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Showing where topsoil needs to be preserved

Puschmann-NIBIO_2015_ny-E18-over Hera-ved-Rova_Eidsberg_Østfold

Photo: Oskar Puschmann.

NIBIO has helped the Norwegian Public Roads Administration to develop a method for assessing the value of farmland when planning new road projects.

Land conservation is a driving force in all analyses concerning the use of farmland for anything other than food production. The Land Act leaves little room for interpretation when it states: Cultivated land must not be used for purposes that do not promote agricultural production.

“Nevertheless, the law must sometimes give way,” says Kjetil Fadnes, Senior Engineer at NIBIO. Exceptions are made because certain vital public interests must take precedence. He cites the construction of roads and housing as an example.

Of the total farmland that was degraded in the years 2004- 2015, 42 percent went to the construction of housing, roads, and railways.

Tool for conflicting interests

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration is one of the major players involved in resolving dilemmas connected to land conservation. In the planning process, various public interests often have to be weighed against each other.

In order to ensure that experts adopt the same approach and mindset, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has a handbook on how to carry out impact assessments in road projects.

When the administration edited the handbook, NIBIO was asked to develop criteria for the evaluation of farmland in the chapter concerning natural resources. Fadnes elaborates:

“As we saw it, the assignment was about preparing a fra- mework, based on the available knowledge, so that if the use of farmland ‘for anything other than food production’ cannot be avoided, it would at least be possible to not choose the highest quality land.”

“NIBIO’s work has made it possible to compare different areas of farmland and evaluate the downsides of using topsoil against the possible negative consequences of building a new road.”

The method for evaluating farmland in Norway was presented to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration in the form of a NIBIO report and thematic map accessible through NIBIO’s map service, The Source.