AL3 Off-road traffic
Off-road traffic has increased dramatically during the last twenty years. There are more than 100 000 snow mobiles registered in Finland, and almost a quarter of them in Lapland. The number of snow mobiles has increased steadily since 1995 and a little more steeply in the 21st century. The alpine areas of Lapland are with some exceptions found in the areas of Enontekiö, Utsjoki and Inari. In accordance with the general trend the number of registered snow mobiles has generally increased in these areas, but much slower than in Lapland on average. However, when related to the population, the relative number of snow mobiles was greater in these areas than elsewhere in Finland already in 1995. In addition, the number of snow mobiles in Lapland is temporarily multiplied every winter during the tourist season.
Helicopter transportation has become more common since the late 1990s. In addition to the official statistics there is a great amount of operations taking place outside official airports. These include for example transportation to ski-centers and other resorts or even straight to wilderness or fells. The number of helicopter operations on the northernmost official airports of Ivalo, Enontekiö and Kittilä has varied between approximately 300–500 per year.
During the last ten years the all-terrain vehicle or ATV has become more popular. There are thousands of all-terrain vehicles in Finland, but no extensive record exists since only the ATVs used on public roads must be reported into the vehicle register. In 2007 there were more than 13 700 registered ATVs in Finland, and about 500 of them in Lapland. The sales of ATVs have increased steeply during the early 21st century, being about 8600 sold vehicles in 2007 alone. Combined with the sales of the last ten years this makes more than 35 000 all-terrain vehicles purchased in Finland.
Impact on biodiversity
The effects of off-road traffic on the environment include several direct and indirect factors influencing animals, vegetation and soil. The effect of especially summertime off-road traffic on vegetation cover and soil morphology may be locally strong. Noise and other disturbance are harmful for birds, mammals and other animals during breeding periods in particular. For example on reindeer husbandry areas off-road traffic has been found to scatter reindeer herds and even cause losses of calves.The Off-road Traffic Act of 1995 includes regulations for off-road traffic and the establishment of snow mobile routes. Motorised off-road vehicles may usually only be used in countryside with land-owners permission except for authorities and reindeer herders who have a priority in land use. On areas owned by the state and administrated by Metsähallitus (for example nature and wilderness reserves) off-road traffic is limited to specific routes. The use of these routes is permitted for free for local residents, but other users are charged with fees. In addition, there is a definition for roads intended for snow mobile traffic in the Road Traffic Act. They are free for everyone but have not been established in nature reserves. Driving on frozen water courses is not restricted.
- Updated (14.05.2013)