The pandemic has seen significant increases in the number of people visiting National Parks and other areas of outstanding natural beauty. Visitors have found much needed mental and physical solace by experiencing nature and landscape beauty. Some have taken holidays in the countryside for the first time – the staycation. Some of this changed behaviour is likely to be permanent and is to be welcomed but these are fragile places whose special qualities – wildlife, natural beauty, tranquillity and distinctive human culture – need protection against the adverse impacts of increased human activity.
The challenge to local authorities like National Park Authorities and to central government is how to manage the tension between increased visitors and the protection of wildlife and the natural environment. The Government has set ambitious targets for nature recovery in protected landscapes. The 25 year plan for the environment, the Glover Review and Agriculture Act all signpost the need to prioritise the recovery of nature with sustainable land management.
At the same time public access to the natural world and protected landscapes is essential and must be facilitated, particularly for the young, the disadvantaged and ethnic minorities.
What practical steps can be taken to manage increased visitor pressure in National Parks in ways which advance wildlife, natural beauty and tranquillity and also contribute to the local economy?