Näätämö River restoration project receives major new support, Finland

YLNM members the Snowchange Cooperative are working to revive water systems across Finland, including those damaged by mining. Their work alongside the Skolt Sámi People to restore Finland’s Näätämö River using indigenous knowledge and western science has received major new support.

Originally published by Snowchange Cooperative. 25/02/2018

Unique climate change work bringing together traditional knowledge and science to restore the Näätämö River watershed in northern Finland has received significant new support from the Kone Foundation.

(Skolt Sámi fisherman on Näätämö, 2014. Photo: Snowchange Cooperative)

Kone has provided a grant of approximately 680.000 euros, a major part of the which will support ecological restoration work, led by the Skolt Sámi People and the Snowchange Cooperative, along the Näätämö River from 2018-2019. This forms part of a larger initiative/grant to support Sámi communities in the region.

Co-management efforts in the Näätämö/Neiden watershed started in 2011, when the Indigenous Skolt Sámi and Snowchange Co-op initiated research and actions to combat the negative impacts of climate change. A central concern for the Indigenous Sámi was the fate and survival of Atlantic salmon in the context of drastic changes underway in the wider Arctic, and their local impacts.

Between 2011-2017, baselines of change, community-based monitoring and scientific analysis led to a realisation that the restoration of altered sub-catchment areas and ‘lost’ spawning sites would provide a central answer to mitigating the impacts of climactic changes. The Sámi felt that by providing safe havens and renewed space and sites for the salmon, trout, grayling and other cold water fish across the catchment area, they would have a better chance of adapting positively to climate-related shifts in the river system.

In summer 2017 the very first ecological restoration led both by Sámi indigenous knowledge and science took place. The spawning areas of Kirakkakoski rapids as well as the Vainosjoki altered stream were partly restored. In October 2017 community-based monitoring reported that trout had returned to spawn at restored sites on Kirakkakoski rapids.

The Näätämö Co-Management Project has also gained significant international and scholarly attention. It has been featured in the Arctic Resilience Report, Science journal, Biological Reviews as well as media sources such as National Geographic and Take Part. A central feature of these news stories and scientific articles has been the fact that Sámi themselves are taking meaningful action on climate change using their own knowledge, as well as science, with concrete results.

The Näätämö work has provided a new analytical window through which to view and respond to Northern climate change – by addressing the damages of the past century the future decades will be more resilient, both for the people and for the ecosystems of the Arctic.

As before, the new phase of the Näätämö Project will be led by Skolt Sámi Pauliina Feodoroff, whilst the Snowchange Co-op is responsible for the scientific and ecological restoration aspects of the work.

New support from the Kone Foundation will enable:

  • Restoration of all of Vainosjoki river area (which has been heavily altered) using renewed spawning areas and juvenile trout and grayling habitats;
  • Start of the restoration of the altered Kuosnijoki sub-catchment area;
  • Start of the restoration of the altered Lake Sevettijärvi, a central water body for the village of Sevettijärvi, the home area of the Skolt Sámi;
  • Expansion of Sámi and scientific monitoring regarding the health and status of the Näätämö river;
  • Development of Indigenous-led “Living Maps” of past land uses and traditional culture;
  • a Documentary film;
  • Several regional workshops and conferences, including the Festival of Northern Fishing Traditions in Torneå, Finland, September 2018;
  • Local employment of the Skolt Sámi in actual restoration projects, contributing to self-esteem, Indigenous pride, empowerment of women and support for the Skolt Sámi language and ways of life;
  • Producing a global model of Indigenous-led actions that can address climate change in reality and on the ground, led by the people for the people.


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