National Geographic : 2009 Jun
• this would be illegal. But the Finns cherish a custom called "everyman s right." Among other things, this allows any person to gather berries and mushrooms---though not wood or lichens or mosses---wherever they like, including Oulanka. To an American sensibility, the reindeer are perhaps the most puzzling inhabitants of Oulanka National Park. Singly and in small herds, they move through the park grazing on mushrooms and lichens and green plants. e reindeer are so gray in color, o en with white hair growing down their legs to their hooves, which gives them the appearance of wearing spats. In this setting they look entirely natural, a Finnish version of mule deer or elk. And yet these are semidomesticated reindeer, sources of meat and pelts that wear ear tags and collars, whose owners will gather them in the fall and corral them through the winter. All of Oulanka National Park is considered part of the local reindeer herding range. It s as though Colorado s Rocky Mountain National Park, which is just slightly smaller than Oulanka, were part of the local grazing district, and cat- tle were turned loose into its alpine meadows during the summer. Corralling and feeding the reindeer during the winter has reduced the damage they do to the undergrowth in Oulanka. ere is a feeling among some Finns, however, that the days of the reindeer herder are numbered, at least in this part of the country. e work is simply too hard, and the dividends too small. For all its serenity---the quiet oxbows on the river, the deep stillness of the upland mires and spruce stands---Oulanka bears some scars of modern history. is is an old, old land, but a very young park, for Oulanka was established only in 1956. e locals can show you the sites of machine-gun emplacements high above the river, and they will remind you---with feel- ing that still seems very fresh---that the Finns fought the Russians bitterly in the early days of World War II. If you drive to the boundary zone, a metal gate blocks the road. But it does not block the geology or the biological commu- nities that make Oulanka so rich. ey continue Spring oods and the movement of frost-heaved ground raise long ridges that furrow the face of an aapa mire. Oulanka helps preserve this type of wetland, which is slowly being destroyed elsewhere in Scandinavia.