Slash and Burn raises its ugly head again

Published by Ian Carey on

June 3rd 2016

Minister Heather Humphreys has relaunched her controversial bill to allow farmers burn scrub and cut hedgerows for longer in the year.

Wildlife campaigners say the changes have no scientific backing and will devastate Ireland’s wild bird and mammal populations who live on the margins of farmland.

It had been hoped that the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht would reconsider her decision after strong public outcry relating to the proposed legal changes.

Close to 18,000 people have signed a petition to the Minister calling on her to reconsider her proposal to allow the burning of vegetation in March and the cutting of hedgerows in August and establish proper hedgerow and upland management regimes that works for farming, road safety and wildlife.

This week BirdWatch Ireland and An Taisce called on people to continue to support the petition in light of the news the bill in continuing through the Oireachtas.

“The Minister for ‘nature’ Heather Humphreys has decided to relaunch Heritage Bill 2016. Please sign the petition below if you have not done so. This is the bill which includes a proposal to allow upland burning in March when birds are beginning their nesting activities and hedgecutting in August when birds are still nesting,” BirdWatch Ireland posted on their Facebook page.

The provisions to allow more burning and hedgecutting are contained in the Heritage Bill 2016. This Bill has been restored to the Seanad Order Paper and will start at Committee Stage. This is one of the stages a bill has to go through before it is made into law.

The petition was championed by the Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce and the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland.

They explain: “Our hedgerows are a vital refuge for many native wildlife species in a landscape with little native woodland compared to other countries.

“Hedgerows provide food, shelter, nesting sites, habitat corridors and are an essential component for flood defenses, preventing soil erosion and the silting of rivers as well as carbon sequestration. Our hedgerows and upland habitats need proper management, though. Landowners and farmers must be supported to manage them in a way that works for farming, road safety and wildlife.

“Under existing rules, landowners have six months between September and February to manage hedgerows and uplands effectively and there is provision for hedgecutting for safety on our roads. Therefore, this decision is unwarranted, will cause a significant blow to already threatened wildlife species and goes against advice submitted by Birdwatch Ireland, An Taisce and the Irish Wildlife Trust.

“The change to the hedge-cutting dates will lead to further declines in populations of Red-listed Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch birds and reduce essential food supplies for pollinators, of which a third are threatened with extinction.”

[x_button shape=”square” size=”regular” float=”none” href=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]Click here to sign the petition ‘No to more Slash and Burn'[/x_button]

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Ian Carey

Ian is the editor of the Green News. He works as Communications Manger with the Irish Environmental Network.