Although it has been declining, illegal offroading remains a major problem in Iceland, and officials are calling for higher fines to deter the practice.
Kristín Linda Árnadóttir, the director of the Environment Agency of Iceland, and Páll Ásgeir Ásgeirsson, the director of the Icelandic Environment Association, were guests on Kastljós last night, a roundtable news discussion show on RÚV. The subject last night was illegal offroading, an issue at the forefront of recent public discussion on account of a Russian Instagram influencer who badly damaged the fragile soil around Mývatn and then posted photos of himself posing with the aftermath.
The incident has sparked criticism from Icelanders and Russians alike, and the influencer in question was fined 450,000 ISK, but it raises questions about what can be done to better prevent people from damaging Iceland’s fragile topsoil in this manner.
Kristín says that although offroading is fairly common, the number of occurrences has decreased. At the same time, the Agency has reported some 40 cases of illegal offroading to the police in 2018 alone. Páll added that he believes it is important to continue the information campaign against offroading, and that fines for doing so should be raised further.
Fines for offroading can already reach as high as 1 million ISK or more. The reason for this is because Iceland’s topsoil is very young, geologically speaking, and thus very fragile. The cost and labour of repairing vehicular damage to the soil invariably falls upon locals, and while fines are supposed to offset that cost somewhat, that depends on being able to find the culprits every single time it occurs.
If you visit Iceland and rent a vehicle, we implore you to keep all four tires on marked roads at all times. It could save you a considerable amount of money, and it’s just good manners.
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