Snowchange Cooperative

Rewilding Programme
An organization focusing on climate change, Indigenous policy, and research in Northern communities, prioritising embodied experience, challenging conservation strategies and advocating for Indigenous communities as integral part of local ecosystems to become a major force in global climate policy


In sparsely settled places in the Arctic, changes due to climate breakdown are happening rapidly. Warming is occurring twice as fast as in other parts of the world, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification.1Mika Rantanen, Alexey Yu. Karpechko, Antti Lipponen, Kalle Nordling, Otto Hyvärinen, Kimmo Ruosteenoja, Timo Vihma, and Ari Laaksonen, “The Arctic Has Warmed Nearly Four Times Faster than the Globe since 1979”, Communications Earth & Environment 3, no. 1 (August 11, 2022), p. 168 <> While this situation has led to a detailed and specific approach to resource management and environmental protection, implementation is not easy. In this context, Snowchange has pointed out the need to address issues of equity in conservation practices, and to avoid repeating colonialist interventions. They foreground and critique the deep history of nature preservation strategies which have ignored Indigenous communities living in protected areas, who most of the time have been forcefully removed.2Tero Mustonen, ‘Indigenous Knowledge for Environmental Conservation’, Goethe Institut, 2020 <> [accessed 12 December 2022]. In areas with this violating historical legacy, Snowchange work with Indigenous communities to effect more situated climate-oriented practices.


Since 2000, Snowchange has started to monitor climate and environmental change in the Circumpolar North, working closely with local and Indigenous communities in Arctic and Boreal regions. Their work challenges traditional, top-down restoration and conservation processes, which often have been imposed on Indigenous communities without their consent or involvement, resulting in the loss of their traditional lands and resources. Instead of these previous approaches, Snowchange builds on the situated knowledges and traditional governance of Indigenous communities, recognising them as stewards of the land. They are a multidisciplinary team, including scientists and local practitioners, working in 51 sites conducting ecological, biological, geographical, and ornithological research. Due to the extensive problems of land-use, peat extraction, and intensive foresting industries, many natural sites in Finland are being devastated by the effects of weakened water bodies.

The cooperative have acquired multiple parcels of land as part of the Landscape Rewilding Programme, allowing nature to take its own course. Through this programme, they managed to rewild Finnish and Sámi peatlands, forests, rivers, and lakes and to restore over 26,000 hectares of land, making them one of the “largest forest owners in Finland after forest companies and the government”.3Titta Kaltola, ‘Snowchange Cooperative’s Landscape Rewilding Programme Restores Run-down Natural Habitats’, Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, 2022 <> [accessed 12 December 2022]. Lying at the heart of their rewilding programme are all the native communities who make their living from the landscape—such as hunters or fishers. Snowchange’s approach highlights the situated traditions and culture of these communities as a means to restore the sites by working with natural forces.

They pay attention to and closely monitor all the dramatic changes taking place in such remote regions — from thawing permafrost to changes in reindeer migration – gathering scientific data crucial for informing and adjusting their processes. Eventually, the intention for these areas, once fully restored, is to serve as biodiversity hotspots and active carbon traps. By turning these ecosystems into thriving natural habitats, local communities are able to rebuild and strengthen their connection with subsistence activities such as fishing, hunting, and gathering that are at the heart of traditional Finnish culture. Snowchange’s approach is applicable beyond their specific context as an example of drawing on situated and nature-based methods to revitalise climate affected landscapes and infrastructures.


External links

Archive of Northern Traditions—a collection of knowledge and practices through photographs, videos, and audio material from Indigenous peoples in the Arctic 

POLIS Project on Ecological Governance—a centre for transdisciplinary research, practice, and education that investigates and promotes sustainability at the University of Victoria 

European Rewilding Network—a platform which allows rewilding initiatives across Europe to exchange insights and information 

Indigenous Community Conserved Areas—hold ecological, cultural and, biodiversity values and are conserved voluntarily by Indigenous and other local communities through customary laws