The impacts of government environmental policies are often distributed inequitably, and can therefore be viewed as a form of social injustice. This is particularly the case with protected conservation sites, which are often concentrated in remote areas. While this policy allows environmental 'goods' to accure to society as a whole, it often has negative impacts on local users, who have limited opportunities to influence policy. This paper reports on research undertaken in northern Scotland, where the extensive use of protective designations to conserve an internationally important 'wilderness' area led to serious conflict during the 1980s. The findings, based on semi-structured interviews, indicate that local stakeholders often felt powerless in the face of remote decision making, and environmental publicity aimed at an urban market. The problems of environmentalism that is not linked to social justice are discussed in this context, and the role which sustainability and participative conservation efforts can play in the development of social and environmental justice is evaluated.