Off-roaders put wildlife at risk

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Rare and protected wildlife is being put under threat by illegal off-roaders, claims the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Off-roaders are using parts of the area which is designated for its wildlife interest and can legally be used only by pedestrians, horse-riders and cyclists. It also has a special designation allowing use by road legal, two wheeled motorised vehicles.

The RSPB, Natural England, United Utilities and Lancashire County Council have been working in conjunction with Lancashire Constabulary in an attempt to eliminate illegal activity.

Elliott Lorimer, principal officer for the AONB, said: “The Bowland fells are recognised both nationally and internationally for the important birds and habitats found here. ”

Jude Lane, of the RSPB, said “These fells are the breeding habitat of some rare and protected bird species.

“The Forest of Bowland has always been the stronghold for breeding hen harriers in England, but it is also home to other important species such as peregrine and merlin.

“Many smaller, more elusive birds also breed here such as ring ouzel and whinchat both of which are experiencing dramatic population declines for reasons we don’t yet understand.

“Disturbance from motorbikes leaving the road can have a huge impact on whether these birds are able to raise young successfully.”

Tony Walsh, police constable for the Bowland District, said anyone found to be riding bikes illegally, or causing alarm or distress toother users of the road could end up having their vehicle seized by the police.

“We will be increasing our presence on the road over the spring and summer in order to catch those breaking the law,” he warned.