The National river Vindelälven
Vindelälven is a free-flowing river that flows through the county of Västerbotten and it´s different landscapes – mountains, woodlands, bogs and coasts. It starts in the Ammarnäs mountains on the Norwegian border, and flows out as a tributary to the Ume River along the coast, a distance of almost 500 kilometers.
Vindelälven is one of our four national rivers, which means that it is constitutionally protected from being expanded. Vindelälven is also a Natura 2000 area which is a network of protected areas throughout the European Union. The areas have been selected by the county administrative boards in each county. 90 of the habitats and just over 100 of the animal and plant species in the Habitats Directive can be found here. In addition, about 60 of the Birds Directive’s birds regularly breed in our country.
Vindelälven, like its tributary Laisälven, has always been vital to the area working as a migration route for animals, timber and people. In the river valleys, there are traces of hunters and gatherers from the time of the melting of the last ice sheet. Even today, the Vindelälven river functions as a migration route, and the mountain Sami villages’ long, uninterrupted migration of reindeer from the mountains to the coast along the river is unique – one of the longest movements of livestock known today. The Umesami word for migration route is Juhttátahkka, a good description of one of the Vindelälven’s many functions.
Sami and Swedish cultural heritage
The Vindel river valley has a unique and rich cultural heritage from the Sami and Swedish culture. The cultural diversity in the river valley is an asset and a challenge to manage. There is, for example, valuable knowledge in the form of language, crafts, culture and industry that risks being lost. The Vindelälven as a biosphere reserve could in this cultural context function as a model area for issues concerning identity, cultural heritage, sustainable land use and nature management.
Open, living landscape
The recurring floods of the Vindelälven provide new nutrients to its shores – one of the reasons why the land has been cultivated and live stock has been kept for centuries. The area where the Vindelälven river merges with the river Umeälven has been an agricultural area since the Middle Ages.
Although the conditions for earning a living on agriculture have become increasingly difficult, there is a living cultural heritage along the Vindelälven in the form of a well-maintained agricultural landscape and open pastures, which contribute to the biological diversity in the river valley.
Industries and entrepreneurship
There is a passion for entrepreneurship in the area. Here are people with high ambitions, strong drive and great competence. Companies, large and small, are driving development forward. Here are world-leading technology companies that are part of the nationally known Skogstekniska cluster, which has its center in Vindeln. There are also a number of entrepreneurs from industries such as IT, the hospitality industry, service companies and shops. There are also such industries that are traditionally associated with the area, such as forestry and wood processing, agriculture, reindeer husbandry and more.
The biosphere reserve
The biosphere reserve is approximately 1.3 million hectares in size and extends from mountains to coast. The area comprises the catchment areas of the Vindelälven, Laisälven and lower Umeälven rivers and constitutes both a cohesive ecological and social unit. The landscape contains a diversity of natural and cultural environments that are currently not represented in the biosphere network, neither in Sweden nor internationally.
Vindelälven is protected in its entirety and is covered by various national interests and nature conservation. The area’s biological values and cultural heritage and the opportunities provided for outdoor life. The biosphere reserve will function as a model area for sustainable development, where the work is based on local development work at the same time as the area’s preserved/protected areas are highlighted and experiences and acquired knowledge are spread to other areas around the world. Climate research is given special conditions due to the size and character of the area.