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Local People, Nature Conservation, and Tourism in Northeastern Finland

Anne Törn, University of Oulu
Pirkko Siikamäki, University of Oulu
Anne Tolvanen, Finnish Forest Research Institute
Pekka Kauppila, University of Oulu
Jussi Rämet, University of Oulu

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Abstract

The opinions and perceptions of local communities are central issues in the sustainable management of conservation areas. During 2002 and 2003, we studied the opinions of local people about nature conservation and the development of tourism to investigate whether these opinions were influenced by socioeconomic and demographic factors. Data were collected via a survey of local residents in six areas with different histories of land use, land ownership, conservation, and tourism development. We classified respondents by cluster analysis into three different groups according to their opinions about nature conservation and tourism development: (1) sympathetic to nature conservation, but quite neutral to tourism development (57.7%); (2) critical of nature conservation, but quite neutral to tourism development (30.5%); and (3) quite neutral to nature conservation, but critical of tourism development (11.8%). The most important factors for classification were residential area, age, level of education, primary occupation, indigenousness, frequency of contact with tourists through work, and effects of nature conservation on household economy. On the other hand, gender, level of income, land ownership, land donation for conservation, and income from tourism did not affect opinions concerning nature conservation and tourism development. Almost equal proportions of residents living in close proximity to conservation areas in Kuusamo had positive and negative opinions about nature conservation. Residents living in close proximity to conservation areas regarded conservation as something that might reduce employment and incomes. On the other hand, a greater proportion of residents living near tourist resorts and farther from conservation areas had positive opinions about and perceptions of nature conservation and tourism development. Based on the proportional division of all respondents into the three groups, there may be a coexistent relationship between nature conservation and tourism in our study area. When local stakeholders had a chance to commit to the planning process, they had positive perceptions of and opinions about nature conservation and tourism development in their residential areas. As a result, we concluded that negative opinions and a lack of commitment to the planning process may hinder local development.

Key words

opinions; residents; nature conservation; tourism; Finland; survey; socioeconomic factors
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087