Environmentalists blame ‘anti-social’ cyclists for damage to New Forest
A New Forest conservation charity said the national park had been affected by “damaging and illegal activities” and accused off-road cyclists of anti-social behavior and habitat disturbance.
The New Forest Association (NFA) is the second oldest conservation organization in the world and has set its aim to “protect, conserve and enhance the flora, fauna and heritage of the New Forest” since 1867.
Now he says he has collected evidence of anti-social behavior during ‘stay season’ and highlighted issues with off-road cycling, dog damage and livestock feeding.
The NFA said its volunteers recorded more than 2,700 breaches of New Forest regulations over a six-week period, including 550 cases of cyclists exiting designated tracks.
> Threatens to scrap New Forest off-road cycle network as court slams ‘out of control’ cyclists
Vice President Dr Gale Pettifer said publicity campaigns alone were insufficient to protect the forest from harm.
“The education aspect is there, but there also has to be the ‘stick’,” he warned. “Or we just admit it’s free play. The volunteers, rangers and wardens are incredibly passionate about preserving the forest, but they need the tools to enforce bylaws.”
In addition to off-road cycling, the NFA has highlighted 500 cases of cars parked on edges, 150 cases of cattle being fed, 50 reports of cattle being chased or attacked by dogs, as well as issues with litter, theft of drones and wild camping.
The National Park Authority, the legal body charged with maintaining national parks, dismissed the seriousness of the NFA’s claims, saying its ‘Care for the Forest, Care for Each Other’ campaign resulted in 10,000 hours of patrols , a ban on barbecues and educational signs that “considerably reduced” parking in the vicinity and the feeding of animals.
Executive Director Steve Avery said: “Most people behave responsibly, but we recognize that there is a minority who, through their reckless actions, can harm the local landscape and wildlife.
“As a result, we put in place a joint action plan with other organizations in New Forest last year to ensure that people do not inadvertently damage the place they have come to enjoy.”
Anthony Cliffson, Managing Director of Go New Forest, added: “The clarity of messaging has really succeeded. It’s not about being complacent, it’s about working very hard to improve the quality of the visitor experience and it underscores the need for New Forest organizations to work together. .”
Last year Forestry England were ordered to ‘step up’ action against ‘hardcore biker gangs’
The Verderers Court – a body dating from the 13th century which performs functions similar to those of a magistrate’s court in relation to certain matters relating to the New Forest – told Forestry England that its three-year extension of the Access to the network of marked trails would depend on tougher action against “out of control” cyclists.