Allemansrätten

Allemansrätten, Swedish for everyman’s right or the freedom to roam, is a legal principle most prevalent in the Nordic countries of Europe. Basically it’s the right of any person to access nature areas, including both publicly and privately own land.

As we have stated earlier on this blog, we believe that all land in space habitats should be collective property of the (local) community. Instead private parties could only lease land, and the revenues generated in this way should be used to fund the government. But what privileges get a landholder in return? First of all, (s)he got the right to use the land in a manner allowed by the lease contract. Secondly, the landholder receives the right to exclude others from using the leasehold.

But, wait a second. Does the second privilege not violate the principle of allemansrätten? Well, that depends on the question what “use” means here. Land can be used in several ways, one can build a house on the land, or establish a business on his land, or one could simply use the land for letting out one’s dogs.

In Sweden the freedom to roam does not apply to private gardens, the immediate vicinity of private homes, or cultivated land. But on any other land people are free to walk, hike, cycle, ski or camp.  So the freedom to roam depends upon the use of the land in question.

Gerard O’Neill describes in his book that he would cover the valleys of an O’Neill cylinder with villages, parks and forests. Forests are important ecosystems, not only because trees produce oxygen but also because forests supply wood and non-timber forest products. Because of the applications of these products, they have commercial value.

Because we assume state ownership of the land, including woodland, we could argue that the state should harvest these products, and sell them on the market for revenue. Another approach is the following. People could lease woodland for a certain period, 49 or 99 years for instance, during which they are allowed to collect wood and non-timber forest products from the forests, under the conditions that they will maintain the forest and that they respect the allemansrätten.

Or put simply: the holders of woodland have an exclusive right on the collection of wood and other forest products, but they cannot exclude third parties of using the woodland in any other way.

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