This paper deals with the relation between protection of land and local and regional development through a power and democracy perspective on planning. A Swedish case is used to illustrate the connection between planning, local power and local development, with reference to tourism in a Nordic context. When areas are protected, planning automatically becomes centralized, taking the planning process out of the hands of the local authorities. Within these state territories of set rules, regulations and institutionalized systems – eco‐protectorates – the local population becomes powerless when it comes to making decisions about land‐use and is unable to engage in economically viable tourism enterprises because of centralized decision‐making. Even in nature‐based tourism where the quality of nature is important, it could therefore be more advantageous to have access to non‐protected land for nature tourism. This is even more so because the idea of regional and local development often appears to have been “attached” as an afterthought or pious wish to the central planning documents. With genuine intention to stimulate local and regional development, protection should itself be based on geographical awareness and sensitivity to the diverse conditions in which such development is visualized. Local initiatives regarding land‐use and protection do not have to be in conflict with national and international ambitions and regulations but they easily can be.
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