Promotion of transboundary nature protection and sustainable nature tourism

Full Solution
River Pasvik
Eija Ojanlatva

The project was carried out from 2006-2008 in the transboundary protected area called Pasvik-Inari Trilateral Park (Finland, Norway, Russia) that focused on promoting nature protection and sustainable nature tourism in the area by developing: 1) joint methods for nature monitoring; 2) joint guidelines for sustainable nature tourism; 3) joint action plan; and 4) EUROPARC transboundary park certification.

Last update: 05 Oct 2020
Défis à relever
Increasing temperatures
Shift of seasons
Invasive species
Well-structured information material is needed to guide visitors to places of interest, providing information aimed at deepening their understanding of the environment, while promoting nature protection. Another challenge is to establish a formal framework for transboundary management through a permanent network for cooperation between stakeholders and partner organisations.
Scale of implementation
Pool, lake, pond
River, stream
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Genetic diversity
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Sustainable financing
Protected and conserved areas governance
Local actors
Science and research
Pasvik naturreservat, Sor-Varanger, Norway
North Europe
Summary of the process
The main building blocks of the project interacted through the development of the action plan. Specifically, the joint guidelines for sustainable nature tourism (Building Block 1); joint research/monitoring methods and results (Building Block 2); and the required elements to apply for EUROPARC certification as a transboundary protected area (Building Block 4) were included as part of the action plan (Building Block 3). Furthermore, the action plan itself fulfilled one of the requirements for the EUROPARC certification. These building blocks therefore helped to enhance transboundary cooperation, which is expected to promote peace, nature conservation, and sustainable nature tourism in the transboundary area.
Building Blocks
Joint nature-focused research and monitoring
One aim of joint nature-focused research and monitoring (years 2007, 2011 and 2015) was to harmonize contrasting national methods. Harmonised methodology facilitates data exchange, management, and interpretation to inform park management strategies to protect these populations. The target species/groups included those that are of management concern in the parks: brown bear, Golden Eagle, waterfowl, butterflies, and ants. Brown bear is highlighted here as an important example. Bears affect livelihoods of reindeer herders, which are important stakeholders in the Pasvik-Inari area. Bears are hunted in all the three countries, and estimated bear population size is used when determining numbers of hunting licenses. Modern DNA-sampling methodologies give the best estimate of the number of bears in the cross-border bear population. Hair was collected for DNA-analysis using hair snagging stations scattered around the area. In addition, local residents, in particular hunters and co-workers in the field were encouraged to collect fecal samples. Results can be compared between years, as identical methodology is being used throughout.
Enabling factors
Cooperation with the parallel research project (run jointly by a Finnish university and government) on large carnivore DNA was important for information sharing. Expertise was also exchanged regarding waterfowl counts conducted along Pasvik River during summers of 2006 and 2007. Finnish experts could learn from Norwegian and Russian colleagues, who have long tradition in bilateral waterfowl monitoring. In addition, a Russian ant expert conducted an ant survey in all three countries.
Lesson learned
A participatory process to develop the bear DNA sampling and population estimation methodologies was key to ensuring that stakeholders would accept the population estimates as valid. Fieldwork methodology and laboratory analysis was discussed by several experts in a workshop, and multiple institutions helped with field testing. Before testing the method in Finland, a public information event was arranged in a local village. All interest groups (e.g. border authorities, reindeer herders, hunting associations and the local residents) were informed about the study. During a workshop with research institutions and environmental authorities dealing with nature monitoring, participants presented and discussed on-going research in each country and recent experiences with DNA-sampling, population estimation (population size and structure, calf mortality), bear hunting, and bear-human conflicts. The workshop resulted in a strong cooperation on brown bear research between the institutions.
Establishing transboundary guidelines for sustainable nature tourism
The aim of developing joint guidelines and working group for sustainable nature tourism is to protect natural diversity while allowing for recreational use of the protected areas. The Finnish coordinator began by collecting two sets of principles regarding sustainable nature tourism in Norway and Finland, i.e. the principles of Metsähallitus (Agency responsible for managing most protected areas in Finland) and the Sustainable Model of Arctic Regional Tourism (SMART). Joint guidelines combining these sets of principles were prepared, which incorporated input from entrepreneurs, nature tourism working group and the project Steering Committee. The guidelines were added to the Action Plan for nature protection and sustainable nature tourism in Pasvik-Inari Area, and they were published on the project web page.
Enabling factors
First there were good, existing national guidelines for sustainable nature tourism available in Norway and Finland, and there was agreement in all countries that sustainable nature tourism should be promoted in the Pasvik-Inari area. Second, acceptance of joint guidelines by local actors (entrepreneurs, stakeholders and nature-protection authorities) was gained through a sustainable nature tourism seminar. Third, funds for a translator were needed when local people attended the meetings.
Lesson learned
