According to the Wildlife Act 1976, hedge cutting and vegetation burning is prohibited from 1 March to 31 August to protect wild birds during the nesting and breeding season. Local authorities may obtain exemptions for road safety or other public health and safety reasons.

There has been no change to the closed period for hedge cutting and burning as the Heritage Bill proposing to introduce flexibility on a pilot basis remains stuck in the Seanad. The bill faced stiff opposition when it was last debated in November, and has not been on the agenda of the Oireachtas since then.

Farming organisations have supported the bill as a welcome initiative to help with land management. Yet conservationists and many senators have opposed it on a number of environmental grounds, including the lack of baseline studies to measure the impact on wildlife before and after the pilot scheme is introduced.

Minister for Heritage and Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys, who introduced the bill, has expressed frustration at the legislation’s slow progress.

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Hedge cutter safety on the farm