South-Norway’s Lista Landscape achieves protection through stakeholder dialogue

With its open agricultural landscape and wide horizons reaching out towards the sea, Lista has fascinated and attracted residents, tourists and artists for generations. The landscape is flat, the soil fertile, and the coast dramatic and beautiful. Lista has miles of sandy beaches. Visitors are today attracted by the sea, high sky, forces of nature, birds and the magnificent landscape. The local administration of the Farsund municipality was among the first to act according to the Norwegian adaptation of a new Nature Conservation Act with a mission statement based on the Council of Europe’s definition of nature conservation. In 1976 the municipality administration established the “Lista Committee”, whose primary goal was to coordinate the conservation interests in Lista with other land-use interests. The Lista Committee outlined an arrangement involving dialogue between the county governor and the affected parties, meetings and inspections. Before the final conservation proposal was prepared and submitted to the ministry, all of the bodies and individuals, who could be impacted by potential conservation measures, had the opportunity to provide statements. The local government would manage the conflicts of interest and weigh these up. The Lista Committee’s recommendation was the starting point for Farsund municipality’s unique partnership on the Lista landscape and a working method in line with what the European Landscape Convention later has recommended. Today we can report the implementation of all the conservation initiatives (protection orders) approved by the Lista Committee. A direct result of the local democracy in Farsund Municipality is the achievement of 29 areas, which are purchased from the landowners and established as government-protected outdoor recreation areas. They include different kinds of officially protected areas.

Lista Wetland System

  In the extensive democratic process, the interests of tourism were involved and played an essential role in the positive conservation outcomes: One of them is the landscape protected area “Lista Beaches”, established already in 1987. The objective of the protection was to preserve unique natural and cultural landscape with particular beach types and geological, botanical, zoological and cultural-historical characteristics of high conservation value. In 1987-88, ten vitally important lake and wetland areas followed by becoming protected as nature reserves. These included shallow coves on the coast, dune landscapes, marsh and swamp areas, and shallow and nutrient-rich lakes. Specific plant and animal life are in the focus of this type of protection. In 1996 these areas were assigned joint status as a RAMSAR site due to their importance for migrating birds and their characteristics known as the Lista Wetland System. Lista is known for having many rare and threatened bird species and is the location in Norway where the highest number of different bird species are observed each year.

Today the municipality is managing the visitors to the area by, among others, providing education services and marking hiking paths and bike trails. It includes a separate Coastal Trail of approximately 40 km. The roads in the wind farm established in 2012 in the northern heath areas are practical for hiking and cycling. The “Skjærgårdspark” can be accessed both from the mainland and from the sea. To preserve the specific cultural landscape and to prevent overgrowth, specific grazing management is in place. For example, the municipality has hired in “coastal goats” to keep the vegetation down along the Lista beaches.

The Visitor Centre Wetland Lista opened at Lista Lighthouse Station in 2015 as a nationally authorized visitor Centre. It is an outcome of the project “Sørnorsk kystnatur” (Southern Norwegian Coastal Nature) which is part of the development programme “Naturarven som verdiskaper” (Natural heritage as a creator of value). The purpose of the project was to provide education and nature experiences through nature conservation areas. The working hypothesis is that a greater understanding of natural assets by non-experts through the increased use, including commercial, of nature conservation areas, will strengthen this protection. Through this project, Slevdalsvannet and several other places in Lista have established various types of observation sites and provide universal access for people to experience the unique nature and birdlife in Lista. The objective of Visitor Centre Wetland Lista is to increase the visitors’ understanding of the wetlands nature, also as valuable to us as humans. The guides carefully organize the visits to this unique natural environment for any group or private person. Knowledge communication of how natural assets can be protected focuses on new generations. It should ensure that they “inherit” the pride of their own “everyday landscape” and the willingness to make extra efforts for its long-term protection. The conservation project of the Lista landscape is a case of preserving a living landscape with understanding and support of its visitors.

The activities of Visitor Centre Wetland Lista is today organized in the company Lista Fyr AS (Lista Lighthouse Inc), owned by Farsund municipality. From 2020 the company is in charge of local tourism, known as destination management office (DMO). Apart from education and information, the company’s primary objective is to link tourism and conservation in a sustainable way for the future.


Through continuous land-use planning and amendments of management plans, the municipality aims to preserve the Lista landscape in context with sustainable farming, local businesses and tourism. 

As a short term project, Farsund Municipality, Agder County Council and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration collaborate actively to establish a national touring bike trail along the entire Lista coast. The hiking trail is called Vita Velo and focuses on architecture and cultural heritage as well as unique experiences in the Lista landscape. As a first step, a 15-kilometre route with rest areas and bike racks with charging points for e-bikes have been established already in 2019 in the western part of Lista. 

The work on what is called “Selected Agricultural Landscapes” is also open to creativity and future planning. Such areas, established by voluntary agreements between the landowners/stakeholders and the Government on 540 hectares in 2009 and expanded to 1,100 hectares in 2018, combine advantages and benefits for agriculture, tourism, conservation, local culture and trade development. 

Recently, a management plan, including a visitor strategy, has been drawn up for the shores of Lista. A key focus of the policy is to enable sustainable economic growth and nature protection. Lista Fyr AS worked together with the Administration of Farsund municipality and the Agder County Governor in making the Visitor Strategy for Lista. A wide selection of local stakeholders contributed to the process. We believe that the close connection between Tourism and Conservation in Lista Fyr AS will be fruitful in the future development of Lista and Farsund.

The Lista landscape case of stakeholder involvement, dialogue and cooperation, resulting in a cluster of different types of protected areas, is an LT&C-Example, which could gain the attention of other municipalities or regions, particularly in Norway. It relates to both typical Norwegian policies and cultures as well as to international standards. Lista Fyr AS and Farsund municipality are open to sharing their model and partner with other destinations interested to learn from Lista’s experiences. 

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