"To get Finland to care about the animals that have for centuries helped cool the planet, Pauliina Feodoroff went global".
"MUDDUSJÄRVI, Finland — Pauliina Feodoroff walks through one of the world’s last ancient forests, with lingonberries, wild mushrooms and reindeer droppings crunching gently beneath her dirt-caked boots. But her stride falters as she enters a clearing littered with tree stumps, limbs and branches. Chainsaws mowed down this section last winter, and now it’s off-limits for the hundreds of reindeer who once helped it blossom. Feodoroff — a member of the Sámi Indigenous group, a community that revolves around the reindeer and their habitats — wants to buy this land back, and summon the reindeer to return.
It’s part of a grand experiment to rewild the Arctic by regenerating the biodiverse latticework of reindeer habitats, which help regulate the planet’s temperatures. Quickly and quietly, 44-year-old Feodoroff is deploying dozens of Sámi negotiators to buy up strategic plots of land. She’s allying with conservationists and institutions to raise awareness about deforestation in reindeer habitats, and is pushing to redefine these forests as falling under international jurisdiction, rather than national.
If Feodoroff succeeds, experts predict the repercussions will be global. Regenerating Finland’s northern taigas, part of a coniferous halo that spans 6 million square miles across the northern latitudes of Eurasia and North America, would restore one of the world’s most potent shields against climate change.
“If we have one example of forest where we stopped its current damage, that now thrives, it will have a domino effect,” said Feodoroff, her gloved hand leaning on a centuries-old Scottish pine stump."
Shira Rubin reports for the Washington Post with illustration by Stef Wong and photos by Juho Kuva
November 30, 2022.