Allemansrätten: Sweden’s Freedom To Roam

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The Swedish have a secret. One that’s a little hard to believe.

Allemansrätten. The “everyman’s right” to roam.

You see, the Swedish have a land-rights theory that sounds extremely foreign to American sensibilities. If you see some land, any land (besides developed areas and private yards), you can cross it. You can camp on it. You can pick mushrooms or fruit from it.

Allemansrätten is the concept that all lands, whether publicly or privately owned, inherently belong to the people. This differs from American laws that protect private land from intrusion. Of course, there are many reasons that Americans keep their land private: fear of theft, injury liability, and downright personal space.

Some of these are bred from deep-rooted ideals of land ownership and rights. But in most cases, Americans are simply scared of a lawsuit from accidents that might happen on their property. The Swedish have cleverly constructed laws that protect landowners from being sued, which allows a more care-free attitude towards their open fences.

Luckily allemansrätten doesn’t cover certain land uses that could be detrimental to the property itself, ecosystems, and public health. For example, hunting and camp fires are prohibited (due to wildfire risk), as well as fishing and tampering with water.

And all of this doesn’t even include the coolest aspect of allemansrätten: beach access. In Sweden, a law was passed in 1975 that banned homeowners from building their houses closer than 100 meters from the beach or shoreline. This was put in place to protect the Swedish right to roam along the sandy coast, while balancing the notion that one may not come too close to a person’s private yard.

Can you imagine such a strict property law in America? It sounds borderline unpatriotic!

But the Swedes have an understanding that when you give up certain rights, you receive so much more in return: an entire country to roam.

Mandy Burkholder is a travel, adventure, and outdoor writer who honed her craft in the foothills of the La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado. After a stint in the Swiss Alps, she now resides in Tennessee. Follow her on twitter — @mandyburkhold3r

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