Illegal Hedgerow Cutting Still Continues
The Irish Wildlife Trust is highlighting the issue of illegal hedgerow cutting that typically starts around now and continues well into the summer months. Unless for reasons of health and safety this practice is in contravention of section 40 of the 1976 Wildlife Act, as amended by Section 46 of the Wildlife Amendment Act, 2000, which prohibits hedge cutting from March 1st to August 31st each year.
Despite this, County Councils and land managers seems only to address the issue of hedge-cutting during these months. Either they are unaware that they are breaking the law and causing tremendous environmental damage or simply don’t care.
Last year the IWT made over 20 complaints about illegal hedge-cutting to Local Authorities, the Department of the Environment, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In the vast majority of cases we got no response at all but the few Local Authorities that did get back us invariably used the ‘health and safety’ loophole in the legislation. While genuine health and safety issues should never go unaddressed the IWT believes that this clause is being used in a blanket manner to excuse hedge-cutting anywhere and at any time.
Hedgerows provide an invaluable habitat for much of our wildlife. They provide pollinators, clean the air, define the landscape and store carbon. They also provide our countryside with dazzling displays of early flowers.
Most of the Irish songbirds nest in hedgerows. The first to breed are song thrushes, blackbirds and robins. Yellowhammers also nest in the hedge bank and there has been a substantial decline in Yellowhammers due to the decline in hedgerows and current maintenance practices. Other birds like the song thrush nest deep within a hedgerow but will often desert the nest is disturbed. Blackbirds and goldfinch nest in the branches of hawthorn trees, as do chaffinch and greenfinch later in the season.
Good intact hedgerows are essential for these birds to breed successfully.