Norway protected its very first nature conservation area in 1884. Since then, nature conservation laws have been adopted and updated, the most recent being the 2009 Nature Diversity Act.
On 24 April 1884, the Storting decided that the state was to purchase a beech woodland in Larvik as an outdoor recreation area. This was its first decision on a nature conservation matter. The first legislation on nature conservation was adopted in 1910, and was replaced by a new law in 1954 and by the Nature Conservation Act in 1970. The most recent legislation is the 2009 Nature Diversity Act. Most of the current protected areas were established under the Nature Conservation Act.
Up to 1975, nature conservation efforts focused on specific elements such as single old trees or on single species or species groups. One important exception was the idea of establishing a network of national parks. In 1964, a report from the State Council for the Conservation of Nature proposed that Norway should designate 16 national parks. The first two were established before the report was published: Rondane in 1962 and Børgefjell in 1963.
The Ministry of the Environment was established in 1972, giving Norway the administrative structure needed for the effective development of a system of protected areas. Starting in 1975, the development of county protection plans for the most seriously threatened habitat types (wetlands, temperate broad-leaved forests, mires and seabird colonies) was given priority and pursued systematically throughout the country. This work is now more or less completed.
In the early 1990s, a white paper describing a nationwide plan for national parks and other large protected areas was published. Since then, work on the network of national parks has steadily progressed, and new national parks have been designated and others extended. There are now 37 national parks in mainland Norway and seven in Svalbard, and the national park network is almost complete.
Two of Norway’s goals are to protect a representative selection of Norwegian nature and to maintain large continuous areas of natural environment Forest protection is a key tool for achieving these goals, and also important for protecting rare habitat types and habitats for threatened species.[A2]
Norway is working on the first phase of its marine protection plan. The aim is to establish a representative network of marine protected areas that will safeguard the whole range of species and habitats in the marine environment. This is a joint project involving a number of sectors, and activities started in 2002[A3] .
The Nature Diversity Act entered into force on 1 July 2009. It is the most comprehensive and important piece of legislation on Norwegian nature and its management ever adopted. It applies to the natural environment everywhere in Norway and to all sectors that are responsible for managing the environment or that make decisions that may have environmental impacts.
The provisions on protected areas in the Nature Diversity Act are similar to those in the earlier legislation, but protection of areas is now more closely integrated with other types of management. The legislation has been updated in a number of ways to make conservation work more effective and provide greater predictability and clarity for people who are affected by protection decisions.
All decisions on the protection of areas adopted under the 1970 Nature Conservation Act or earlier legislation are still in force.