If you visit Sweden, you won’t be on the hunt for pictures of any massive monuments.
The country has no Eiffel Towers or Big Bens – and yet, they’re proud of this.
Instead, they have the “freedom to roam,” which they consider to be their monument.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the principle of freedom to roam and how it shapes society.
Let’s get started.
1. What is freedom to roam?
The freedom to roam is the principle protected by law that gives all people the right to roam free in nature.
It’s also known as “everyman’s right” or “right of the public access to the wilderness” in which people can access certain public or privately owned land, lakes, and rivers for recreation and exercise.
Specifically in Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Austria, Czech Republic, and Switzerland, the freedom to roam takes the form of general public rights, which are sometimes codified in law.
Because the right of access was considered sufficiently basic in Northern Europe, it was not formalized into law until modern times.
That said, the right usually doesn’t include any substantial economic exploitation.
2. How is the freedom to roam applied in the United States?
Freedom to roam in the United States is not applied the same way as it is in European countries.
Property rights in the U.S. include the right to exclude others, and therefore, the freedom to roam generally does not exist in the U.S.
That said, U.S. governmental entities, such as cities, counties, states, and the federal government, all manage lands that are referred to as public land or the public domain.
Most of these public lands are held in trust for the American people by the government.
This land amounts to around 640 acres and about 28 percent of the total land area of 2.27 billion acres.
Anyone (including non-citizens) can legally access and recreate on much this land, and this is referred to as the North American model of land conservation.
Here are how individual states handle “freedom to roam” policies.
California: Through the California Coastal Act, citizens can access beaches freely.
The Surfrider Foundation has been successful in suing littoral property owners who try to use trespassing laws to restrict public access to the public portions of a beach.
Florida: The state constitution established a public trust of sovereignty lands, and this includes wet beaches “below mean high water lines…for all the people.”
This respects the freedom to roam regardless of any private neighboring beach.
That said, local ordinances normally limit this freedom strictly to roaming on foot.
You cannot drive motor vehicles or beach boats.
Oregon: The state passed a piece of landmark legislation called the Oregon Beach Bill in 1967.
It established public ownership along the Oregon Coast from the water up to sixteen vertical feet above the low tide mark.
Pennsylvania: In this state, the 1966 Recreational Use of Land and Water Act (RULWA) limits landowners’ liability for personal injury and property damage if they make their land available to the public for recreation.
As such, landowners are encouraged to open their undeveloped land up for recreational use.
Vermont: The state’s constitution allows the public the right to hunt, fish, and trap on open private land.
A landowner who doesn’t want to allow this access has a legal right to post signs that restrict this right.
Maine: Maine allows access to any outdoor property unless otherwise posted.
The posting must be clearly marked with signs or paint that indicate the access is prohibited without the permission of the landowner or the landowner’s agent or that access for a particular purpose is prohibited.
3. How does the freedom to roam work in Sweden?
Outside of the U.S., Sweden is a well-known supporter of the freedom to roam principle.
In fact, they say that Swedes often take the freedom to roam for granted because of how accessible it is in their country.
In 2017, the Swedish tourism board famously listed the entire country on Airbnb as a statement that its natural lands are widely accessible to everyone.
You don’t have to live in the country to take advantage of it.
Travelers can camp, graze, sleep and venture anywhere in the country that catches their eye.
4. What is allemannsretten?
Allemannsretten is a Norwegian law that allows everyone to roam free on uncultivated land in Norway.
Cultivated land is privately owned land, meadows, pastures, gardens, building plots, and industrial sites.
This principle allows people to hike, camp, and enjoy fresh air in forests, mountains, and coastal areas, which make up most of Norwegian nature.
However, there are some rules when it comes to allemannsretten.
Here’s what you should keep in mind if you plan to take advantage of Norway’s freedom to roam rule.
You must respect nature.
This includes collecting all your trash and leaving wildlife be.
You must leave nature the way that you found it.
You cannot disturb uncultivated areas.
While you can hike and camp in uncultivated areas without permission, you should not disturb them.
You should also keep at least 150 meters away from an inhabitant’s property.
If you wish to stay more than two days, you should seek consent from the inhabitants.
This doesn’t apply when you camp in the mountains and remote areas.
You may not have a campfire between April 15 and September 15.
There are some exceptions if you’re in a location where fire is not likely.
Remember, you are legally responsible for ensuring that you build a safe campfire and extinguish it after use.
You can only fish without a license if it’s for your own use.
You are permitted to fish in saltwater by land and a small boat without a license if it’s for your own use; however, hunting and fishing in freshwater is not included in allemannsretten.
To hunt and fish in freshwater areas, you’ll need the permission of the landowner and those with a license for hunting and fishing.
That said, foraging for mushrooms, berries, herbs, and wildflowers is generally permitted.
Cloudberries, on the other hand, can only be picked if eaten on the spot where you picked them.
You may swim in lakes.
Access to any beach is also allowed as long as you stay away from private residences.
You can drive on any private road as long as there isn’t a sign posted saying otherwise.
5. What are useful guidelines to the freedom to roam?
If you’re interested in taking advantage of the freedom to roam in European countries or U.S. states that have more open laws, here are some guidelines that can help keep everyone safe and happy.
