Oslo revives plan for local national park

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The City of Oslo’s ambitious new top politician in charge of ttransportation and the environment is reviving plans to turn part of the city’s eastern forestland into a new national park. Lan Marie Nguyen Berg from the Greens Party thinks it’s important to protect the area from any further encroachment.

Østmarka is part of Oslo but contains wilderness areas and nature preserves, some of which are in the running to become a national park. Skiers now may need to be on the lookout for wolves. PHOTO: Morten Møst

Much of Østmarka lies within the city limits of Oslo, but the forests and hills still contain wilderness areas and nature preserves, some of which are in the running to become a national park. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“We have preserved lots of mountains and plateaus, but very little forest,” Berg told newspaper Dagsavisen. She’s delighted that the Parliament appears keen to set up new national parks in both Rogaland County on the west coast and in the eastern Oslo forest known as Østmarka.

“The city government clearly supports that,” Berg added. “Østmarka is one of the last opportunities we have to protect relatively untouched, contiguous forest area in southeastern Norway.”

Resistance from neighbouring municipalities stalled plans by the former Conservatives-led government to establish a national park in Østmarka. Now Berg is ready to invite her counterparts in the local governments of Rælingen, Lørenskog, Ski and Enebakk to new talks on the prospect.

Invitations going out
“We will invite all the mayors to a meeting to discuss the issue,” Berg told Dagsavisen. She said it was important for Oslo to “take responsibility” and lead the way: “We hope it will be possible to reach broad local agreement among the municipalities involved to secure protection of Østmarka for the future.”

Some political changes following last fall’s municipal elections may make it easier to come to terms. In Ski, on the southern side of Østmarka, Tuva Moflag has taken over as mayor from the Labour Party, which supports the prospect of new national parks at the national level. Both Berg’s own Greens Party and the Reds have also won seats on the local Ski city council.

“Personally, I’m positive to having the issue come up for new discussion,” Moflag told Dagsavisen, but couldn’t make any guarantees.

Power shifts
In Rælingen, there’s also been a change of power, with the Greens and Reds having more say. The mayor of Enebakk, where there’s been strong opposition to the recent re-establishment of wolves in Østmarka, was also open for new talks but said he didn’t think the local council’s skepticism had changed Lørenskog’s mayor noted that since only a small portion of the proposed park area lies with her municipality, it shouldn’t sway any decision.

“The area is an important recreation site for Lørenskog’s residents,” Mayor Ragnhild Bergheim told Dagsavisen, “but the municipalities with larger areas involved should put forth their viewpoints.”

Norway currently has 44 national parks that effectively turn the areas within park boundaries into wilderness preserves. Most of the parks lie, as Berg stated, in the mountains or along the coast.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund