Shoreland protection was first introduced in 1950 to preserve public recreation and access in waterside areas based on the traditional Swedish right to the freedom of public access to the countryside.

Regulation was only initially introduced in specially designated areas. In 1975 this was extended to cover the entire country, and from 1994 included the protection of biodiversity.
In certain circumstances exemptions to the general protection can be granted by the relevant authorities on specific and appropriate grounds.

Since 2009-2010 local authorities have also been permitted to allow an easing of shoreland protection rules in specific cases to generate economic development and diversification in rural areas.