Conservation groups run 31 day campaign to keep August closed to hedge cutting
August 9th, 2016
Four leading Irish conservation groups have joined forces in a campaign aimed at convincing the Minister responsible for Natural Heritage, Heather Humphreys T.D., to maintain the closed period for hedge cutting as it currently stands: from the 1st of March to the 31st of August.
BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce, The Irish Wildlife Trust and the Hedgelaying Association of Ireland have been running a social media campaign since the 1st of August, calling on the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs not to go ahead with the changes to the Wildlife Act proposed in the Heritage Bill 2016, which could see hedgerow cutting allowed from August 2017, and possibly each year thereafter.
In a statement from An Taisce, the heritage organisation said: “Everyday during the month of August we will be giving you a reason a day how the proposed changes will be detrimental to Ireland’s natural heritage and wildlife. Whilst we understand the need for proper management of our hedgerows – we want to ensure landowners and farmers are supported to manage them in a way that works for farming, road safety and wildlife. Under existing rules, farmers have six months between September and February to manage hedgerows effectively, and there is already provision for hedge cutting for safety on our roads.”
— An Taisce (@AnTaisce) August 4, 2016
There is concern that the changes, which are proposed as a ‘pilot’, would not take account of best scientific practice, since details of any data collection that may take place have not been made public. BirdWatch Ireland said in a statement: “The Minister is proposing a two-year pilot which would allow hedge cutting in August and burning (of the uplands) in March extending the season for these activities into the time when birds are nesting. The Bill allows for the pilot to be rolled over into further years. We have seen no details of any restrictions on these activities which may be included. The Minister has not engaged with the environmental NGOs who are dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife.”
— BirdsMatter_ie (@BirdsMatter_ie) August 6, 2016
As well as supporting bird populations, hedgerows also play a huge role in providing food, breeding sites and shelter to insects, such as butterflies and moths. Irish Wildlife Trust Development Officer Lorraine Bull commented: “August is a particularly crucial month for wildlife – a number of wildflowers are flowering in August, providing vital food resources for our bee and butterfly pollinators.”
Maintaining hedgerows in good condition has more benefits than sustaining wildlife. The Hedgelaying Association of Ireland have pointed out some of these in their posts, including mitigating against climate change through carbon sequestration. Neil Foulkes of the Hedgelaying Association of Ireland said: “Good quality hedgerows are of value to agriculture as well as wildlife. The proposed changes do nothing to address the quality of hedgerow management and will exacerbate some of the problems that have resulted in less than 25% of hedgerows being in ‘favourable condition’. There needs to be dialogue between the different parties to come up with some sustainable solutions.”
This campaign follows on from a petition against the changes, initiated by the four groups back in January. The petition now has almost 21,000 signatures under the “No to More Slash and Burn!” slogan.
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