an increasingly important part of the Inspectorate’s activities, and some protected areas are now permanently staffed.