From Iceland, an open letter to UK billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe
[The letter has been delivered in this English version to Sir Ratcliffe’s spokesman in Iceland. Also published in Icelandic in local-media]
Dear Sir Jim Ratcliffe,
We haven’t spoken before; I am a resident of northeastern Iceland, a place you have generously included in your investment portfolio in recent years and seized to become the region’s largest private landowner. By one estimate, the land you own equals 1.5 percent of entire Iceland, a size that is apparently only the side-effect of your love for the Atlantic salmon and the rivers it inhabits–you are not interested in the land per se, only the eight rivers streaming through. That’s why I come to you with an idea.
Icelandic lawmakers are currently seeking to establish the largest national park in Europe, a protected area spanning much of the highland interior. The Highland Park, as it is known, will include many of Iceland’s most iconic scenery: massive glaciers, boiling hot springs, volcano craters and lava field. By establishing the park, we hope to protect and preserve 30,000 square kilometers of land.
With your help, we can make that area even bigger.
Because to gain control over the salmon rivers in Iceland’s northeast, you have had to buy about forty properties of land and everything on it: houses, farms, industrial buildings of various kinds. Much of the land has in fact been farmed by the same families for generations. These estates have as a result been turned into vacation homes, rentals or abandoned altogether. Young people in the region — entrepreneurs like yourself — have drastically fewer opportunities to create their own destiny.
That is why I propose three ways to give the Icelandic people, and especially the locals, the authority to decide the future of their own country:
(1) Donate unused assets.
The real estate, agricultural land, and settlements that are not directly related to salmon fishing — donate it, in full, to the local municipalities, who can then sell or pass on the assets to entrepreneurial people.
(2) Help the Highland Park.
The properties you hold border the future Highland Park. By donating land to the park, you would be turning your promises of environmental protection into real action, making sure the land remains unspoiled for generations to come. With your support, the park could make the protection of the Atlantic Salmon a forefront issue.
(3) Return fishing rights to future generations.
Transfer the fishing rights back to the locals, i.e. the municipalities, after you have ensured a sustainable future for the Atlantic Salmon. Legal terms and conditions, tied to the donation, will guarantee environmental protection for the fishing rivers, fulfilling the reason you arrived in Iceland in the first place–a goal everyone agrees with.
A sustainable future, for nature and local communities
We both share a passion for the Atlantic Salmon. I have even fished in some of the rivers you control. But neither of us will live forever, while these rivers will continue to stream. When you first arrived in Iceland, I was delighted to read in local media that your goal was entirely about sustaining the fragile ecosystem of the Atlantic Salmon. If that is still the case, the best way to secure the salmon’s survival is to support the foundations of the community. A strong community will raise people who share an understanding of environmental protection and pursue opportunities that align with those goals: A community you are, in fact, now part of. By taking action and accepting responsibility, you can leave a great legacy, Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Written in Húsavík, North-east Iceland, 14th. of January 2021.