Friends of the New Forest urge action to save the New Forest from ‘recreational stress’ (press release 2/6/20)
Friends of the New Forest (The New Forest Association) are calling for urgent action to protect the unique character and environmental importance of the New Forest after local fire fighters, police, rangers and commoners reported repeated incidents of anti-conservational behaviour by visitors. Many visitors were found to be ignoring the measures in place to protect the fragile habitats of the area at a critical time for nature with nesting birds and animals giving birth. Cars have been found parked irresponsibly, blocking gateways that are used by the emergency services, park rangers, and commoners accessing their livestock. Grass verges that have international conservation designations upon them have been driven over or used for parking. Some visitors were even found lighting campfires or using disposable barbeques, which has raised serious concerns about the risk of wildfires.
The New Forest Association, which is one of the world’s oldest conservation charities, believes that there is not a limitless capacity to absorb all the recreational and amenity interests within the New Forest and that to avoid ‘recreation stress’ a complete and fundamental review of the impact and management of visitors to the New Forest is necessary.
John Ward, Chairman, said, “unless people stop treating the New Forest like just any urban park we are going to lose the special qualities that make this magnificent landscape internationally recognised for its importance to nature and wildlife, who in turn are dependent on the ancient pastoral system that allows the free roaming of livestock. More emphasis needs to be placed on the New Forest’s immense biodiversity and value as a nature reservation, rather than on recreation that could be carried out elsewhere.”
The Friends of the New Forest point out that, according to the 2011 census figures, south Hampshire is the UK’s sixth biggest built up area, with a population only marginally less than Greater Liverpool. By 2036 New Forest District will have an additional 10,500 homes, further increasing the daily recreational stress on the landscape and adding significantly to a potentially unprecedented impact on the ecological makeup of the New Forest .
Mr Ward added, “50 years ago the New Forest was in serious danger of being overrun and grossly abused by free camping everywhere and no restrictions on vehicles driving onto the Forest. Those in charge at the time had the vision and courage to face up to the challenge. Specific sites for camping and car parking were introduced, and ‘dragons teeth’ or ditches were put beside some roads. With a much increased nearby resident population and the unfortunate uncaring activity of more than a few visitors today, those charged with the task of managing the National Park and the Crown Lands of the Forest must do more than just watch and talk. It is a time for bold decisions and action.”
Formed in 1867, the New Forest Association is one of the oldest conservation organisations in the world. It is dedicated to protecting and sustaining the traditional character of the New Forest in southern England.
At times of great change when the very existence of the Forest was in doubt, the NFA played a leading role in the fights to secure its future.
Today the NFA is the New Forest National Park Society and it continues to be an independent, campaigning charity based on its membership and volunteers.
The New Forest is a unique survival of medieval Europe. It is internationally important to nature conservation and to biological science. It has been a National Park since 2005
Chair, John Ward – firstname.lastname@example.org
Media, Gale Gould – email@example.com