Hedge cutting season to end before Seanad considers controversial Heritage Bill

The controversial Heritage Bill, proposed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys , will not be debated by the Seanad until March 2nd.

Hedge cutting will still be banned as usual from March 1st until August 31st.

Section 8 of the Heritage Bill would allow for the burning of vegetation in March and the cutting of hedgerows in August on a pilot basis for two years.

The bill has been met with strong opposition from conservation groups, the general public and politicians.
Last year, a petition calling on the government to reconsider the changes by An Taisce, Birdwatch Ireland, Irish Wildlife Trust and the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland received over 11,000 signatures in just four days.

There is a real fear that section 8 of the bill would have a catastrophic effect on several species of conversational concern dependent on hedgerows as a habitat.

They were keen to stress that the minister’s proposals would “not help with increased hedge cutting for road safety concerns. While there are provisions already in the existing legislation to allow hedge cutting for road safety, it will not ensure that those who should cut their road side hedges actually do cut them.”

Instead, they are calling for the establishment of a proper hedgerow and upland management regime that words for farming, road safety and wildlife.”

In the previous Seanad debate on the matter, Fianna Fail Senator Brian O’ Domhnaill described the bill as being “muddled up” while Green Party Senator Grace O’ Sullivan was also skeptical about its actual effects. Having consulted landowners members of the IFA and farmers she didn’t believe an “extension to the cutting and burning season is a priority for the majority of the people.”

Senators have proposed changes calling for a national baseline survey to be carried out to collect data on hedgerows and countryside biodiversity.

Legislation allowing for the extension of burning in upland areas and hedge cutting should not be initiated until the baseline survey is completed, published and considered. This, they claim, would help, “inform the protection of biodiversity and of other aspects of the environment including the consideration of appropriate closed season dates for burning vegetation and cutting of hedgerows.”

 

5 reasons why our hedgerows are important

Flip the cards below to find out to read more on why our hedgerows are worth protecting.

Plants and Fruit

"If we had paid no more attention to our plants than we have to our children, we would now be living in a jungle of weed." Luther Burbank

Plants and Fruit

Hedgerows offer an abundant supply of plants and fruit despite maintaining such a small area. It is the mix of trees, brambles, grass and low growth that allows a mix of fruit and plants to blossom. As well as offering a wonderful aesthetics to their surrounding area, they also have a practical purpose. They are an imperative source of food for Ireland's indigenous wildlife. A single hawthorn bush, for example, 200 different insect species.

Protecting Irish Wildlife

“Like us, animals feel love, joy, fear and pain, but they cannot grasp the spoken word. It is our obligation to speak on their behalf ensuring their well-being and lives are respected and protected.”
Sylvia Dolson

Protecting Irish Wildlife

A hedgerow provides habitat for invertebrates, birds and mammals. Birdwatch Ireland recorded that 55 out 110 species of birds in Ireland use them during breeding season. Two endangered species, the linnet and the yellowhammer, rely on hedgerows especially. Bats roost and hunt for insects in hedgerows. Ditches and banks offer shelter and food to a variety of animals also.

Click to read more about hedgerows and wildlife

Water Control

"Thousands have lived without love., not one without water."
W.H. Auden

Water Control

Root systems of hedgerow are great at regulating water flow and can help prevent flooding and soil damage to the surrounding areas. They also trap silt and soil particles which would otherwise affect fish spawning by clogging up their grounds if they entered watercourses.

Agriculture

"He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'."
Robert Frost

Agriculture

Farmer and landowner's reliance on hedgerows for the above reasons is without question. They are also very effective at preventing loss of soil from fields, either through reducing wind erosion or through acting as a barrier to water-borne run-off. It also helps reduce the pollution from fertilizer affecting rivers and land.

Click to read more about hedgerows importance to agriculture

Landscape and Heritage

"Any landscape is the condition of a spirit"
Hendri Frederic Amiel

Landscape and Heritage

Our hedgerows are indefinitely integral to our reputation as a "green" country. In many ways they are part of the frame that surrounds those wonderful images of green fields, lush meadows and picturesque valleys. To damage and destroy them is to damage and destroy our image at home and abroad. This would be especially unfortunate given the historical value of hedgerows. Our love affair with hedges dates as far back as the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Older hedgerows are notable for having a richer variety of plants and animal species

Click to read more about the value of hedges
About the Author

Eric Maher

Eric Maher is a contributor to the Green News. He has a Masters in Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama from UCD.

Leave a Comment