Forest sale ‘could kill husky racing’

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HUSKY racers could face the death of their sport if they are denied access to Forestry Commission land, a race organiser has warned.

Bury St Edmunds-based Caroline Kisko, who organises races for the British Siberian Husky Racing Association, is worried about keeping access to Thetford Forest because its sandy soil is an ideal surface for the dogs to run on.

“It’s the top area in the country for husky races,” she said. “When we organise races here we get big entries because everyone likes to race here. People are coming from Scotland and the south west and they’re staying in local hotels for the whole weekend. It’s a big winter income stream for hotels in the area.”

Their last Thetford Forest meeting attracted 150 teams with more than 1,000 dogs. In addition, 45 people have permits to train more dogs in the forest.

Husky teams, like horse riders and cyclists, only have a permissive access to FC land, where walkers get legal rights.

Mrs Kisko said of Friday’s change: “Any chink in this is good, but all they’ve said is they won’t sell anything in the meantime. What they’ve said so far about access hasn’t been reassuring.

“We pay for annual permits. A race permit is £300. It’s not the sort of money that would interest a private owner. If we don’t have access to FC land, we have nothing else to run on.”

The huskies need space to exercise and race. Mrs Kisko said: “ A training run is up to six miles. You can’t do it in a park or round a track because the dogs lose interest.”

Races are run over one to six miles and teams can reach 25mph at beginning of a race.

n As we went to press yesterday the BBC was reporting that the Government would drop the sell off plan today after David Cameron admitted doubts about it. It said an expert panel would look at safeguarding public access and biodiversity in all publicly owned woodland.