For the most part, it isn’t too complicated.
You just have to be considerate and thoughtful.
You never want to damage nature and other surroundings because then it won’t be available for others to use.
Always leave the landscape better than you found it and as you would want to find it.
Keep at least 500 feet away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin.
When you camp under a tent or sleep under the stars for a night, you want to make sure that you provide the proper space to others on that land.
This means keeping your distance in your tent, camping cars, or caravans.
Ask the landowner’s permission if you wish to stay for more than two nights in the same place.
This is a general rule of thumb to use unless you’re in the mountains or very remote areas.
Only empty your toilet in areas that are signposted.
It is inconsiderate and strictly prohibited to do it elsewhere.
Prevent forest fires by using the proper campfire and camping stove etiquette.
Check the local regulations for campfires in or near forests wherever you are.
For example, in Norway, they are prohibited from April 15 to September 15.
They can be allowed in places where a fire is unlikely (i.e., by the sea or in an approved campfire site), but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Follow simple campfire rules such as:
- Make sure you are at a site that allows campfires
- Make sure there are no fire bans and that it isn’t too windy
- Place extra wood upwind and away from the fire
- After lighting the fire, throw the match into the flames
- Never leave a campfire unattended
- Keep water and a shovel nearby
- Make sure your fire is fully extinguished when leaving your fire by using water and stirring it with a shovel. Your fire site should be completely cold before you leave the campsite
- Call the fire department or emergency number if there is an uncontrollable fire and continue to try to extinguish it yourself when they are on their way. However, don’t put yourself in harm’s way
Follow regulations before fishing.
Depending on your location, you may be able to fish for saltwater species without a license as long as it is for your own use.
However, it’s best to check the local regulations on this before proceeding.
In the U.S., fishing often requires a permit.
6. What is an open-range state?
An open-range state is a state where cattle have the freedom to roam at large.
However, property owners in the state do have a responsibility to keep cattle away from state and federal highways.
Texas is an example of an open-range state.
However, there are a few caveats.
The state has a patchwork of counties and cities with both open and closed range laws that stem from special local elections that regulated the types of livestock with freedom to roam.
When a state is open-range, it means that, by default, livestock owners are generally not liable if their loose cattle lead to injuries or other damages.
These laws allow animals to roam freely regardless of land ownership.
Today, Texas does have barbed wire fences that didn’t exist once upon a time.
However, the burden to put up a fence usually falls on the person or the property owner who wants to keep animals off their property.
For example, if a strawberry farmer wanted to keep animals off her property to keep them from eating or trampling her produce, then she would need to construct a fence around it.
7. Are there any exceptions to the Open-Range Doctrine in Texas?
The Open-Range Doctrine was reaffirmed by the Texas Supreme Court about 20 years ago.
However, there are two major exceptions to the rule in the Lonestar State, including local stock laws and highways with state or federal designations.
A stock law is a specific law that forbids certain kinds of livestock from running through a county or designated area.
They normally serve the purpose of changing an area from open range to closed range.
The Texas Agriculture Code allows local governments to hold elections with the goal of preventing animals from running at large, and local stock laws prohibit the following animals from running at large:
That said, because Texas is a patchwork of open-range and closed-range laws, there is no central database of where stock laws have been enacted.
This can cause a variety of problems.
For example, if you’re driving in unfamiliar territory and experience a livestock crash, then you may not know your rights.
You can find out by contacting a county clerk or speaking to a qualified roaming livestock crash attorney about your situation.
Furthermore, stock laws are not always enforceable as the Texas Agriculture Code separates livestock animals into different subsections.
Highways with state and federal designations are also an open-range exemption.
As a result, owners have a responsibility to keep livestock from roaming on state and federal highways and may face a small fine if they fail to do so.
They can also open themselves up to liability claims if a person suffers an injury.
8. When must a Texas landowner knowingly contain animals or permit them to roam?
The freedom to roam doctrine can be confusing.
When do landowners have the responsibility to keep animals contained?
The short answer is whenever the circumstances require it.
Some examples include:
When the landowner is aware that the fences were unable to withstand inclement weather
If the landowner knew that cattle escape through weak fences many times before
If the police previously informed the property owner of their loose cattle on the roadway
If the landowner failed to inspect fences
9. Who has the freedom to roam over farmland in the U.K.?
In the U.K., there is no automatic right given to walk across agricultural or private property, even if you believe you won’t cause any damage by doing so.
That said, the right to roam provides a little bit of gray area to this.
You can roam over certain areas of land such as:
Registered common land (parts of the New Forest)
Land which is higher than 600m above sea level
However, as a roamer, you have some responsibilities.
While you have access to the land for the purpose of outdoor recreation, you can’t take that too far or cause damage to hedgerows, fences, or walls in the process.
For landowners, it can be very difficult to stop people from accessing your land if there are footpaths and public access points going across it.
You cannot put up “No Trespassing” signs on access land or any sign that’s designed to deter the public from walking through access land.
Additionally, any threatening behavior or behavior that puts the public at risk is prohibited.
The freedom to roam doctrine offers a lot to people.
Whether you’re a landowner or an adventurer, take advantage of the land in front of you!
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.