The National Sheep Association (NSA) has called on the Welsh Government not to rush a decision on its proposed open access charter which it says could harm farming and land management.
The organisation said while it recognised the importance of everyone being able to enjoy the countryside, there was already enough opportunity for the general public to do this.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Since 2005 there has been a threefold increase in land available for recreation, including open access and statutory and voluntary pathways. The problem is that much of this access is unused or poorly understood.
“Farmers have been encouraged to invest in providing access and countryside activities, as a means of diversification to protect against market volatility.
“To undermine this investment, when it is not being fully utilised, is unnecessary; better promotion of land that’s already open for access should be the priority.”
Mr Stocker said he was concerned the Welsh Government could push legislation through ahead of the Welsh Assembly elections in May, without giving all the issues ‘proper consideration’.
“Sheep worrying by dogs, the spread of parasites via un-wormed dogs, gates being left open, erosion of sensitive habitats and disruption to nesting birds – these are all serious problems which will inevitably increase if open access to the Welsh countryside is granted,” added Mr Stocker.
In addition, NSA is concerned about public liability given the danger livestock and machinery can present, and is also worried about the threat to farm security with rural crime and theft already being a significant problem.