Chris Short talks about management of commonland at meeting in Norway

Chris Short at the meeting of the FAO-CIHEAM Mountain Pasture Network in Norway

Chris Short was invited to speak at the 20th meeting of the FAO-CIHEAM Mountain Pasture Network, which was organised by the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO)).

The meeting was held in Ballstad in the south of the Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway. Chris’s talk focused on the self-governance and management of common land in England and in particular focused on a new Heritage Lottery Funded project ‘Our Common Cause’ that is being led by the Foundation for Common Land but brings together 23 organisations actively involved in the management of common land in 4 areas of England (The Lake District, Dartmoor, the Shropshire Hills and the Yorkshire Dales).

The presentation, ‘Our common cause: Our Upland Commons – taking a multi-partner collaborative approach to resolving challenges on upland commons in England’, was prepared with the Chief Executive of FCL, Dr Julia Aglionby, and is available on the CCRI slideshare account. There was considerable interest in the localised approach of self-governance outlined in the paper as Norway is exploring ways in which it can tackle a number of pressing issues on areas of common land across the country. Much of the common land in Norway is state-owned land, but dependent on being grazed by local graziers and the management of local herds of reindeer by local rights holders.

After the conference Chris held a series of meetings and site visits with Bjørn Egil Flo, the project leader in NIBIO for a new project FUTGRAZE. This 3 year project, which is funded by the Norwegian Government, will investigate how the local common land associations are adapting to environmental, political and economic changes and why it seems that some are more able to adapt and avoid conflict than others. The CCRI will be working with the project team and discussing how similar issues are dealt with in England and Wales. The plan is for a group of Norwegian researchers and stakeholders to visit the UK in May 2019. The key staff involved within the CCRI will be Chris Short and John Powell, current President of the IASC.

Norwegian commons and mountains

During the meetings with Bjorn and the other project partners, Chris visited commons in the mountains around Alvdal, near Trondheim in central Norway. Here Chris stayed with Orla and Valberg, who farm together with Orla’s father on the edge of Alvdal. The farm, at about 500m above sea level, is based in the fertile valley floor and grows a range of arable crops. The farm has been in the family since 1600 and an important part is the summer grazing in the mountains close to Storsølnkletten, the highest mountain in central Norway at 1,827m. Here, at the top of the treeline, Orla’s sheep are released to graze from May to September in the natural pastures and lichen-covered slopes. The land is under shared ownership with over 20 other farmers and covers thousands of hectares. They meet regularly to discuss the management, with the numbers of sheep managed to suit the sensitive landscape and the amount of housing back on the home farm. While the sheep are on the mountain, the fodder is cut and stored on the home farm, which is the same as the traditional approach in the UK.

Having met the farming partners, the final stop on Chris’ stay in Norway was on Friday 14th September when he was asked to present a lunchtime seminar as part of the Faculty of Law, University of Oslo series. The presentation ‘Upland Commons in England: taking a multi-partner collaborative approach to resolving challenges’ outlined common land in the UK and considered the current threats to commons and commoners.


The Northern lights in Norway (aurora borealis)