Scots heading into the countryside as lockdown eases have been urged to look after our great outdoors.
A surge of visitors to rural areas is expected now people can travel outside of their coucil areas and many will be planning picnics or dog walks. But they have been urged to stick to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code amid fears of wildfires sparked by cooking fires or dropped cigarettes.
A warning of very high to extreme risk of wildfires has been in force in north-east, east and central Scotland, and an extreme risk was in place in western areas.
Disposable barbecues are one of the biggest risk factors as they can retain heat and ignite vegetation. Dog walkers should also keep their pets on a lead around livestock after a spate of attacks on sheep during the lambing season. A sheep died after being attacked by a dog on a farm in Ayrshire last Sunday, and three lambs also then perished due to the trauma caused to the flock.
Dog fouling is another significant danger posed to farm animals and wildlife, as is litter left behind by people after a day out in the countryside.
Residents living close to the North Coast 500 route have already reported rubbish being left in the area as visitors have begun to return.
Highland Council will be employing 10 rangers to patrol the area this summer, and the police have urged people to park safely and not block access for the emergency services.
Extra rangers will also be deployed in the Cairngorm National Park, where they will be concentrating efforts at popular walking routes. Stewart Pritchard, Nature Reserves Senior Adviser with NatureScot, said the risk of wildfires was one of the biggest concerns during the current dry spell. He urged people to allow barbecues to cool then take them away, and to be careful to extinguish cigarettes.
Pritchard said: “After what has been an incredibly difficult year for everyone, it is great news that people will once again be able to travel to enjoy our great outdoors and we’re looking forward to welcoming people back to our National Nature Reserves.
“We want people to enjoy their visits but with wildfire warnings in place, it’s vital to bear in mind that fires spread quickly.
“The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states never to light open fires in these conditions as fires that get out of control cause major damage. When out and about please follow the code and respect and protect our countryside.”
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