Hill sheep put SSSI at risk

10 June 1998

Hill sheep put SSSI at risk

SHEEP have eaten their way through one of Britains biggest Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), in an “ecological disaster” which is set to become a test case.

The grazing has resulted in the summit of one of the Three Peaks in North Yorkshire being stripped to the state where English Nature regards special protection – in place for the last 40 years – as no longer justifiable.

The damage stretches across thousands of acres of Whernside Fell.

Parts of SSSIs in the fells have been left open to grazing as traditional “gaits” – common land granted to farmers in medieval times. Grazing has been further encouraged by headage bonuses on ewes and Less Favoured Areas payments to farmers.

Environmentalists allege that Government agencies have failed to reach a compromise between the needs of local farmers and conservation. Friends of the Earth is preparing a legal challenge to stall the abandoning of SSSI status on the fell.

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