The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has issued a strong reminder to farmers and advisors that hedgerows, trees in a line and drains/ditches are designated as landscape features under Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC).
He said under EU rules EU payment beneficiaries are obliged to retain and maintain designated landscape features.
Landscape features are eligible for payments under the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes.
In addition, field boundaries such as hedgerows, stone walls and clay banks are afforded protection under a host of environmental regulations.
Creed warned that any proposed land restructuring works may require screening and approval by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the EIA regulations.
Where hedgerow removal has been deemed to have occurred in breach of EIA screening requirements, he said the land will be subject to inspection by Department officials and reinstatement and/or mitigation works will be required and enforced and prosecution may occur.
The Minister also said works carried out will be reported to relevant divisions within DAFM including the Basic Payment Scheme.