Ban on hedge-cutting comes into effect in Ireland this week

Ban on hedge-cutting comes into effect in Ireland this week

THE Irish Government has issued a reminder to the public that hedge-cutting becomes illegal across the country later this week.

A seasonal ban takes effect every year prohibiting the cutting of hedges and the burning of land in Ireland.

The law, which comes back into effect this Friday, makes it an offence to destroy vegetation on uncultivated land between March 1 and August 31 each year,

More specifically, it states: “It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy during the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated."

The ban is designed to protect Ireland’s wildlife and its natural environment as the nesting and breeding season begins.

Vegetation, such as hedgerows and scrub, are prioritised as they “provide a home and a vital habitat for birds and wildlife, especially during breeding and nesting season”, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said in a statement made this week.

“Our relatively low cover of native woodland means that our hedgerows are critical infrastructure for nature,” Nature Minister Malcolm Noonan explained.

“These habitats provide food to eat, places to nest, and even corridors for many forms of wildlife to move through the landscape, in particular our nesting birds,” he added.

“Untrimmed, thorny hedgerows are favoured by birds as they provide cover from predators.”

Ireland's annual hedge-cutting ban comes into effect on March 1

The Minister urged the public to do their bit for the environment as the signs of spring appear.

“We love to hear the sounds of our birds as they are a sign of nature waking up," he said.

“So let’s look after our them by leaving our hedgerows intact when we can, to provide them with the safety and shelter they need.”

His department has also confirmed that Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is “stepping up its approach to fire prevention and detection, with increased capacity to monitor and respond to incidents” this spring.

In recent years, illegal and uncontrolled fires have caused significant damage to protected areas and national parks in Ireland, most notably in the Killarney National Park and Wicklow Mountains National Park.

This year the NPWS will use aerial surveillance to catch those lighting fires in these settings.

“These illegal fires put communities, public and private properties at risk, they put our emergency services under pressure, and can cause irreparable damage to our natural heritage,” Minister Noonan said.

“The NPWS is ready to respond in the months ahead,” he added.

“Aerial surveillance is a highly effective tool to prevent the outbreak of fire in our National Parks and Nature Reserves, and our ’eyes in the sky’ patrols will be busy – day and night – over the coming weeks and months.”

He added: “Initially, we will concentrate mainly on the west coast and south to Cork and Kerry, with close surveillance on Killarney National Park and our Nature Reserves in the West and South.

“We will also cover the Slieve Blooms and the Wicklow and Dublin Mountains.”

Niall Ó Donnchú, Director General of the NPWS explains that "prevention remains key" to their approach.

“We are now using nationwide air cover in early detection and to assist us in the prosecution of illegal burning," he said.

“We have strengthened our approach to wildlife crime, formalised our co-operation with An Garda Siochána, and enhanced capacity for fire prevention through planning, specialist training, additional equipment, staff on the ground, public vigilance, volunteering and fire mapping data," he added.

“This means that we are ready to respond quickly in the event of fire in our Parks and Nature Reserves, and our investigative capacity is significantly enhanced.”

The government has asked the public to support the enforcement of the seasonal law by informing Gardaí if they spot anyone breaking the rules.

“Members of the public are our first responders, and can play their part in protecting nature by reporting any incidents or suspicious activity to the NPWS or An Garda Síochána,” Minister Noonan said.

“Where there evidence of offences is found, action will be taken and appropriate enforcement under wildlife legislation will be vigorously pursued."