Farmers have been warned that there will be ‘zero tolerance’ to the illegal cutting of hedges during the closed period.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said this was underlined by a recent case where a farmer received a significant fine.
“Hedgerows are superhighways for nature, a hugely valuable and biodiverse network that extends throughout the country and includes some of the oldest and most well-established habitat in our landscapes,” Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said.
“The vast majority of landowners are already aware that, while limited exemptions do exist, it is illegal to damage or destroy hedgerows during the breeding season. I welcome NPWS’s zero-tolerance approach to offences under the Wildlife Act."
Noonan’s Department is recruiting additional conservation rangers and establishing a wildlife crime unit to properly resource efforts to protect nature.
He called on members of the public who witness such acts to make contact with the NPWS by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org outlining their concerns and providing evidence where possible.
Commenting on the need for a zero-tolerance approach, NPWS regional manager Padraig O’Donnell said: “We are experiencing a crisis in our countryside and we have to undertake a zero-tolerance approach. We’re losing hedgerows forever and we need to temper it.
“There are exemptions and not all hedge-cutting is illegal. This is not about people clipping a hedge, this is about hedgerow destruction.
“The biodiversity-rich hedgerows in the greater countryside are part of our shared heritage, but these are being destroyed by contractors and landowners, and we are determined that this must stop.”
The NPWS has said it will bring further cases to court where bird nesting habitat is destroyed through the removal of hedgerows. NPWS is on “high alert” for hedgerow cutting and hedgerow removal, O’Donnell added.
Dates for the cutting of hedges are set down under the Wildlife Acts.
Section 40 of the act prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from 1 March to 31 August.