The Beast from the East slows spring but ban on hedgecutting and burning starts today

Mar 07

JOINT PRESS RELEASE:  BirdWatch Ireland, Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations, Irish Wildlife Trust, Hedgelaying Association of Ireland, An Taisce.

The Beast from the East slows spring but ban on hedgecutting and burning starts today

Although the “Beast from the East” is doing its utmost to suggest otherwise, 1st March is the first day of spring. It also marks the first day of the closed season for scrub-burning and hedgerow-cutting. This ban is essential for the protection of the breeding birds and other wildlife of our uplands and hedgerows.

To be clear, from the 1st March to the 31st August it is illegal to cut, burn or otherwise destroy vegetation [1], with the exception of roadside hedgerows for road safety reasons [2].

However, the Heritage Bill [3], currently at Committee stage in the Dáil, seeks to allow the burning of upland vegetation in March and the cutting of hedgerows in August.  A coalition of conservation organisations including BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce, the Irish Wildlife Trust, the Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations and the Hedgelaying Association of Ireland are strongly opposed to this reckless bill becoming law, as it would have a devastating effect on wildlife. The coalition recommends the formation of stakeholder groups to find solutions which benefit wildlife, farmers and road users.

The Heritage Bill would roll back 20 years of protection for our breeding birds and other wildlife at a time when they need all the help they can get. Over 90% of Ireland’s habitats, including those of our uplands, are in ‘bad’ or ‘inadequate’ ecological condition [4]. The BirdWatch Ireland Birds of Conservation Concern List [5] has designated the highest number of threatened species ever recorded in ireland. We need to do all that we can to protect our wildlife.  The organisations call on landowners, farmers, contractors and local authorities to ensure that they are in compliance with the law and to protect our vulnerable wildlife.

Oonagh Duggan, Assistant Head of Policy and Advocacy of BirdWatch Ireland, said:

“Last year thousands of hectares of mountain, hill, bog and forest habitat were destroyed during the closed season, incinerating the wildlife that cannot escape fast enough, including helpless chicks in their nests, or animals which find themselves caught between flames and fences. Our wildlife deserves better than this. “

Pádraic Fogarty from the Irish Wildlife Trust said: “The government must abandon this regressive legislation which will do untold damage to already beleaguered wildlife populations. It’s high time we placed a higher value on the amazing benefits nature brings.”

Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer of An Taisce, said:

“Changes to wildlife legislation should strengthen the protection for nature, not reduce it. Unfortunately, the Government have got this one the wrong way around with the damaging Heritage Bill.”