For immediate release
The existing prohibition on cutting ANY hedgerows between March 1st and August 31st is an offence under the Wildlife acts, unless exempted
The Environmental Pillar are reiterating that the cutting of hedgerows remains illegal during the month of August, and are calling for existing wildlife laws to be upheld and enforced.
Almost 20,000 people have signed a campaign to oppose changes in proposed legislation which would reduce existing protections and allow for cutting of hedgerows in August in the future. Despite the opposition to these proposals, this Bill could be re-introduced by Minister Heather Humphreys in the autumn. At present, however, the existing protections are still in force.
Spokespersons from The Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce and Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, who created the online petition and are members of the Environmental Pillar, had the following to say:
Oonagh Duggan, Policy Officer at BirdWatch Ireland and Environmental Pillar spokesperson on this issue said:
“Hedgerows are hugely important for birds and other wildlife especially for providing places for nesting, for food and for shelter. Several species of birds nest in hedgerows right through August and into September. One of these is the Yellowhammer whose populations have reduced dramatically due to habitat loss. Hedgecutting outside of the current legal period could push these birds further towards extinction. Our birds are an integral part of natural heritage.”
Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce and Environmental Pillar spokesperson commented:
“Hedgerows are an important part of our landscape. They are also a vital repository for native woodland in Ireland, and we have so little woodland compared to other countries. So in addition to providing food, nesting sites and habitat corridors to native wildlife species, they prevent soil erosion, store carbon dioxide and so contribute to managing climate change.”
Neil Foulkes of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland called on the Minister to revisit her proposed bill and to engage in proper stakeholder consultation saying:
“The proposed changes to section 40 of the Wildlife Act have not been assessed scientifically in terms of their potential impact on biodiversity and no details of the proposed pilot have been made public. Significantly no baseline studies of wildlife have been conducted to help inform the process.”
He continued: “We need to go back to the drawing board on this bill and have a proper stakeholder engagement to come up with a Sustainable Hedgerow Management plan for Ireland, which works for farmers, biodiversity and sustainable land management, and which provides for sensible exemptions with appropriate oversight to avoid abuse.”
Lorraine Bull, Development Officer, with the Irish Wildlife Trust said: “If people suspect illegal cutting is taking place, please report it to your local Gardaí or National Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger. They will need details of the date, time and location, and, if possible, a photograph or video for evidence. As August is a particularly crucial month for wildlife, we must ensure that the relevant laws are enforced to help protect vulnerable wildlife species.”