The guidelines have been used less than expected, and the focus is more on nature protection cooperation than promoting tourism. National guidelines for sustainable tourism in Finnish nature protection areas are renewed in 2016, and joint efforts toward nature protection and sustainable tourism should be reflected in the future Pasvik-Inari cooperation. During project implementation, the Russian border expanded and covered more area surrounding Pasvik State Nature Reserve. This reduced access for foreigners, tourism entrepreneurs, visitors, and Reserve staff. The international working group promoting nature tourism has not met since 2010. It proved to be difficult to get the entrepreneurs of small companies together. Pasvik-Inari area is remote and travel distances are long, while resources of the entrepreneurs and companies are scarce. It was decided that experts in the action plan working group are invited to the meetings when needed.
Transboundary action plan for nature protection & sustainable tourism
The aim of developing a transboundary action plan was to ensure the future of the cooperation among the five protected areas across international borders for continued nature protection and sustainable nature tourism. The plan is available in English, Finnish, and Russian, and is divided into two main parts. Part A describes characteristics of the area, including basic information about natural and cultural history, legislation, land use, and management of the areas. Basic information is useful for those curious about the transboundary area. Management plans, area plans, and regional plans are needed for coordinating nature protection and sustainable nature tourism between and within countries. Knowledge of international agreements, legislation, practices and planning in each area is also needed for transboundary cooperation. In part B, the 10-year vision describes the joint aims and strategies of the the cooperation. Mutual strategies include: cooperation, nature monitoring, dissemination of information and nature tourism. Finally concrete actions are suggested, and more concrete plans can be made to guide short-term planning. The plan was therefore considered as an advisory plan, focusing on common long-term guidance.
Enabling factors
Trilateral cooperation in Pasvik-Inari dates back to the 1990’s. During this time, managers of the nature protection areas signed a trilateral agreement for international cooperation, which enabled development of the action plan to implement the cooperation. Finnish and Norwegian managers of nature protection areas had schemes of their own, which were adjusted to the needs of transboundary cooperation. Creating the action plan was a prerequisite for actual transfer of funds for the project.
Lesson learned
Developing the action plan was done with a limited timetable and during a time when internet connections were not working in Russia and fax was the only way to share commented versions of the plan. Costs for translating the final plan in English to national languages (Russian, Norwegian and Finnish) were high, and there was plenty of proof-reading work for the project partners. These issues need to be considered when planning the budget of the project. The action plan has proven to be a very good tool for the cooperation. Pasvik-Inari Trilateral Park has an action plan working group, which coordinates the implementing of the individual actions. The action plan provides useful list of possible activities, from which individual activities can be implemented when external project funding becomes available. Updating of the current action plan begins in 2017, so that in year 2018 when the current action plan is expiring the updated one will be ready for implementation.
Certification as a transboundary protected area
Pasvik-Inari Trilateral Park received EUROPARC certification as a transboundary (TB) area in 2008 and was renewed in 2013. Aims of the certification are to 1) identify priorities for future transboundary work, and 2) raise the national and international profile of the parks and TB area as a whole. Application requirements include a joint long-term vision and guiding rules for future cooperation along with an action plan (see Building Block 3), which are essential for the continued transboundary cooperation. Initial suggestions for the vision and guiding rules were circulated among working group members before the Steering Committee agreed on the final vision: “Pasvik-Inari Trilateral Park is an internationally recognised sustainable nature tourism destination known for its wilderness characteristics and natural, cultural and historical values. Promotion of nature conservation and sustainable nature tourism preserves the core values and contributes to the sound development of the area.” Bilateral and multilateral agreements between Finland, Norway and Russia were also needed for TB certification, which incorporated input from all three countries and were prepared in Finnish and translated to English then to Norweigian and Russian.
Enabling factors
Finnish partner Metsähallitus had previously been certified as a nature protection area and had good experience with that certification procedure. The Finnish-Russian Oulanka-Paanajärvi National Park obtained the EUROPARC certificate in 2005, and Finnish staff were in contact with this national park to clarify official procedures for obtaining TB park certification. Russian partners worked intensively with the environmental ministry of Russia to justify the certification and its benefits.
Lesson learned
Coordination of collecting the required materials from each partners in three countries was helpful for completing the certification process. Furthermore, the application was completed with the help of a translator during a trilateral meeting. A well-planned timetable is needed in addition to communication with the certifying organisation while completing the application. The application form itself was easy to complete. EUROPARC’s transboundary certification programme has been a good tool for transboundary cooperation, which has been supported by all local partners. Certification and re-certification processes lead to agreed-upon assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of the cooperation compared to other transboundary protected areas. It has also motivated participation in annual meetings of European transboundary parks, where many topics involving transboundary cooperation are shared and discussed.

