top of page

The Right to Roam

As a family who adores the outdoors: the mountains, rivers, lakes and even the remote places, learning about the “Right to Roam,” seemed only natural when we moved to Switzerland.

According to Wikipedia, “Freedom to roam, or “everyman’s right,” is the general public’s right to access certain public or privately owned land, lakes and rivers for recreation and exercise.”

We are happy to report that several countries: Scotland, most of the Scandinavian countries, plus, Estonia, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Czech Republic, and Switzerland are part of a list that honors this right. Each country has outlined a set of parameters that fall within the right to roam, however, land use is primarily for public access.

According to the “Swiss Civil Code” the right to roam is granted in Switzerland with some limitations. Those restrictions are often dictated by individual cantons and are put in place to prevent over use of the land and to protect nature. Young forests that are still in the growth phase, may also be under protection.

In the States, we did our fair share of hiking, but it was always very clear that some land was “private” and thus was not to be entered. Ever! According to Wikipedia, “property rights within the United States include the right to exclude others.”

The right to roam is not just about the freedom to venture wherever you wish in nature, rather, it is about the human necessity to connect with the land. By forbidding individuals from having access to the land, we are further limiting the human connection to the natural world. Without that connection, humans can no longer access a primal and fundamental part of who they are. The Earth is where we are born and where we return when we die. It is ingrained in who we are and we suffer immensely when that connection no longer exists.

In addition, when individuals are no longer able to freely roam the land, they may be removed from observing the environmental changes that are taking place. Without that knowledge and understanding, how on Earth will humans ever understand the immediate need to help preserve and protect our only planet?

For now, we are most grateful to live in a country that permits its residents and outdoor enthusiasts the “right to roam,” making this life all the sweeter. Thank you Switzerland for encouraging your residents to form an everlasting connection to this magnificent land.

To visit remote places, witness unprecedented beauty and realize how much there is to protect in this country and our world is a gift and a right. May we continue to tread with gentle feet, respect and honor the landscapes that fill us with hope and wonder. May we recognize that our grandchildren’s children have the right to play and discover natural and untouched places. Let's work hard to make that a reality for them.

To learn more on the topic, view this video put out by Patagonia titled, “Right to Roam.”

Or listen to the podcast, 99% Invisible episode 313 “Right to Roam.”


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page