IT is bad enough that the peace and quiet of the countryside in East Lancashire is being destroyed by motorbike scramblers using moorland beauty spots as illegal racetracks.

But it is an outrage that they are also destroying some of the world's most important bird-breeding habitats in the process.

Equally shocking is the disclosure that this is happening continually on a huge scale. For up to 30 of these boorish bikers a day are tearing across and ripping up these wildlife havens at Worsthorne and Clowbridge.

Yet, amazingly, these reckless racers are not all young louts. Many, police say, are in the 35 to 40 age range -- people who really should know better than to go about destroying the countryside for their own selfish pleasure.

And truly selfish it is. They are a minority disregarding the rights of others such as walkers, horse-riders and mountain-bikers to enjoy the peace and beauty of the moors without disturbance.

And, in doing so, they are violating and scarring internationally-recognised bird breeding grounds, terrifying the creatures there and frightening farm livestock at the same time.

Nor is it through ignorance or thoughtlessness that this turmoil and destruction is taking place. They are invading land they have no right to enter -- sometimes with such disregard for the law, the countryside and rights of others that warning signs have even been knocked down by them.

Quite rightly, landowners, councillors, conservationists and police in the Pennine Division are stepping up their campaign to boot out the bikers, with threats or prosecution, fines of up to £1,000 -- and warnings that there will be no second chances for offenders.

Nor should there be. These people are putting their own selfish sport first -- and need to be rudely disabused of their imagined right to do so. Let's see them punished hard in court.