Joint brown bear monitoring became a success story. The monitoring results are needed for managing the bear population, and results are of interest to local people. Information about monitoring of waterfowl and results were shared between three countries– even though the method was not harmonised in three countries. There were recreational and health benefits to local people and visitors through new hiking trails, and increased knowledge through educational and information materials. Effort was made to serve the local people well: information was provided in national languages and in English, and materials were produced especially for school children. The established nature tourism working group increased information exchange and networking among tourism entrepreneurs. Dissemination of information was built in all the activities in the project. There was increased knowledge about international cooperation in nature conservation and nature-based tourism among the target groups. During the implementation of the project, ideas for addressing both cultural and natural heritage together. Later, a project called ABCGheritage – Arctic Biological, Cultural and Geological heritage was implemented in years 2012‒2015.

Local tourist entrepreneurs specialized in nature tourism, local inhabitants and tourists, municipalities of the project area, environmental authorities, researchers in three countries, managers of nature protection areas.
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions
It was a misty morning in the autumn, when two Finnish members of the project team drove along the Pasvik river valley south via villages of Svanvik and Skogfoss in Norway. Just to the south of the Skogfoss power plant the boat was pushed to the water, and we travelled along Russian side and observe the beautiful Pasvik Nature reserve. Our Russian colleagues and border guards joined us and together the boats were flowing with the current. On this specific day, the strict border zone between Russia and Norway was open for the scientists to register waterfowl on River Pasvik. It turned out that the driver of our boat spoke Finnish as his ancestors were Finnish, who had moved to Norway. At the end of the day it was time to sit down together on Varlam Island, Russia and put the observations together. The discussion flowed like the river – from the archaeological observations to the recent history of the Varlam Island, which has had Russian, Norwegian and Finnish inhabitants in its past. Ideas about project combining natural and cultural heritage evolved there on that day, and implementation started six years later. Bear feces in a pouch in a freezer – an important symbol of transboundary nature conservation! The noninvasive method for brown bear monitoring was used in all the three countries for the first time during the project implementation. Brisk walks in the wilderness in order to collect possible feces and especially to collect hair from a hair-snare surrounding a scent lure stay in the memories of all participants involved. The samples were then brought to Norway for DNA analysis. Field work for collecting data and get-togethers with the colleagues as well as moments spent in nature were the most important motivators for the transboundary cooperation. There are many long hours of lonesome office work containing writing, translating, counting, filling spreadsheets and so forth -- the balance from nature was needed for fruitful and lively cooperation.
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Other contributors
Eija Ojanlatva, solution owner
Sámi Museum Siida, Inari Finland
Natalia Polikarpova, solution co-owner
Pasvik State Nature Reserve, Rajakoski, Murmansk Oblast, Russia
Tiia Kalske, solution co-owner
Office of the Finnmark County Governor, Norway
Brady Mattsson, solution coauthor
Institute of Silviculture, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna Austria
Riina Tervo
Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland, Inari, Finland