Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Nature

Investors who had hoped to buy Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon blast its inclusion in National Park

By Staff

  • Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon More than 700,000 people visited the lagoon last year. Photo/Zoe Miliakos

Yesterday Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, and the surrounding glacial outwash plains were declared a protected site and added to Vatnajökull National Park, adding 189 square kilometers (73 sq mi) to the national park. While conservationists and the local municipality have applauded the move as an important step in the protection of unique natural wonders of Iceland, a group of investors who had hoped to acquire the site have blasted the move, describing it as an egregious example of government abuse of power.

Having lost in court once, investors file a new suit

Björt Ólafsdóttir, þingkona

Björt Ólafsdóttir The Minister of the Environment. Photo/Pjetur Sigurðsson

The eastern part of the lagoon belongs to the farmland Fell, which was privately owned until last year. At an auction in November 2016 a group of investors purchased the farm for 1,520 million ISK (14.4 million USD/12.3 million EUR). The government then stepped in to exercise its right of eminent domain, purchasing the land for the same amount as the highest bid. 

Read more: Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon declared a protected site, added to Vatnajökull National Park

The investors sued to overturn the purchase, claiming the government had waited too long to make the purchase. After the Supreme Court rejected the arguments of the landowners earlier this spring they filed a civil suit trying to overturn the sale of the land to the government. The courts will hear this case in October. In the meantime the investors argue the government should not take any steps which could affect the economic value of the land.

An irresponsible, reckless act
"The fact is the matter has not been settled yet," a lawyer for the investors told the local newspaper Morgunblaðið. "This is an extremely brutal move by the government, to declare the lagoon a protected site, while the ownership of the land still remains unsettled before the courts."

The investors described the move as "irresponsible", "reckless" and a clear "abuse of power" by the state, as the extension of the National Park to include the lagoon could limit the potential business uses of the lagoon. The investors have threatened to sue the government for damages in case they win their civil suit to overturn the purchase.

Protecting nature is never irresponsible
Björt Ólafsdóttir, the Minister of the Environment, told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service the government had already prevailed in court and that she didn't fear the investors would win their latest suit. She also said she felt the statements were "sad". "In my view it can never be irresponsible to protect nature," she said. 

"I'm saddened to hear that some people feel it is an abuse of government power to protect nature. I have a hard time understanding that kind of thinking."

Jökulsárlón, Vatnajökull National PArk

Jökulsárlón The area which has now been added to Vatnajökull National Park is shaded red. Photo/Ministry of the Environment

 

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