A committee researching guidelines for establishing a national park in the central highlands of Iceland has submitted its final report to the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, RÚV reports. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the area’s nature, existing protection, utilization, and infrastructure, as well as four scenarios envisioning one or more new national parks in the area.
The central highlands of Iceland are mostly uninhabitable and are one of the largest land areas in Europe without permanent inhabitants.
The report is intended to form a basis for discussion and decision-making concerning protection of the central highlands. It presents four very different scenarios for the area’s future.
The first scenario proposes a national park covering 85 percent of the central highlands, or around 40 percent of Iceland's land area. The park would be divided into seven areas and its administration would be similar to that of Vatnajökull National Park, where decentralized regional councils are responsible for each area but policy, organization, licensing, and administration would be decided by a central body. This scenario is considered able to achieve comprehensive conservation of the area and management of tourism for the central highlands as a whole. The scenario does not provide grounds for building new power plants in the area.
The second scenario envisions four national parks whose location would be defined by the areas which are currently protected, along with corresponding glaciers and the areas they affect. Each park would be administered by the regional councils whose regions overlap or border the park. This scenario would increase the protection of glaciers, but have little effect on other areas. The decentralized approach to administration could create inconsistency in visitor service between the different parks. Power plants and transmission of electricity would continue to follow Landsnet guidelines.
The third scenario proposes six national parks, each administered by a single regional council with no centralized administration. Currently protected areas would act as a core for each national park, though the territory they cover could change. It is believed to present similar challenges to the second scenario.
The fourth scenario simply presents the current status quo, with no prerequisites for a comprehensive protection of the central highlands regarding nature, wildlife, biodiversity, or geological formations.
The report call for the strengthening of those institutions legally responsible for the central highlands in order to achieve the objectives for conservation of the area.