Hedge cutting is illegal in Ireland from 1st of March till 31st of August. Despite attempts by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., to change the laws regulating these dates by introducing the Heritage Bill 2016 earlier this year, it is important to note that the proposed date changes were ultimately NOT made. This is because the bill failed to pass through both houses of the Oireachtas before the recent dissolution of the Dáil in advance of the general election.
Hedgerows are essential for maintaining wildlife diversity, supporting species such as badgers, owls, hedgehogs, stoats, blackbirds and innumerable plants, butterflies and other insects. Not only are they an invaluable resource for much of our wildlife they are vital in providing pollinators, cleaning our air, defining our landscape, storing carbon and by holding back the flow of water off land they can alleviate flooding.
The period within which cutting and burning is prohibited are set down in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended in 2000), which states that:
(a) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy, during the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.
(b) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch during the period mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection (above).
The existing law provides exemptions for road safety and other circumstances and should be read carefully to ensure compliance.
Section 40 of the Wildlife Act exists to protect nesting birds. Many of our upland bird species are in decline and are in danger of extinction in Ireland; amongst them is the Curlew, which has declined by 80%. Many birds which nest in hedgerows into August including the endangered Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch are also in serious decline.
If you see any unlawful hedge cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction please report details to the Gardaí or to the local Conservation Rangers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Reported instances will, as far as practicable, be investigated. Your local NPWS Office can be found through the NPWS website at http://www.npws.ie/contact-us.
No more slash and burn.
The Irish Wildlife Trust, Birdwatch Ireland, An Taisce and Hedge Laying Association of Ireland created a campaign ‘No to more slash and burn’ to persuade Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D. to reconsider her proposal to change the Wildlife Act to allow for the burning of vegetation in March and hedge cutting in August and establish proper hedgerow and upland management regimes that works for farming, road safety and wildlife.
Join the campaign to persuade the Government to reverse this decision before the Heritage Bill 2016, is passed through the Oireachtas and sign the petition to show your support for the wildlife that do not have a voice. If we do nothing, we risk losing yet more of our natural heritage here in Ireland.
To date over 16,400 have signed the petition.