Case Study by: Austin Perez
Norway’s capital city, Oslo, is a beautiful and modern European metropolis that is often distinguished for its world-renowned museums and galleries and for being one of the most affluent cities in all of Europe. Oslo is the most populous city in Norway and the third largest city in Scandinavia with over 600,000 residents living within the municipality and over 1.4 million people residing in the metropolitan area. Oslo is also the economic and governmental center of Norway, and it is an important hub for maritime industries and trade throughout Europe. However, in addition to being a contemporary metropolis and flourishing European capital, Oslo has also made an extraordinary commitment to preserving its areas of wild nature. Approximately two-thirds (307 km2) of Oslo’s total land area (454 km2) is covered by protected forest areas, hills, and waterways, and the City Government for the City of Oslo has enacted very ambitious environmental policies that demonstrate its commitment to ensuring that these areas of wild nature are preserved. Oslo has epitomized the vision of Nature Needs Half by creating an environmental policy that strives to conserve and strengthen the ecosystems and wild nature that exist within its urban environment.
Oslo has a gorgeously unique geographic location, as it occupies a piece of land at the tip of a fjord that extends right into the heart of the city. Eight beautiful rivers run from the fjord into the belt of forests and lakes that surround the city. The central third of the municipality’s land area consists of the built-up infrastructure of the city that contains almost all of the residential, governmental, and industrial developments of Oslo. Even within the built-up inner third of the city, 19% of this area consists of green areas that are open to the public, and about 95% of all Oslo citizens have access to a green space within 300 meters of their home. The outer two-thirds of the city’s land area is entirely covered by the forests, hills, and lakes known as the Marka, and these areas of wild nature contain an incredible amount of biological diversity for an ecosystem that is located in such close proximity to a major metropolis.
The biological diversity of species that reside in Oslo encompasses about two-thirds of all of the species that are found in Norway. Thirty-eight land mammals, 130 species of nesting birds, five species of amphibians, and four reptile species have all been documented as to having been spotted within the city limits. There are estimated to be about 400-600 Eurasian elks (Alces alces, known in North America as moose) and about 30-40 lynxes that have established themselves within the forests of Oslo. Wolves have also been found to be living in Østmarka forest and the other forests surrounding Oslo, and a few wolves have even been spotted within Oslo’s residential areas.
Despite persistent pressure to increase development and to exploit its forest and water resources, the City Government for the City of Oslo has made a tremendous commitment to protect its wild nature through its environmental policies. In 2003, the City Government for the City of Oslo adopted a new set of environmental policies that place a significant emphasis on preserving the areas of wild nature consisting of the forests and waterways that surround Oslo’s developed city center that they describe as Oslo’s “blue-green structure”.
The City Government for the City of Oslo adopted several new environmental polices in 2003, including the Strategy for Sustainable Development. As part of this policy, the City Government developed three main goals: (1) “Oslo shall be a capital city in sustainable development characterized by economic, social, and cultural growth according to nature’s ability to sustain that growth economically;” (2) “Oslo shall pass on the city to the next generation in a better environmental condition than we ourselves inherited it;” and (3) “Oslo shall be one of the world’s most environmentally friendly and sustainable capital cities.” The Strategy for Sustainable Development also emphasized a substantial commitment towards preserving the city’s wild nature and biological diversity, and recognizing the importance of promoting biological connectivity. The policy dictates that the City Government will protect the green hills and forests surrounding the city, the islands in the fjord, parks, and open areas in the built-up zones and protect the rivers and green spaces along their banks in such a way that they can emerge as continuous blue-green corridors. The policy also announces that the City has approved the designation of a “Green Belt Boundary,” which provides a barrier preventing urban development from encroaching upon the areas of wild nature surrounding the city, ensuring that the forests and waterways are preserved.
An additional environmental policy prescribed by the City Government is the Urban Ecology Programme and Environmental Management System, which was placed in effect in 2002 and is scheduled to run through 2014. This policy contains specific provisions that exemplify Oslo’s dedication to preserving its wild nature, and rewilding its ecosystems where needed. One such provision states that, “Oslo shall protect and rehabilitate ecosystems, natural habitats, and viable stocks of threatened species.” The Urban Ecology Programme also dictates that, “Oslo shall conserve and strengthen its blue-green structure” and “shall preserve, develop, and manage its blue-green structure with forests, watercourses, the fjord, islands, parks, open spaces, and other green spaces in line with good ecological principles.”
By enacting environmental polices such as the Strategy for Sustainable Development and the Urban Ecology Programme that demonstrate a dedication to preserving and interconnecting its wild nature, Oslo has developed effective policies that preserve the forests, hills, and lakes that comprise two-thirds of its total land area, giving Oslo some of the most incredible areas of wild nature that can be found within any city in the world. This dedication in action makes Oslo an excellent example of how the vision of Nature Needs Half can be realized even in the urban environment of a modern European capital, and how a city’s inhabitants can coexist in harmony with the biodiversity that lives within an urban environment.