Most of the Wicklow mountains are in the Wicklow Mountains Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This is an EU nature designation and due to a recent change in legislation it is now a criminal offence to damage such a protected area. The difficulty which arises is that the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) who have responsibility for protecting SACs have limited staff resources to monitor the mountains, particularly at weekends when most of this activity takes place. NPWS have asked us to inform walkers that if they see recreational use of quads or scrambler bikes on the open mountainside that they should immediately phone the NPWS Duty Ranger number – 087 9803899.
It would also be very helpful if you can get photographs of the people / vehicles. While NPWS won’t always be in a position to respond (they have one ranger on duty at the weekends) this will at least give them information regarding where the activity is taking place. The other information which is valuable to them is to know what points the vehicles are using to get onto the hills and obviously if you can get registration numbers for any vehicles they are using to transport the quads, that is really useful.
While this might seem a lot, there was a report during August of quads heading up Lugnaquillia from the Slievemaan side just after 3.00pm on a Sunday afternoon, the Duty Ranger went to the area but failed to find the group coming off the hill. Had he received a second or third phone call about the activity he could have been in the right place to apprehend the group. The penalties for this offence can be high (seizure of vehicles, fine of up to €3,000, up to six months in jail). The NPWS are really keen to catch people so they can progress some prosecutions, generate publicity and hopefully dissuade others from engaging in this destructive activity.
Please circulate this information within the hillwalking community and save the Duty Ranger number – 087 9803899 – into your mobile phone.