War of the hedges: Farmers and environmentalists at odds over hedgecutting laws
The bitter debate over changes to the laws governing hedgecutting in Ireland comes to a head in the Seanad this week.
The proposed changes to Section 40 of the Wildlife Act are contained in the Heritage Bill 2016 which is set to be debated by senators this Wednesday.
The current law prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from March 1 to August 31, during the nesting and breeding season for birds and wildlife.
The proposed changes, being introduced by Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, provide for a two-year pilot law that would allow hedgecutting in August and burning in March and therefore give farmers and landowners an additional month to complete each of these activities.
Farmers are in favour of the Bill, so much so, that the Irish Farmers Association recently completed a round of lobbing of Senators to ensure that the Bill is progressed through the Oireachtas.
According to Thomas Cooney of the IFA, the proposed measures to extend hedge cutting and gorse burning on a pilot basis, must be immediately introduced.
“They are balanced and will facilitate better land management and road safety,” he says.
He also welcomes a new research programme which will investigate whether the changes have any impact on wildlife during the pilot phase, saying this will facilitate a fact-based approach to future decisions in this area.