AS the debate continues over plans to close several New Forest car parks, New Forest Dog Owners Group (NFDOG) is as keen as anyone to protect the future of our rich wildlife.

We must not lose sight of some important points: This will affect all Forest users, not just dog-walkers.

Nobody knows whether this wildlife is declining or under threat.

Nobody has undertaken studies to determine if people, with or without their dogs, walking near these impenetrable wetland areas, do disturb wildlife.

Nobody knows whether discouraging people from these areas will have a beneficial or harmful effect.

* No consideration has been given to alternatives.

* Scientific studies need undertaking, and the evidence considered, before decisions are made.

* Studies would have to cover several years. Wildlife numbers fluctuate hugely from year to year, due to many factors. The proposed single season's study may be deeply misleading.

* If car parks were to be closed without this knowledge, we would never know if such a ban were doing good or harm. Thus how could a decision ever be made that it was appropriate to 'reverse' a closure?

NFDOG is not unreasonably asking the Forestry Commission to hold back until it has the answers. To go ahead would deprive people of their traditional freedom of the Forest, and may cause harm to the wildlife they are trying to protect.

It would be irresponsible, and probably a breach of European law. What is the rush?

David Dickenson, Veterinary Surgeon, Committee Member of NFDOG