A farmer accused of 'obliterating' riverside habitats after he dredged a mile-long stretch of the River Lugg said he did so to protect houses from flooding.
Potato and cattle farmer John Price has been heavily criticised by the Environment Agency and wildlife organisations following his actions.
The 66-year-old farmer, who lives next to the river, reportedly bulldozed a 1.5km stretch into a 'sterile canal', with all riverside habitats 'obliterated'.
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust called his actions 'a crime against the environment', and urged authorities to take 'swift action' against him.
However, speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Price said he was protecting local households from flooding, which were heavily impacted by last year's storms.
He told the paper: "I'm a Herefordshire farmer and have lived at Hay Farm and was born here at home. I have never moved and have watched this river all my life and no one knows this river better than myself.
"I have always looked after the river. I was asked to stop the erosion because I'm the land owner so I'm responsible for the river."
He added: "It was up to the Environmental Agency to look after these rivers but they don't do any work and haven't got any money to do the work because they spend it all on clipboards.
"I have not pushed any trees out and I haven't knocked any trees down I have only cleared what ones came down in the flood."
But Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, which has shared images of the aftermath, said the river and its banks had been 'bulldozed, straightened and reprofiled'.
The organisation highlighted that the river is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Helen Stace, CEO of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust says: “A large stretch of one of the UK’s most important rivers, the Lugg, has been devastated with dire consequences for wildlife and water quality downstream – this is a tragedy.
"The bankside trees are all grubbed out and burnt, the river gravels have been scraped away and the beautiful meanders of the river have been straightened and reprofiled.
“We expect this case to be dealt with in a serious and robust manner and any resulting prosecution should act as a deterrent to prevent anyone committing this type of crime ever again."
The Environment Agency has launched an investigation into the matter.