Cultural heritage landscape and agriculture

The West Norwegian Fjords world heritage area includes rich and varied cultural landscapes. This landscape has to a large degree been shaped by agriculture, historically, and through activities in modern times. Many of the qualities of the experience are also associated with the cultural historical landscape.

West Norwegian Fjords have particularly dramatic and magnificent scenery. But it is primarily the interaction between the natural and the cultural historical landscape, the experience of the interaction between humans and nature in time and space that gives the landscape its special character and makes it so attractive and full of potential for experiences.

The rich and varied animal and plant life in the area find important habitats in hayfields, pastures and mountain farmsteads. Most of these localities are now undergoing change – reforestation and growth are the greatest threats to the world heritage area's important natural and cultural values.

Through world heritage status the cultural historical landscape has acquired very high societal value as national symbol and a beacon in the international marketing of Norway as a travel destination. At the same time the landowners and the farmers who own the cultural historical land in the world heritage area find that the private economic value of their land has been gradually reduced. Agriculture and animal husbandry is therefore on the retreat and central areas of the cultural and historical land are in the process of becoming reforested or overgrown. The measures we have at our disposal in agriculture, tourism, environment and culture are not sufficient to keep the landscape alive. It does not make economic sense for today's farmers to maintain small areas where the land is difficult to cultivate when greater efficiency is becoming more necessary. But in terms of experiential value and maintaining biological diversity these very fields have the highest value.

This was the context in which West Norwegian Fjords, working in the world heritage council, took up the challenge and prepared a plan of action for the cultural historical landscape in the world heritage area.

The plan of action has the overriding objective of safeguarding and developing the values of the unique cultural historical landscape in the world heritage area. If this is to succeed it is imperative that the farmers who maintain the cultural historical landscape in the area have an economic incentive to continue with farming and animal husbandry.

A plan of action was ordered by four ministries, and since 2008 funds have been allocated in the state budget for measures aimed at maintaining the cultural historical landscape in the West Norwegian Fjords. This mainly concerns subsidies for grazing and extra area, because the West Norwegian Fjords want a living cultural landscape with active farmers and animals grazing the pastures.