Rare species at risk in Sussex from off-road riders

Off-road motorcyclists are severely damaging precious and protected downland.

Motorcyclists have been digging tracks and obstacles on downland between Beeding Hill and Newtimber Hill which is home to rare butterflies and moths.

A 23-year-old man from Hove has recently been issued with a warning after being arrested causing damage at the site as conservationists try to crack down on the problem.

Natural England and the South Downs National Park Authority are now appealing to the public to report any bikers to help protect the Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The site, which lies within the South Downs National Park, is protected for its three nationally rare habitats of south east chalk grassland, juniper scrub and calcareous woodland. Signs have been erected around the site, highlighting the area and providing contact numbers to report illegal activity.

Carole Mortimer, Natural England’s regulation adviser said: “The illegal use of the site by off-roaders is causing a real problem.

“I’m appealing to the conscience of the off-roaders to please leave this special site alone, and to anyone, particularly walkers and legitimate users, who may have any information about this activity, to please contact local police.”

Phillippa Morrison-Price, a ranger for the South Downs National Park, said: “Sites of Special Scientific Interest are precious havens for the South Downs National Park’s plants and animals.

“To manage these habitats the site has to be grazed, so off-road bikes don’t just destroy the habitat and threaten wildlife, they can also have a serious impact on animal welfare and an economic impact on farmers.”

Anyone who witnesses illegal use of motorised vehicles should report it at www.pathwatch.info or by calling the Sussex Police 101.

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