One of our smallest National Parks, the New Forest has the highest density of visitors per square mile of sensitive wildlife habitats. Since it was designated as a National Park in 2005, visitor numbers have increased by 12%.
More than 15 million visits were made to the New Forest in 2017, with most people enjoying it for dog walking and other forms of recreation – but this is putting wildlife at risk.
Birds which nest on the ground such as curlew and nightjar are in steep decline, and rare fungi are absent in places where they were once abundant. Along the coast, birds such as ringed plover and little tern which used to nest on the shingle have disappeared from many of their former haunts.
These losses are caused at least in part by visitors’ and local residents’ activities including dogs roaming off-leads, people and bikes roaming off paths, and wanton exploitation of nature such as commercial fungi harvesting.